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Training gives women candidates the inside track on campaigning for public office


FARGO -- As the daughter of Bill Guy, North Dakota's longest-serving governor, and after helping with the Democrat's six campaigns, you'd think Nancy Guy would already know all there is to know about running for office.

But you would be wrong.

"People joke that I'm genetically predisposed to run for office," Nancy Guy said from Bismarck, where she serves as city commissioner. "I really thought I knew what I was getting myself into. [But] it's one thing to be a helper."

That's why she gives a lot of credit to "Ready to Run," a training program aimed at teaching women everything they need to know before launching a campaign for public office.

"Ready to Run" sessions were sponsored in Fargo on Friday night and from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday in the Room of Nations at Memorial Union on the North Dakota State University campus. They teach potential candidates how to raise funds, build a message, handle the media and answer tough questions from the public.

It's for anyone who's thinking about running for office someday, not just people who already know they want to be a candidate, said Renee Stromme, executive director of the North Dakota Women's Network, which hosts the event. It's also open to men considering a run for office.

"We want to just plant that seed," Stromme said.

In a year when Hillary Clinton beat out Bernie Sanders in the first Iowa caucus for the Democratic presidential nomination, it's tempting to assume the gender gap in politics is no more.

But research into why fewer women hold public office than men indicates there's an ambition gap between men and women, Stromme said.

While men tend to volunteer to run for office, "Women, more often, are waiting for someone to ask them," she said. "In many ways, this is our way of asking them."

Closer to home, presumptive Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sarah Vogel recently declined to run in North Dakota, which surprised Stromme.

And locally, Fargo City Commissioner Melissa Sobolik decided not to run for re-election.

Stromme thinks Vogel's decision could be partly about money, which she said is a concern.

"We're going to see fewer people without deep pockets running," she said. "We get the better solutions, we get the better process with more participants."

Guy said potential candidates may also be intimidated by a truism of running, one that her dad explained to her.

She'd just gone to him and told him she was launching a bid for state senate, her first race.

The former governor gave her some good advice about how to campaign, then explained she would most likely lose the first time.

"He took my hand... and said, 'I ran three times before I won. I want you to promise me you will run again,'" she said.

While she did lose, she said, it gave Guy the insight she needed to win her next bid for office.

"It's really no different if you're a man or a woman," she said.

If you go

9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday

Room of Nations, Memorial Union, NDSU, Fargo

Cost to register $35

(701) 425-2915