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Bipartisan nonprofit encourages women in politics

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Powerful Delaware women, separated by political beliefs, are crossing the aisle to benefit their communities by encouraging more women to get involved in public office.

Ready to Run Delaware, which is affiliated with the Ready to Run National Network of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, is now accepting registration for an upcoming six-week course this fall that aims to teach women how to get more involved in politics at the local, state and federal levels.

“I just wanted this to be about prepping women to run a campaign, whether for themselves or someone else, and help them get a seat at the table,” said Michele Whetzel, event organizer and president of Ready to Run Delaware. “I really hope that all of them become more civically involved in some way, whether it’s just advocacy, joining some advocacy groups, going behind the scenes of someone’s campaign and starting to learn hands-on, or jumping in with both feet and running for office.”

Jane Brady, the chair of the Delaware Republican Party and a Ready to Run Delaware board member, applauded Whetzel’s efforts to expand the program in a bipartisan way.

“We don’t get anything done when the extremes are yelling at each other,” she said. “I think the program will be much stronger and better attended by a broader spectrum of people with different views as a result [of being bipartisan].”

Previous iterations of the training leaned more to the left due to affiliations with other, liberal programs, but the program also boasts that it worked with at least seven area women who went on to win elected office at local and state levels.

“You cannot Google and figure out how to run for office. You need courses like Ready to Run,” said Shané Darby, who participated in a 2019 workshop before winning her Wilmington city council seat. 

State Rep. Kendra Johnson, who participated in 2017, has kept her Ready to Run lessons and materials at hand. Years later, she said she knows exactly where to find the agenda and notes from an experience that filled her with valuable information she didn’t even know she needed.

“They worked really hard to prepare us for all of the unknowns, to educate us and to make sure that whatever elected role we decided to go for, that we would be prepared, that we would be credible, and that we would be a force to reckon with,” Johnson said. “These types of classes and programs are necessary, and I believe that I was better prepared as a result.”

The course will explore the basics of running a campaign, while also exploring finances, fundraising and communication tools. Speakers at the event, which runs weekly on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8 p.m. starting Oct. 12 through Nov. 16, include U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, retired U.S. Army Col. Debbie Harrington and dozens more.

The program will be held at the CSC Station at 122 S. French Str. in Wilmington (next to the train station), with a virtual attendance option also available. The six-week class costs $100 per person. For more information about the program or to register, go to readytorunde.org.

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