WomenWinning campaign fund focusing attention on helping Tarryl Clark’s run for Congress

Sarah Taylor-Nanista is WomenWinning's executive director.
MinnPost photo by Joe Kimball
Sarah Taylor-Nanista is WomenWinning’s executive director.

WomenWinning, a statewide political fundraising group dedicated to helping pro-choice women win elections, has been supporting Tarryl Clark for years — since her first run in a special election to the state Senate in 2005.

Now the group, billed as the Minnesota Women’s Campaign Fund, is working overtime to help Clark get elected to Congress.

And despite the difficult challenge of unseating 6th District Rep. Michele Bachmann, Sarah Taylor-Nanista, the group’s executive director, thinks there’s a good chance.

“Absolutely, she’s got a chance,” Taylor-Nanista said this week, during an interview at the WW office in a remodeled industrial building on St. Paul’s University Avenue. The group is working with Sen. Amy Klobuchar — another recipient of WW assistance — to hold a fundraiser for Clark before the Nov. 2 election.

WW, founded in 1982, has helped hundreds of women run for election.

Not all of them win, of course — the group was solidly behind Margaret Anderson Kelliher’s bid for governor, but she lost the DFL primary election to Mark Dayton.

On the other hand, the group has supported U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum since her first run for the North St. Paul City Council in 1986, and has seen her win four terms in the state Legislature and then five terms in Congress.

The group has endorsed and provided fundraising help to pro-choice women running for all forms of government office, from city council and county boards in Minnesota to national offices.

It even sent a check for $5,000 to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Bank snub prompted group’s formation
WomenWinning was founded 28 years ago by a small group of women upset that banks required women who applied for business loans to have their husbands co-sign the loan, Taylor-Nanista said.

“They realized the long-term solution was to elect more women to public office,” she said, “so they got 25 women to each contribute $1,000.”

Then, as now, abortion was the litmus test: Women candidates had to be pro-choice to get the group’s support. They also now encourage other stances beyond abortion funding — on issues they believe have a positive impact on women and families, including nutritional lunches and adequate child care, Taylor-Nanista said.

In the early days, virtually any woman candidate fitting that bill was endorsed and supported. In recent years, though, the group wants to be sure a candidate has a viable chance of winning before resources are expended.

And there are cases when choices have to be made between several eligible candidates: Susan Gaertner was passed over in the governor’s race in favor of Kelliher, whom the WW committee thought had a better chance at winning.

And in this year’s 6th District race, the group picked Clark over Dr. Maureen Reed, another DFL contender in the early going.

Tarryl Clark
Tarryl Clark

During this election cycle, WomenWinning has endorsed nearly 100 women in races throughout the state and, so far, has helped raise about $500,000 for the candidates.

The group provides some direct funding to candidates, but also organizes its members to raise funds for them. And the WW staff works with candidates to develop their own fundraising expertise.

Do men ever ask for endorsement and support?

“Men do ask for help,” Taylor-Nanista said. But they don’t get it.

“There are plenty of other organizations out there to help them,” she said. “And looking at the numbers, they’re doing just fine.”

And while the group is technically nonpartisan, the pro-choice requirement has meant that the vast majority of candidates getting support are DFLers. There have been a few Republican pro-choice candidates in the past, but none are serving now.

Gender parity? Not yet
Women make up about 34 percent of the Minnesota Legislature, the group says, which is fourth highest in the country and far better than the 17 percent in Congress. (Of course, not all of those are pro-choice women, Taylor-Nanista notes.)

Women make up only 11 percent of the seats on Minnesota county boards, 37 percent of state school boards and 15 percent of the state’s mayors.

“We’re still not even close yet on gender parity,” Taylor-Nanista said.

But it’s not that women can’t win, she said. It’s just that not enough run.

“When women run for office, they win at the same rate as men,” she said. “The challenge is, they don’t run at the same rate.”

So a big priority for WomenWinning is finding candidates who are ready to run and encouraging them to take the step. Sometimes, that’s harder with women than with men.

“Studies show that men are much more willing to run for political office without being asked than women are,” Taylor-Nanista said. Sometimes women have to be asked more than once.

“A little encouragement goes a long way. And a call from Joan Growe [former Minnesota secretary of state, and a candidate for U.S. Senate] can be a powerful thing,” she said.

Heartbreaking losses
So in addition to endorsing and supporting existing candidates, WomenWinning is scouring the state to find suitable candidates for all levels of government.

