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Decatur PAC wants to elect more women

campaign coverage Decatur

Decatur PAC wants to elect more women

DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Cynthia Becker. File Photo by Dan Whisenhunt
DeKalb County Superior Court Judge C.J. Becker speaks at a Summer Gathering for the Decatur-based NewPower PAC. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

DeKalb County Superior Court Judge C.J. Becker speaks at a Summer Gathering for the Decatur-based NewPower PAC. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

There aren’t enough women holding elected office in Georgia, according to members of NewPower PAC.

The Decatur-based Political Action Committee points out that there are no women representing the state in the U.S. Congress. Men hold all 16 seats: two in the Senate and 14 in the House.

NewPower says that there have only been five women elected to statewide office throughout Georgia’s history.

On Sunday, June 22, the PAC invited potential donors to a “Summer Gathering” at the High House in Decatur. The crowd, mostly female, drank wine and sangria while speakers made their case for electing more women to office. The PAC, which claims to be nonpartisan, supports only female candidates.

DeKalb County Superior Court Judge C.J. Becker said the decision to run for higher office poses professional and personal risks for women. Becker said she made three times as much money as an attorney in a private practice before becoming a judge.

“There are some very practical things,” Becker said. “You have to plan to lose at least once. You’ve got to be very careful about honestly assessing yourself as a candidate. This is not time for your best friend and your momma to tell you about how wonderful you would be in office.”

Becker won 14 years ago. She couldn’t have done it without female voters, she said.

“The two highest voting demographics in DeKalb County are African American women first, white women second and, a distant third, white males,” Becker said.

Journalist Bobbie Battista, who hosts “On the Story” for Georgia Public Broadcasting, said the media unintentionally reinforces the challenges for women running for office. She said women are also underrepresented in leadership positions in newsrooms.

“Today media suffers the same sorts of problems as politics,” she said. “It’s an old men’s club. Women leave for various reasons.”

Battista said journalists also ask women questions that they won’t ask men. Her advice? She suggested rolling with the punches.

“Hillary Clinton is asked about her hair and the clothes all the time,” Battista said. “At some point just embrace it. We all wear different clothes. Men wear the same uniform all the time.”

NewPower board member Jan Selman took questions at the end of the program.

One member of the audience asked what the PAC looks for before deciding to support a candidate.

“It looks at how well a woman is connected into her community already,” Selman said. “Can she run a campaign? Would it be better for her to wait a little while? We do a 30 point assessment. We don’t want a woman going out there and not doing well.”

At the end of the meeting, several audience members pulled out their checkbooks.

Suzann Knap said it was a heartening discussion.

“I am thrilled to meet and know about an organization that is strictly focused on women running for political positions,” she said. ” … Women in government can make a difference.”

Michael Harbin, one of a handful of men in attendance, said “this is important.”

“We need representation of men and women in public service,” he said.