By Melita Easters

July 28, 2020

It seems like a decade, but on this night only four years ago, many of us gathered at The Commerce Club as WIN List “sisters” to watch Hillary Clinton’s historic acceptance speech as the first-ever woman to be nominated for the United States presidency.

It was a diverse event and a festive atmosphere. Former Board member Melanie Goux won the “Power Pantsuit” contest by rocking a white pantsuit which foreshadowed the one Hillary Clinton would wear later in the evening as homage to the suffrage movement. Women who were WIN List founders and board members brought daughters and granddaughters. The crowd was diverse in every possible way (read our blog post from 2016).

Sweet Josie Binns, then three and the daughter of one former board member Melissa Mullinax and the grand-daughter of a founding board member Carol Binns, happy to be up way past her bedtime and attending what she called a “Girls Who Run Things” party. 

The joyous feeling, “Yes, a woman COULD be the next president,” lasted just over 100 days, melting away as the electoral college votes were tallied even though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. Many of us cried or screamed and some even climbed into bed and pulled covers over their heads for a few days. Even before we fully understood the horrors a Donald J Trump presidency would bring, we were frustrated and frightened for the future.

But in some ways, that major step back for women, and our country, has prompted many steps forward which might not have happened had Hillary Clinton won. The complacency and “mission accomplished” feeling we might have adopted had she won, by necessity swiftly shifted gears to a “there’s a whole lot of work to do” attitude by women who want to leave our state and country a better place for future generations.

The first indicator for the power of our collective outrage was the 2017 Women’s March – in Washington, throughout the nation, and around the world. Women ROARed that day – in numbers which could not be ignored!

The changes large and small have continued since. Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced upon many of us the time to contemplate not only how the world is, but the changes we hope to see when we emerge from this pandemic crisis and what we must do to make those changes happen. The Black Lives Matter movement might never have evolved to its current strength during a Clinton administration and without the collective attention of so many who had slowed down enough to fully absorb the horrors of the most recent incidents of police violence.

The COVID crisis has brought into sharp focus the glaring inequities faced by minorities in this country across a wide range of measures including healthcare, income, educational opportunities, and representation in business and political positions of power.

In 2017, the northern Atlanta suburbs became one of the first places for widespread engagement when the special election to fill the sixth district congressional seat was announced. Millions in campaign contributions flowed in from across the nation and thousands of energetic suburban women, many of whom had never before been involved in politics, worked their Oss-off for Jon’s campaign.

Those of us who had been involved in trying to elect more women in Georgia since 2000 were thrilled to see a new level of engagement and welcomed new allies on a suddenly wider “progressive highway.” WIN List saw applications for our year-long 2017 WIN Leadership Academy mushroom. A program which in previous years had accommodated 15 future leaders grew to accommodate 80 in two classes of 40 each. In the three years since class size has stabilized between 30 and 40.

This larger WLA class, some of them women who had learned about campaigns while working for Jon Ossoff, gave us an incredibly talented pool of potential candidates. Several women transitioned their neighborhood canvassing activities for Ossoff into campaign plans for themselves.

During special elections in 2017, six new WIN List endorsed women were elected to the Georgia General Assembly. The election of Senator Jen Jordan was particularly strategic because her victory deprived Senate Republicans of their long-held Supermajority.

In 2018, WIN List endorsed 36 women, five of them the most highly qualified slate of Democrats ever to seek statewide office as three of them had Ivy League degrees. Women ran for Republican seats which had not seen competition in more than a decade. While we were disappointed none of our endorsed women won a statewide post, a record-setting nine women FLIPped seats from Republican to Democratic control. The Fulton, Gwinnett, and Cobb County legislative delegations also FLIPped to Democratic control. Congresswoman Lucy McBath won the Sixth District Congressional seat Jon Ossoff had lost by a slim margin the year before.

For 2020, we expect even greater changes. Prominent national polling organizations have indicated Georgia is a “toss-up” state which is significant since two U.S. Senate seats are in play. Seven women have represented Georgia in Congress, but never has Georgia’s Congressional delegation had more than one woman at any given time. Now, Georgia is on the verge of not only re-electing Lucy McBath for the Sixth Congressional District but also electing Carolyn Bordeaux in the Seventh and Nikema Williams in the Fifth. What a dramatic shift for delegation meetings this will be!

Further, Georgia Democrats are on the verge of FLIPping the Georgia House, which requires a total of 16 FLIPped seats. WIN List has endorsed 17 women who could FLIP seats and there are also highly capable men on the November ballot who could also FLIP seats. In a Democratic majority, women will likely outnumber men, opening the opportunity for several major committees chaired by women.

FLIPping the House is important for many reasons, but at the top of this list is the reapportionment process which will draw the maps for the next decade of elections and building a strong firewall which protects reproductive freedom for the future.

In part due to WIN List’s 20 year history, Georgia now leads the South for the percentage of women serving in the General Assembly and the nation for the percentage of Black women legislators. But, there is still room for improvement. As soon as November’s votes are counted, we must look ahead to build a strong strategy for monitoring the reapportionment process and also begin recruitment efforts for a strong statewide 2022 ticket so that Democrats have appealing candidates for EVERY office, not just Governor and Lt. Governor.

Georgia WIN List has endorsed 54 women for the 2020 election cycle, with nine women having already won primary only contests and four women currently in August runoff races, two for primary only races, and two for spots on the November ballot. Of the 42 women on the ballot in November, seven hope to FLIP Senate Seats, 17 hope to FLIP House seats, 16 are incumbents running for re-election and two are running for open Senate seats currently held by Democrats.

Campaign plans and strategies for GOTV efforts have required dramatic adjustments to keep candidates and campaign workers safe. WIN List is now four months into a series of weekly WIN List Wednesday Webinars at noon which showcases our candidates talking about important issues. We printed more than 50,000 “ELECT Women” postcards for use by our candidates earlier this year and are poised for a re-order.

We are working to broaden the reach of our e-mail list and social media platforms. Certainly, we are working to build a bank account which will allow us to write generous checks, with a goal of $75,000 between now and Labor Day and another $75,000 between Labor Day and Election Day. Because we know a fall campaign rally similar to the one we had in 2018 at the historic Freight Depot is not prudent, we are also working to brainstorm how a virtual event might motivate our community and inspire our candidates and their staffs.

How might you join us? First, help us expand our network by telling friends about our work and encouraging them to sign up for e-mails and to follow us on social media platforms.

And, as you are able, support our important work with a generous contribution.

As of today, we are at 98 days and counting down to November 3. What will you do between now and then to help us Elect Women and Change the Face of Power?