“We’re looking for partners in Greater Minnesota who can help us find women who are ready to run for office — women who work in universities, in nonprofits, and run businesses,” she said.

“It wouldn’t have been so heartbreaking when Margaret lost if we thought there was a cadre of women ready to run. We do think they’re out there — we just need to figure out who they are. And sometimes we know who they are but need to get them ready.”

There were encouraging signs, even in Kelliher loss.

“She made it easier for the next woman to run for governor; she had a viable campaign in a very high-profile race, so that’s progress,” Taylor-Nanista said.

“But like Hillary, we see there’s not a long line of women ready to run for governor, or president. Who are the women getting ready for the next time? And that’s a place we can make a difference,” she said.

Joe Kimball reports on St. Paul City Hall, Ramsey County politics and other topics.

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Comments (17)

  1. Submitted by David Willard on 09/24/2010 - 10:19 pm.

    What a great plus in a candidate that is, to expire a little life.

  2. Submitted by Mohammed Ali Bin Shah on 09/25/2010 - 12:25 am.

    “Absolutely, she’s got a chance,” Taylor-Nanista said this week”

    Go ahead Ms. Nanista, keep spending money on a losing cause.

  3. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 09/25/2010 - 05:32 am.

    It’s quite disengenuous to talk about all the effort they’re expending to elect “women” when what they’re really looking for are pro-abortion candidates.

    If a pro-life woman was running against a pro-abortion man, who would these people support?

    Sarah Palin is helping several women run for office this year, including many running for governor of their state as well as candidates for the U.S. house and senate. And she doesn’t have an abortion litmus test.

  4. Submitted by Dee Ann Christensen on 09/25/2010 - 06:42 am.

    Mohammed: Mohammed: Mohammed:

    “And she doesn’t have a litmus test.”

    Very respectfully, sir, please, if you can, tell us the names of the pro-choice women that Sarah Palin is helping.

    It is not enough to make an assertion without valid evidence to back it up.

    Thank you.

  5. Submitted by John Jordan on 09/25/2010 - 06:57 am.

    “And despite the difficult challenge of unseating 6th District Rep. Michele Bachmann, Sarah Taylor-Nanista, the group’s executive director, thinks there’s a good chance.”

    On what planet?

    On Earth, where the rest of us live, polls show an overwhelming lead for Bachmann. Clark is a tax-raising liberal hypocrite running a silly, lying campaign about having “cut her budget” (individual legislators do not have their own budget). With ever new commercial Clark looks more desperate and silly…and unelectable.

  6. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 09/25/2010 - 08:13 am.

    “if you can, tell us the names of the pro-choice women that Sarah Palin is helping.”

    We don’t know. That’s kind of the point of not having litmus tests, isn’t it.

  7. Submitted by Dee Ann Christensen on 09/25/2010 - 08:42 am.

    “We don’t know,”


  8. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 09/25/2010 - 12:00 pm.

    This is an encouraging story, and the comments illustrate precisely why such a group is a valuable asset to women, first, and to the society as well.

    Fortunately, I don’t live in the 6th District, so I don’t have to suffer under the purported “representation” of the surprisingly empty-headed Mrs. Bachmann. I served my penance in Colorado, where I lived, for a while, in Tom Tancredo’s district. He was equally loopy, though perhaps not quite as mean-spirited as Bachmann appears to be.

    If Mr. Jordan does live in the district, and talks to people with whom he doesn’t agree as well as those with whom he does agree, then his assessment of the race there might be as good as, or better, than Taylor-Nanista’s. Since I think Mrs. Bachmann is an embarrassment, it’s a sad commentary on quite a few people who DO live in that district if she’s reelected. Much like Mrs. Palin, Bachmann strikes me as a know-nothing blowhard who has excellent, really excellent, media advisors and decent speechwriters, too. She also has an entire television network devoted to promoting her message. Demagogues play to fear and prejudice, and both Palin and Bachmann do that very well.

    “Pro-life” is, of course, a clever bit of misinformation. Proponents of women as breeders will begin to have some credibility regarding “life” in my family when they simultaneously become equally energized leaders of anti-war, anti-poverty, and similar “liberal” movements throughout the country that are devoted to enhancing life, as compared to simply birth.

  9. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 09/25/2010 - 01:21 pm.

    The irony of the male commenters would like to subject their opinions/belief systems on the opposite sex is noted. Women should have the right to choose, end of discussion.
    Hopefully someday all women around the world will have this right.

