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Veteran campaigners' advice to women seeking office: raise money

Linda Griego and Wendy Greuel, former candidates for Los Angeles mayor, had this advice for women attending a training session Saturday on running for political office: Raise plenty of money — you're going to need it.

"Ask for money.... Don't take 'no' for an answer," Griego, a businesswoman and former deputy mayor who ran in the 1993 primary, told a workshop organized by Emily's List, a group that helps Democratic women who support abortion rights seek elected office.

"The most important thing is raising money," said Greuel, a former city controller and councilwoman who lost last year's hard-fought, costly race to then-Councilman Eric Garcetti. Greuel raised more than $7.2 million for her campaign; Garcetti more than $8.6 million.

Greuel said she initially shared many women's hesitancy to push donors for contributions, but "I got better at it."

The top three lessons Greuel said she learned running for office were that it takes money, a thick skin and courage.

Greuel, who has been considering running for the L.A. County Board of Supervisors next year, said in an interview after her talk to the training session that she hasn't yet decided what office to seek next.

"I'll definitely run again," Greuel said, but added that she was still considering when and for what office.

About three dozen women attended the daylong seminar at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. It was a diverse group — in ethnicity, age and political experience.

About half the women attending already hold political office or are actively campaigning for one. They included Eloise Gomez Reyes, one of several Democrats hoping to unseat Rep. Gary Miller (R-Rancho Cucamonga) in what is expected to be one of the state's toughest congressional races next year.

Both national parties are expected to work hard for the seat in the 31st Congressional District, which observers had expected to be won by a Democrat last year. But, under the state's "top-two" election system, the four Democrats on the ballot split the vote in June and enabled two Republicans to vie for the seat in November.

Reyes said her backing from Emily's List "was a big deal!"

The other half of the group consisted of women testing the political waters with the possibility of becoming a candidate some day.

"I'm exploring my opportunities," an attorney told the group during introductions. Organizers allowed attendees to decide whether they wanted to be identified by reporters who were invited to one of the day's sessions. Some said no, but others, mostly those running for office, embraced the opportunity for some exposure.

They included apartment association executive Tara Bannister, who recently joined the list of candidates seeking to replace City Councilman Tom LaBonge when term limits force him out in 2015.

"I'm bursting with energy," Bannister said of her candidacy, noting that she had been working toward running for political office "all my life."

Emily's List was founded nearly three decades ago to help its candidates raise campaign funds. (Emily stands for Early Money Is Like Yeast, because its helps raise dough.) It provides other help as well, including training in how to run for office.

Muthoni Wambu Kraal, who runs the organization's Political Opportunity Program for the western region, offered pointers to the women attending Saturday's seminar. Among them: Know the election laws, find out what was spent in the last campaign for the office, assemble a "kitchen cabinet" of advisors and, for those just starting out, volunteer in someone else's campaign to build contacts and gain experience.

jean.merl@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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