2017 sees huge rise in Democratic women seeking to run for office in Wisconsin

MADISON (WKOW) -- In 2016, 29 year-old Kelly Danner of Dane County had a conversation that changed her life.

"It was actually an Emerge alum, and I met her knocking on doors for Hillary Clinton," said Danner. "And she talked to me for five minutes and then after that she said - 'you should run for office!'"

"Emerge" is Emerge Wisconsin, a group that trains Democratic women to run for political office.

Kelly was already intrigued after that conversation, but then in November she watched Clinton lose the presidency to Donald Trump.

"I think the last election was sort of a slap in the face, a wake up call that - if we want this to be done, maybe we do it ourselves," said Danner.

Deciding it was time to make her own run for office, Danner signed up for the 2017 Emerge Wisconsin candidate training program.

"Knocking doors and sending out mailers, and how many doors do you have to knock, and how many people are in your district. Those are all things that I had no concept of before I joined Emerge," said Danner.

It turns out, there were a lot of women who decided to try the same thing.  

"So, the first class (of 2017) was the biggest class we've ever accepted. Usually, we're at 20 to 25 women. We took 50," said Erin Forrest, executive director of Emerge Wisconsin.

Danner is one of those 50 who will graduate from the program this Saturday.

But Forrest said there is so much interest this year, a second class has been added that will begin in August.

"And the Trump thing hasn't slowed down," said Forrest. "It's not like it was just the shock of the election. It's everything that's happened since then."

"I think that women all over the country, at the state and local level, are seeing that they need to step up if they want to see a change," added Danner.

Of the 50 women in the first class of 2017, seven have already run for public office - with five of them winning.

Kelly Danner plans to run for Dane County Board in 2018.

"They really get to deal with a lot of the health and human services topics that I'm mostly interested in," said Danner. "So, the safety net is really important to me. That's where I want to focus."

But Forrest said she is training women from rural areas across the state as well.

"We're seeing women from towns that I have to look up the names of, because I'm not 100 percent sure which part of the state they're in," said Forrest.


Put Yourself On The Ballot

Learn about the Emerge program, how to apply and get connected to our Council of Allies

Join Our Movement

Stay informed about the Emerge program and upcoming events!

Support Our Work

Emerge Wisconsin needs your help to expand our training.