Campaign School at Yale University trains next generation of female candidates

Longtime executive director Patti Russo said issues like reproductive rights are driving more women to run for office.

John Craven

Jun 13, 2024, 8:49 PM

Updated 38 days ago


Aspiring politicians and campaign strategists from across the nation are at Yale University this week for The Campaign School, an intensive boot camp on running for office.
But you won't find many men in the room. The candidates are all female.
Inside a packed classroom at Yale Law School, Ellen Fox is back in school. A retired teacher from Oxford, she's now a student – learning how to run for office.
"I'm running for the 131st [Connecticut House] District, which is comprised of Oxford and parts of Southbury and Naugatuck," she said.
Fox is one of dozens of students at The Campaign School, which trains female candidates and their campaign leaders. Longtime executive director Patti Russo said issues like reproductive rights are driving more women to run for office.
"Women are seeing what is going on, and what happens when we're not at the table and we're voiceless," she said. "We just don't have enough women running for office, nor do we have enough women running campaigns."
And it's not just political novices. Suzette DeBeatham-Brown already spent four years as Bloomfield's mayor.
"If you've done it before, this will just help you to do it better," she said. "This will help you to craft your message; this will help you connect to your people."
It's a powerhouse list of teachers. Strategist Jess David helped flip a key congressional seat blue in Pennsylvania. On the GOP side, Nikki Haley's campaign manager taught a class on messaging. Students also learn about raising money, get-out-the-vote efforts and social media strategy.
The women are also getting a lesson they never thought they'd need – personal safety on the campaign trail.
"We've had candidates who have experienced death threats, so why do we help our candidates continue to be safe on the campaign trail?" said Russo.
Another major change is who is running for office. When The Campaign School began 28 years ago, Russo said it was mostly white women in their 50s. Now, the group is three-quarters women of color, with an average age of 28.
But Fox said it's never too late to throw your hat in the ring.
"Many times, women are just not at the table," she said. "It's allowing us to be at the table, in the room, making policy."
The Campaign School also runs mini-boot camps throughout the year. Click here to learn more or sign up.

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