Fighting the Boys' Club

Annie's List is not named for former Texas Gov.

Annie's List is not named for former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, but for a lesser-known “Annie”, Dr. Annie Webb Blanton, a trailblazer and the first woman elected to statewide office in Texas in 1918. Annie Blanton fought against tough odds and ruthless political tactics to be elected the state superintendent for public instruction. Blanton proved women could not only win tough campaigns, but could govern as well.Founded in 2003 in response to the loss of Democratic seats in the state legislature due to redistricting, Annie’s List has one core mission: to increase the number of progressive Democratic women in the Texas Legislature. Executive Director Bree Buchanan describes the organization as very focused and targeted on the select group of candidates that receive their support.“We are determined to be in a position where we can impact redistricting in 2011 by winning legislative seats,” Buchanan said. “We spend our donors’ money in the most targeted and strategic way—to win.”And win they have. Annie’s List took nine of the eleven races they targeted in 2008. The group also works actively to keep endorsed incumbents in office.“Long term, our goal is to continue to add to the numbers of women in the Texas Legislature because we know that more women elected will have a positive impact upon policy of issues that directly affect the lives of women and children,” Buchanan said.Annie’s List raised over $1.1 million last year, double what they raised in 2007. And with nearly 4,000 donors and unrestricted donor levels, the group is poised for a haul in the 2010 legislative cycle, as well. The organization has a full-time staff of fundraisers and political strategists that identify and target specific races and candidates.The organization recruits heavily, sponsoring candidate-training sessions that help identify potential candidates.“When we endorse our candidates, we become involved right away to help develop her campaign plan, team and fundraising plan,” Buchanan said. “We involve ourselves early and help insure her campaign gets off to a strong start.”State legislatures nationwide are just 25 percent female—and Texas, though its large size gives it the potential for many female candidates, is below that average at 24 percent. The 34-member Texas Congressional delegation includes five women—just 15 percent, again below average. Women comprise 17 percent of the members of the U.S. Congress.Annie’s List uses the slogan “Changing the Face of Power,” and hopes that with its help, Democrats can win back the state House of Representatives this cycle. Republicans currently hold a two-seat majority.Texas Observer reporter Bob Moser described the impact Annie’s List is having upon Texas politics: “Those women, in turn, are threatening to turn the most powerful boys’ club in Texas into a very different, less dysfunctional place.” Moser points to the unlikely victory of an underdog candidate, Diana Maldonado, the first Democrat to win her heavily Republican district in 16 years. With the strategy and support of Annie's List, Maldonado defeated an eight-term House incumbent. Despite being focused on 2010 elections, Annie’s List is implementing a long-range plan by training and placing college graduates on campaigns. They have also implemented the Women to Women Project, which hopes to increase voter turnout.“The day will come when women will have a bigger impact upon the political climate in Texas,” said Bree Buchanan. And with Annie’s List on the job, that day may come soon.Kathy Groob is the publisher of ElectWomen Magazine. A business executive, former elected city official and Democratic candidate for the Kentucky Senate, Kathy has worked with many women's organizations, served as a mentor to several women in the workplace and was a finalist in the Outstanding Women of Northern Kentucky awards program.

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