    As a more general matter, there is a strong correlation between the anti-abortion movement and the anti-contraception movement. Thus, the confounding factors in question (contraception being the major factor) might not be so confounding after all if we look at the whole policy package associated with anti-abortion advocates.

  10. Submitted by Ginny Martin on 09/25/2010 - 02:49 pm.

    I agree that these male comments demonstrate absolutely while more women need to be elected. There’s an attitude of disdain and dismissal by these men as to why electing women is important. It’s not just an abortion issue, it is and always has been a matter of control. Making abortion illegal does not stop abortion; it just makes it dangerous for women. Desperate women have always found ways, many of them hazardous, to abort a fetus when it seemed important.
    Although there are obvious exceptions, in general women bring an entirely different attitude and point of view to politics (why are the only 2 senators willing to risk going against their party in favor of common sense women?) They have different life experiences, including being mothers (and if not actually mothers, most have that same kind of caring and compassion). Virtually every women has suffered wage discrimination (I can tell you stories and so can every other working woman) and sexual abuse in the workplace. Think that’s Excuse me now while I go give money to this fund.

  11. Submitted by Howard Miller on 09/25/2010 - 07:07 pm.

    “Maureen Reed, another DFL contender in the early going.”

    Must quibble with Mr. Kimball. Ms. Reed was an Independent Party candidate seeking the DFL nomination to run for the 6th district Congressional spot. Which has a lot to do with why Ms. Clark prevailed in the party nominating process.

    But Maureen Reed was an excellent candidate, and a classy one, as she backed out of the race when it looked like she would only hurt the Democratic candidate’s chances to replace Ms. Bachmann. There are Democrats around the country who don’t show that level of class and otherness. Ms. Reed deserves real credit there. And Ms Clark deserves to be the Representative from the Mn 6th. She’ll actually show up, work for Minnesota families, in contrast to the incumbent, who is caught up in the Palinista celebrity business of being a national conservative

  12. Submitted by Howard Miller on 09/25/2010 - 07:10 pm.

    Dennis – is there any candidate for whom Sarah Palin has given funds or endorsement, who is not among the pro-life crowd?

    I was under the impression that she kept being pro-life as one of those unyielding planks in her political platform

  13. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 09/25/2010 - 08:12 pm.

    Howard – the only criteria I’ve heard Mrs. Palin express is that the candidate be a constitutional conservative/

  14. Submitted by Jennifer DeJournett on 09/26/2010 - 10:52 am.

    “Women Winning was founded 28 years ago by a small group of women upset that banks required women who applied for business loans to have their husbands co-sign the loan, Taylor-Nanista said. ”


    What we find interesting about Women Winning is that they formed in response to fiscal issues affecting women. However, their focus rapidly became centered around social policy, as evidenced by their long-standing pro-choice litmus test.

    We find the “pocket book issues” still relevant to today’s women. VOICES of Conservative Women focuses on fiscal responsibility, limited government and free market.

    We agree that there need to be more women elected in the State Leg (and US Congress). This is especially true for Conservative Women, as their numbers have been relatively stagnant since 1993.

    In truth, the increase in the number of women winning in Minnesota has been on the left side of the aisle, due to the support that the left has provided their candidates.

    We are working to create a vehicle for conservative women to be supported too.

    The difference between Women Winning and VOICES of Conservative Women is that VOICESPAC focuses on economic policy. That is our litmus test versus Women Winning’s litmus test of social issues. It’s ironic that the pocketbook issues that catalyzed the formation of Women Winning is not their primary focus today.

    There are many qualified women running for office. We have had more women seek our support than we have the capacity to provide this year.

    We see the future as bright for women and our ability to make substantial policy change.

    We are getting ready; one woman at a time.

    To learn more about VOICES of Conservative Women


  15. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/26/2010 - 04:33 pm.

    I guess if one can convince ones self that hoking a living human being out of the womb is a “choice”, believing Terryl Clark has a chance against Rep. Bachmann is child’s play…or is that choice play?

    No, substituting “choice” for “child” doesn’t work there either, does it?

  16. Submitted by David Willard on 09/26/2010 - 11:33 pm.

    The true test of MinnPost and their credo: “A Thoughtful Approach To News” will be if they resist the urge to throw mud at Republicans days before the election ala the Star Tribune, “Newspaper of the Liberal Elite.”

  17. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 09/27/2010 - 07:15 am.

    Supporting Taaryl must be a taxing job.

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