by Claudia Vargas, Staff Writer
In 2010, Kerri Kennedy was training women in Afghanistan to run for office when she noticed a stark statistic. That year, 28 percent of elected officials in Afghanistan were women, while in the United States, women held just 17 percent of such positions.
A friend told her that while the work Kennedy did was commendable, she could have a bigger impact helping women in her own country get elected.
“She said, ‘You’re not walking the talk,’ ” Kennedy recalled.
Six years later, Kennedy is one of more than a dozen Philadelphia women who run Represent!, a political action committee focused on electing Democratic women to state and federal office. The committee’s federal arm has raised $94,000 and given $175,000 to campaigns since last year. The state arm has raised $50,400 this election cycle and $89,000 since it became active in 2014.
At a time when millions are flowing to political campaigns, the dollars raised and donated by Represent! seem modest. But the group is hoping to gain momentum as the Democratic National Convention, July 25 to 28, nears and Hillary Clinton is poised to make history as the first female presidential candidate of a major U.S. party.
“It’s the right time for an organization like ours,” said Kennedy, 41, who in her day job is an executive for a nonprofit. (She is not related to those Kennedys.)
In late June, Represent! achieved “multicandidate” PAC status at the federal level, which means the group has supported at least five federal candidates and has more than 50 individual donors. That status allows a PAC to receive up to $5,000 from an individual a year, nearly double the usual $2,700 limit for individual donors.
“We are able to give a lot more money to the campaigns,” said Aubrey Montgomery, 32, one of the cofounders.
The women behind Represent! are trying to distinguish themselves from other female-focused PACs, such as EMILY’S List, the national group that backs female candidates who support abortion rights, and one that many women, including Represent! board members, have supported over the years.
On the Republican side, too, a PAC called Women Lead is trying to elect women, and the Anne B. Anstine Series, based in Pennsylvania and named for the woman who once led the state GOP, is a workshop that helps train women going into politics. Both groups were founded by Christine J. Toretti, a Republican National Committee member.