Introducing: First Ask

Here’s the deal — local government cannot be overlooked — end of story, shut the book, roll the credits.

We as a country have woken up to the power of state and local government; just ask the 400,000 Virginians who will now be covered by the Medicaid expansion passed by the Virginia legislature. Think about it, when a house is falling apart do you fix the roof or the foundation first?

With this question in mind, First Ask was created in order to take matters into our own hands, built from the bottom up and improve, promote, and grow local democracy. But, that’s only part one.

Part two, Women.

Women are 51% of the national population, but only 22% of government officials. This makes perfect sense, right? Wrong. Twenty years ago, the United States was ranked 52 in the world for representation of women in national legislation. Today, the United States ranks 104. There are numerous statistics to support this reality; no matter how you look at it, women are underrepresented at all levels of government. Which is absurd because when you were growing up and needed to solve a problem, who did you ask? Mom.

This brings us to First Ask. We are a candidate identification and recruitment initiative that aims to close the gender gap in local and state politics across the country by increasing the number of women running for office.

The lack of political participation by women is rooted in a number of systemic barriers, but there are a number of tangible ways to push through those barriers. Women are rarely encouraged to pursue public office, and when they are, they often turn it down in favor of other ways to effect change, like non-profits. And hey, we get it — we’re doing just that.

But here’s the thing: when women do run, we are just as likely to win as men. More representation in government is more attainable than you think. In order to close the gender gap in politics, the first and simplest step is to ask women to run in the first place. Crazy, we know.

First Ask finds qualified candidates and provides guidance to campaign managers as they navigate the race, so we are both recruiting and empowering progressive women, and setting them up for success as they run, campaign, and win.

There are countless women in key districts across the country that would make dedicated, hardworking, brilliant representatives, but they aren’t getting the encouragement they need to run for office. First Ask engages communities and finds candidates in districts and localities that can change the makeup of our school boards to our state legislatures.

Local communities.

Our candidate recruitment is grassroots driven. We know that voters already have a good idea of who in their community they’d like to see running for office. The existing top-down approach to candidate recruitment doesn’t as effectively see what a community sees.

So, we flip the script.

We start with community input; researching and exploring the community’s needs and ideal candidates. Working with a network of volunteers and partner organizations, we have face-to-face, phone and email conversations with community members to hear their input about women who they believe would make strong representatives.

And now, we need your help. Change doesn’t happen overnight. (What? It doesn’t?) Generating enduring change in the current political climate requires long hours and exhausting work. And coffee, lots of coffee.

We’ll make it simple, here’s what you can do

If you know a woman who you think would make a great candidate for elected office

  1. ASK HER TO RUN. If she says no, ASK AGAIN.
  2. Keep asking.
  3. Support women in your community who have decided to run for office.
  4. Donate to First Ask so we can continue this critical work.
  5. Spread the word about the importance of putting more women in office.

First Ask was founded by women and supported by women who are, first and foremost, community organizers. We have seen time and time again strong, hardworking, progressive women, from every type of community, decline to run for office because it seemed too out of reach. But even more often, they decline to run because no one bothered to ask them in the first place.

Well, now we’re asking.