Emerge California's Nazneen Rydhan-Foster Speaks in Santa Rosa

A group of Sonoma County women Saturday considered the gains they’ve made and the advances they still seek in American electoral politics.

Meeting one day after Women’s Equality Day, those gathered outside Santa Rosa High School said they want to see more women in local, state and national offices. Some voiced hope that 2016 will be the year that voters put a woman in the Oval Office, while others suggested that at the least such a groundbreaking deed should one day occur.

“Whether you like Hillary Clinton or not, this is a historic event and I hope people recognize it,” said Jan Blalock, chairwoman of the Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women.

The commission Saturday hosted about 60 people on the high school lawn along Mendocino Avenue. Some attendees registered to vote, while others heard from civic and elected officials.

While slightly more than half the population is female, Blalock said, only 19 percent of the members of the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives are women.

In the state Legislature, about a quarter of the members are women, said Nazneen Rydhan-Foster, the state program manager for Emerge California, which trains and mentors women seeking to run for elected office.

One Emerge graduate who spoke Saturday is Sonoma Mayor Laurie Gallian. She noted that the members of her class included Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane and London Breed, president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

Gallian urged those interested in public service to find experienced hands to help guide them.

“There are mentors in your community,” she said.

Women’s Equality Day is held on Aug. 26, the date in 1920 when U.S. women received the right to vote.

Among those on hand Saturday was Santa Rosan Susan Lamont. She brought along a poster-sized photo of her great-grandmother, Isabelle Campbell Schindler, and seven other women in early 20th-century Connecticut who were lined up behind a faded canvas sign that in part read “Votes for Women.”

“I feel that I have a long lineage of female activism in my family,” said Lamont, standing at a table handing out information for the Green Party.

Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin thanked Lamont for bringing the image and said she remains “in awe of our foremothers” who helped women gain the right to vote.

Gorin, who represents the Sonoma Valley and east Santa Rosa, recalled that in her first political contest she won election to the Santa Rosa Board of Education by a mere 59 votes.

She thanked the women in the audience who on Saturday had registered to cast ballots this fall “because every single vote counts.”

One woman who registered Saturday was Shannon Defoor, 30, of Santa Rosa. She said she had registered at age 18 but never actually voted, partly because she hadn’t cared enough about the outcome and partly because she didn’t think her single vote would matter.

But this year, she said, she sees “a big difference” between the major party candidates for president and plans to vote for Clinton.

Asked why, she replied, “I’ve always liked her.”

Article from The Press Democrat: http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/6022707-181/santa-rosa-event-highlights-womens?artslide=2

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