Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver told this year’s Ready to Run Campaign Training for Women at Rutgers University that women are supporting other women and that’s leading to more elected women. She advised candidates to raise money where they know they can find women.
“Go to the nail salon and ask people to support you, you know, all of that. They love me at my nail salon because I still go to the same one. I’m in there with everybody, and I get all the news and I give them all the news,” Oliver said.
Oliver is an alumna of the Center for American Women and Politics’ Ready to Run program.
“Ready to Run certainly gave me the footing to know the mechanics of a two-party system and running for office and the structure of the leadership,” Oliver said.
Some of the women in attendance hold public office. Some plan to run. Potential candidate Derya Taskin says she hoped to learn fundraising for the conference.
“How to do better fundraising. That would be my main goal to look at, and networking,” she said.
“I’m hoping to learn more about how to be a better candidate, how I can be a strong candidate, be a confident candidate. I have done a lot. I’ve always worked for people in other races on both sides of the aisle, Democrat and Republican, locally. This is the first time I’m running as a candidate, so it’s a bit different to see your name on the signs and I have to put that together,” said Jennifer Williams, chair of the Trenton Republican Committee.
“Really, hoping to get a little bit more direction. I’ve been able to hone a lot of my strengths. I want to focus on a grander scale, really scale that opportunity for service, really figure out what public leadership is like, how do you fund raise?” asked Brittany Hale, a member of the Rahway school board.
Ready to Run comes on the heels of a record number of women winning seats in Congress in 2018. Inspiring, yes, but also raising concerns about complacency.
“What our hope is is that success breeds more engagement and more involvement and wanting more success. I worry sometimes that success may bring complacency — ‘We got all these women elected so the job is done.’ I also think everybody is watching an extraordinary woman lead the U.S. House, Nancy Pelosi. So they’re seeing women in a really powerful leadership position who is exercising her power very strategically and very successfully. But the reality is we’re are still under 25 percent women in that body,” said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
Oliver recalls her days as the first African-American woman to serve as Assembly speaker and having to huddle with two men, Senate President Steve Sweeney and former Gov. Chris Christie.
“Sometimes the governor would act like he was still the U.S. attorney general and, you know, try to beat you down but I wouldn’t relent and I just decided that I was the rose between two thorns. And that’s how I got through that experience,” Oliver said.
One woman sought Oliver’s advice on how to advocate and win. Oliver quoted the Girl Scouts slogan: “Be prepared.” She also said to know your facts so you’re not dismissed.