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Mills highlights Women in Politics through series of discussions


During the second of a three-part series titled "Women in Politics, candidate for State Assembly Ronnie Caplane discussed the importance of women running for office. Caplane urged every student present to run for office in the future.

Caplane began the discussion by asking everyone at the table why they were interested in politics. "I plan on being an attorney and eventually a senator," said freshwoman Rebecca Townsend.

Caplane then discussed her interest in politics and why she thinks women need to become more involved. "Men don't have to be asked to run for office, women do," said Caplane. "Women are very effective at policy-making and we bring different things to the table."

Caplane is a candidate for State Assembly in the 16th district, which includes Mills, most of Oakland and some of Alameda. She attended Hastings Law School and practiced law for 10 years but stopped to raise her two children. During that time, Caplane joined the Piedmont School Board and served two terms as president there. Caplane's interest in law and politics was renewed after the sudden death of her husband in 2003. Caplane was asked to run for office by a friend of hers and after getting support from groups like Emily's List and Emerge, she agreed.

"After working on the School Board, I thought the one place I could be most effective is the legislature. I want to work with teachers and figure out what we can do to help them be more effective," said Caplane.

After Caplane talked about her campaign, the discussion became much more informal and turned to national politics, the two party system and the possibility of Hillary Clinton running for president in 2008.

Caplane closed with a few pieces of advice for the future politicians in the room. "One of the biggest pieces to running a successful campaign is money. You have to call people up and ask them for money, and that's something that I think is particularly hard for women," she said.

"I think that if she gets elected she will do a great deal of good," said Townsend. "She seems willing to ask for help."

Student Activities Coordinator Alexis Bucknam came up with the "Women in Politics" series along with administration officials Daphne Muse, Rachel Lavine and Mary Galvez as a part of women's "herstory" month. "Sometimes we see these women who are in these positions of power and leadership and it's hard to see how they got there. You don't have to become a candidate [overnight], there are a lot of ways to get involved," said Bucknam.

The first discussion was led Karen Friedman, Chair of the North Alameda National Women's Political Caucus, the second Ronnie Caplane,candidate for State Assembly, and the third will be Desley Brooks, member of the Oakland City Council.

The discussions are part of an ongoing series of events on campus in honor of Women's "Herstory" Month.

Currently women hold only 15.1 percent of congressional seats, 14 percent of seats in the Senate and 15.4 percent of seats in the House of Representatives, according to Center for American Women and Politics statistics.

Held in the Cowell conference room, the discussions were limited to 20 members in order to keep the atmosphere intimate. Only six students and two Mills staff members went to Caplane's discussion, despite organizer's attempts to advertise through flyers and student-news postings. Of the students who attended, most were public policy and history majors.

The next "Women in Politics" discussion will be held Friday, March 31 at 12 p.m. in the Cowell conference room, when Desley Brooks from District 6 of the Oakland City Council will speak.