Christina Hale: Time for Indiana Democrat version of Lugar Series
Friday, February 24, 2017 8:25 AM
INDIANAPOLIS – Democrats may not like what I am about to say, but we need to hear it.
Clearly women have woken up and donned their pussy hats, protesting, meeting, marching and learning how to more effectively influence good public policy in our state. Invigorated participation in politics is a very good thing, particularly here in Indiana where we have such traditionally low voter turnout.
That said, although the Democrat Party is supposed to be the party of inclusion, I have to express sincere appreciation for our Indiana Republicans in this regard. They just get it better than we do. Even though most members of my party (and others) may hold issue with the opposition’s approach to a number of issues that resonate mostly with females, we all have to admire the opportunity that the Indiana Republican Party has afforded women in our state.
This does not happen by accident.
Yes, women Democrats may have invigorated interest and participation, but we have no organized program to help women learn how to channel their interest and energy in this regard as effectively as possible. We do not have a place to send our upcoming women leaders for training; however our Republican friends do.
In 1990 several Hoosier women, including Judy Singleton, then-State Sen. Teresa Lubbers, former Secretary of State Sue Anne Gilroy, and others founded a political leadership development program designed for fast-tracking and mainstreaming outstanding Hoosier women into positions of influence in the public arena.
And it has been working. Currently, Republicans have five women elected to statewide office, two women serving in Congress, several mayors serving in chief executive municipal roles, and a number of city councillors and other office holders. Yes, all Republicans.
In fact, the success of the Lugar Series led to the implementation of 19 similar programs across the country. To date, there are 469 alumnae of the Lugar Series just here in Indiana, and more than 2000 graduates nationwide. That is remarkable.
Yet where are our Democrats? Where is our series for women? Clearly in this political climate it is beyond obvious why we may not have as many women currently serving, but this climate won’t last forever. How are we preparing our pipeline now?
The answer is simple. We are not.
The Lugar Series is in its 27th year of providing quality programming and networking opportunities to women that have already demonstrated a commitment to community service. Many of their graduates I both admire and call friends. We have so many Democrat women who deserve such a high value opportunity, and soon.
Democrats have been caught flat-footed, and we are now several generations behind. It is time to get organized and offer this kind of aspirational, educational programming to the women who have now emerged, interested and fired-up about participating in the political process.
We can and must get started, and I invite all interested parties to help me get this done. It is time to act on our responsibility as Democrats to help cultivate the women leaders of tomorrow. There is no time to waste. After all, we are more than 27 years late to the party.
Hale was the 2016 Democratic lieutenant governor nominee and a former member of the Indiana House.