150 Women Ready to Change the Face of Power in Statehouses Across the U.S. After Vote Run Lead Action’s RUN/51 Summit

National Training Held in Detroit Focused on How to Win State Legislature Races

Detroit, Nov. 28, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Vote Run Lead Action, the country’s largest nonprofit training organization for women running for political office, recently held its national RUN/51 Summit in Detroit, Michigan, for women interested in running for office and running campaigns. More than 150 women and gender-diverse people from across the country attended — joining from as far away as Puerto Rico! 

“We named this initiative the ‘RUN/51 Summit’ to represent that women are 51% of the population and should be 51% of our elected officials, especially in our state legislatures,” said Erin Vilardi, CEO and founder of Vote Run Lead Action. “This first-of-its-kind Summit brought together women running for statehouse seats, campaign managers supporting them, and many others who may be aspiring or active candidates for city council, mayoralty, school board, or other elected offices. Our goal was to inspire and empower them with both the tools and confidence they need to run, and we know they will win!”

“There is a critical need for women's representation in state legislatures right now,” noted Sabrina Shulman, chief political officer of Vote Run Lead Action. “This training highlighted our organization's mission to accelerate the journey towards gender equity at every level of government. Some states still have a long way to go — and at the current rate, it could take 60 to 200 years to reach parity in any given statehouse. We don’t want to wait that long. The RUN/51 Summit was successful in that it equipped women today with the necessary tools and skills to run for office successfully and make a lasting impact on policy and governance now.”

Stacey Abrams, founder of Fair Fight and former Georgia State Representative, spoke to the participants via a motivational video message that included this encouragement: “We can't win if we don't run. You've taken the first step. You're here. Now is the time to dig deep and think about what's to come. I know we've got campaign managers and candidates here, but what we really need are warriors: those who understand that our values are made to manifest in the votes we cast and the people we elect.”

Just a few of the speakers and presenters during the three-day Vote Run Lead Action RUN/51 Summit included: Rhonda Briggins, Vote Run Lead Action board member and past co-chair of the National Social Action Commission for Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and founder of Delta 4 Women in Action; Stephanie Chang, Michigan state senator; Shannon Garrett, Vote Run Lead Action co-founder and board member, and founder and president, SMG Strategies; Melinda French Gates, founder, Pivotal Ventures (via pre-recorded video message); Natalie Murdock, North Carolina state senator; Gowri Ramachandran, deputy director, Elections and Government, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law; Lea Webb, New York state senator and VRLA national trainer; and Gretchen Whitmer, governor, Michigan (via pre-recorded video message).

Several attendees shared their own personal experiences running for office, including: 

  • Shelly Fyant of Arlee, Montana, a Native candidate running for the Montana state legislature, emphasized the importance of diverse voices in policymaking.
  • Rosemary Ketchum, the first openly trans city council member of Wheeling, West Virginia, who is now running for mayor, showcased her groundbreaking path in politics and the importance of inclusive representation.
  • Allie Phillips, candidate for Tennessee state House, shared her personal journey from being denied a life-saving abortion in that state to today running for office, motivated by a desire to spare others what she had to go through. 
  • Dr. Barbara Sharief, former mayor of Broward County, Florida, and current candidate for Florida State Senate, provided insights from her extensive experience in political leadership and public service.
  • Anna Thomas, a candidate for the Pennsylvania state House, shared her vision for local governance and the significance of grassroots movements.

RUN/51 Summit training sessions included in-depth workshops on campaign culture, creating a campaign strategy, building and managing campaign budgets, exploring one’s own relationship with money, strengthening fundraising muscles, the importance of crafting stories, and campaign safety. 

Vote Run Lead Action has proudly helped 55,000 women train to run for office, with a successful track record of nearly 76% of alumni who made the 2023 ballot winning their races. 

For more information about Vote Run Lead Action and its training, visit voterunleadaction.org or sign up today for VRLHQ.org, Vote Run Lead Action’s library of expert-curated resources to learn how to run a campaign — and win!

About Vote Run Lead Action
Vote Run Lead Action, ​​the 501(c4) arm of Vote Run Lead, the country’s largest nonprofit training resource for women to run for political office and win, has a primary focus: improving gender representation in America’s statehouses. The organization seeks to unleash the political power of women as voters, candidates and leaders to create an equitable democracy. To learn more, visit voterunleadaction.org or follow on Twitter, Facebook and/or Instagram.


Vote Run Lead Action RUN/51 Summit participants Allie Phillips, Dr. Barbara Sharief and Anna Thomas Vote Run Lead Action team at RUN51 Summit - Nov 2023. Photo credit Robin Gamble Photography

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