Ready to Run encourages Iowa women to run for office


Catt Hall 2016

Rachel Ori

With a series of workshops aimed at encouraging women to run for elective office, work on campaigns and become leaders in their community, the Ready to Run campaign kicked off Friday in Ames. 

The program, put on by the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, has been offered through Iowa State since 2007. 

A total of 115 participants took part in the workshops.

The program takes place over a total of three days, spread out over three months. Day one began with an introduction to Iowa politics and elections, and ended with tips on how to launch one’s own campaign.

Linda Merken of Ames returned to Ready to Run for the second time, this time coming off a county supervisor campaign.

Merken lost her campaign but came back to Ready to Run to further hone her skills.

“If men don’t win [a campaign], they’ll run again, while women often won’t,” she said. “[Ready to Run] gives you the tools to participate and helps you know what to expect.”

Monic Behnken, an assistant professor of sociology at Iowa State, participated in the program to learn the “nuts and bolts” of running a campaign and enjoyed the bipartisan nature of the panels in the program.

“We need to come together for a well-functioning government,” Behnken said.

This year’s program comes months after one of the most historical election cycles in recent history.

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was the first woman to be the official nominee for a major political party. Many women, Democratic and Republican alike, were inspired by her efforts and fueled that inspiration into political action after the results of the 2016 election.

Cyndi Hanson, commissioner on the city and state level from Sioux City, attended the program because she wanted to get more involved.

“The little tips on scheduling and prioritizing really helped,” Hanson said.

Gina Derez of Ames also attended the program, and is considering a run for the Ames school board. She said she most enjoyed meeting others and hearing their stories during the day.

Brenda Case of Ottumwa participated in the program to learn how to better serve her town. She had done hours of volunteer work in the past, but now wants to become more involved politically. 

“I love my hometown,” Case said. “I want to serve the town and improve the overall quality of life.”

Funding for Ready to Run is provided by Iowa State’s Women’s and Diversity Grants Program, League of Women Voters of Ames and Story County, Ames Chamber of Commerce and other private donors.

The next program date is set for March 31 at the Gateway Hotel and Conference Center in Ames.