By Rhonda Briggins-Ridleyand
This election cycle presents a unique political situation in Georgia; we have five African American women running for statewide positions. This historic political time has also brought nationwide attention to our state’s elections, highlighting a potential shift not only in gender politics, but in the racial make-up of Georgia’s highest offices.
On the national level, only one African American woman has ever served in the Senate, and only sixteen in the House...ever. I’ve worked in southern politics for more than 25 years and now as co-founder of VoteRunLead, dedicated to advancing women’s leadership, I believe Georgia can be a model for the rest of the country; not just for women’s voting power but for women’s decision-making power.
Studies have shown the influence of the women’s vote at the ballot box when it comes to electing the president of the United States, and more recent commentary has credited black women’s voting power with swinging elections. Let’s get the talented women we all know and love to the voting booth tomorrow.
But we can’t stop there. The strength of our votes only goes so far; our voices, skills and talents need to be inside the halls of power. After you vote, invite three women in your life to consider a bid for office so it becomes normal for more of us to lead. We need tens of thousands of us running so it isn’t remarkable to have five black women running for statewide office. (It’s never been remarkable to have five white men running for anything.) All women have the ability to shift our political discourse and to direct attention to issues that affect us all. When women are at the table, the conversation changes, new ideas emerge and there is a greater focus is placed on families and communities.
Then ladies, run. And run again. The Georgia Five didn’t get here overnight. Doreen Carter, Democratic nominee for Secretary of State and VoteRunLead alumnae, is a great example of how women can take the skills they use in business and translate them into a role as a political leader. Starting with a seat on her City Council, Carter has built a political career on her own terms. Connie Stokes is a former County Commissioner and State Senator, has been a fixture in politics, attending our events always encouraging women to lead. All five of these candidates have held local office before. You can, too.
Whether they win or lose, let us see the Georgia Five not as a fluke, but as a beginning.
Let’s continue to make history by turning our voting power into positions of power. So get out there tomorrow. Go vote. Go run. Go lead. Go girl.