National Women's Political Caucus of Washington

Behind the scenes: NWPCWA Candidate Training Lead Christina Pedersen

Ever wondered who’s behind some of NWPC-WA’s candidate trainings? It’s a complex job: finding amazing speakers and trainers, handling venue and catering arrangements, and communicating with up to 50 anxious would-be candidates for each session.  Luckily, it’s well within the skillset and passion of Christina Pedersen: tireless NWPC-WA volunteer, soon-to-be high school biology teacher, and mom to two young boys.  Christina recently shared more about her work with NWPC-WA in a typically high-energy zoom call from her home in Marysville. 

So, tell us a little about the candidate trainings you produce for NWPC-WA.

The main job is to put on our annual training, a full day of scheduling – normally an in-person event of around 50 women who plan to run for office, want to know how to support women running for office, or are just starting to think about running. And every Saturday morning throughout the summer, I facilitate a training for NWPC-WA’s endorsed candidates. I support anyone who calls and says, “I'm lost on [insert topic here].”  I try to connect them to somebody who might know more, or send them a previously recorded training if they want a refresher. 

I would add that the women of color training is special because it focuses on race specifically- all the presenters and topics are using that lens. I am in no way the brains behind this operation, just a big fan of the women of color on our board, Alexis Turla and Olgy Diaz and members of the diversity committee, who had the idea and make it amazing every year! The feedback I've heard is that that space is doubly magic. And that representation is so important; the perspective of women of color has been missing from public office for way too damn long. 

Putting on the training is definitely a team effort! Our fundraising team surpassed our sponsorship goal by a huge percentage, our communications committee helped get the word out on social media, and the training committee met every week for several weeks to hammer out all the details, to name a few! 

You’re pretty busy during the day, raising two kids and going to school full time. What keeps you involved with NWPC-WA?

It's so corny, but specifically what keeps me interested in training is that moment where - and it always happens, every training, it's my fave thing - someone says, “I didn't think I wanted to run, I didn't think I could do it, but now I think I can do it.”  That's my heart, that's why I love it.

The work we do at the Caucus is so important. Local candidates are overlooked and their importance is not understood by a lot of people. Someone needs to support folks running for port, fire districts, school boards, city council. I feel like this is the best way I can personally support more moms and women and grandmas running for office. 

Women who run for office are more likely to give a reason related to their community or family instead of their career. Having more of a community focus, a focus on families and children means a great deal to me as someone who has a couple of kids. Throughout my life, my women bosses have been different than the men in charge. The way my mom tackles a problem is different than how my dad tackles a problem. Let's have women running the show for a hundred years and see what happens. 

How did you evolve the trainings to adjust from in-person to virtual?

Doing it online this month was significantly easier, to be honest! We ended up doing an all-day zoom. Nine to five is a very long time to be on zoom. But I really felt like part of the job and specialness is the full day to be in a room full of women. I'm pretty proud of how it went. Definitely, at the end of the day, my eyeballs were like, “No more screentime, please no!”  But I think we got to have a little bit more magic by being in a space with just women. There's not a lot of spaces like that where you only hear the opinions of women, all day long. 

One of our longtime diversity committee members, Florence Moss (aka FloMo!), came on at the beginning of each speaker as our appointed Enthusiasm Specialist. She recited “Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou, gave us some affirmations, and even made us all have a miniature dance party! It gave us these perfect little boosts to help us get through a long day, to push through that zoom fatigue. And FloMo is a joy in human form so that was obviously contagious. 

The thing I'm most proud of - I call it Networking Like a Woman. Over the lunch break, we made breakout rooms with 5 or 6 women in each. There was no agenda. We ate lunch together, just talking and getting to know each other. In my group, one of the participants talked about being a refugee; someone else talked about being the first woman of color to run for the seat she's running for. We talked kids and making friends. I wanted it to feel as close as possible to just sitting around a table and making friends with people. At the end, everyone was like, “I need contact information for everyone!” Maybe because I haven't done that in a year, it just seemed like a wild success.

What have you learned through this work?

Those things you read about women in politics - that you have to ask a woman seven times before she'll seriously consider running, that women only apply for a job when they meet 100% of the qualifications, while men apply if they meet only 40% of the qualifications - all of those things are true. Every year there are women who have incredible experiences and ideas, and they're worried they're still not ready, they still don't have whatever they think they need. It's just awesome to see those misconceptions fall away. That's the whole point. Really, it's about that support and community and network - giving each other the strength and support to take on the scary world of campaigning.

Last question.  So much of this work is helping incredible candidates pursue office, so who is your personal political heroine?

I am a die-hard Emily Wicks fan. I know that she's our president, so that's probably super corny!  Emily and I were on our high school Associated Student Body together. She has this absolutely remarkable ability to simultaneously be a mentor and a friend. She’s constantly pushing you to do better and be better, but never making it feels like a chore, always from a place of friendship. I don't know anybody else like that on the planet. She got appointed to office last year and was elected in November. I kept joking that if you'd asked me ten years ago if I'd be making a fundraising ask for Emily Wicks to run for the state House of Representatives, I'd have told you that makes perfect sense!

Christina Pedersen

NWPC-WA Education and Training  

Christina got her start in the political world by volunteering with Planned Parenthood, and over the years, she has worked on local legislative campaigns with Fuse and the State Democrats, as well as working in the official office of Congressman Rick Larsen. She still volunteers with Planned Parenthood on the state PAC  board and also any other place they ask. Obsessed with empowering women, Christina helps train women to run for office with NWPC-WA and leads a Girl Scout troop in Marysville. She is currently in school to become a high school biology teacher, which she believes is the exact midpoint between her two idols, Jane Goodall and Leslie Knope. When she’s not politicking, you can find her knitting or somewhere in the woods looking for mushrooms with her two sons.

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