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Boot Camp for Future WA Politicians

PHOTO: Canvassing to meet and greet voters is one of the political skills covered in this weekend's "Ready to Lead" workshop for future candidates. Courtesy of Occasional Planet.
PHOTO: Canvassing to meet and greet voters is one of the political skills covered in this weekend's "Ready to Lead" workshop for future candidates. Courtesy of Occasional Planet.
January 28, 2013

YAKIMA, Wash. - This weekend in Yakima, 16 people with goals of running for public office are getting a jump on the next election in the Ready to Lead workshop. It's nonpartisan training for immigrants who want to play bigger roles in their communities.

For 19-year-old Monica Mendoza, it's another step in a dream she's had since childhood: to run for Congress. She's a University of Washington freshman who has already earned enough credits for junior status, and she says she'll bring the same drive to reaching her goal of public service.

"I think there's a lot of hope and we're moving toward a good future," she says. "If you have a little bit of grit and you continue on with your ambition, and you're fighting for what you truly believe in, it is definitely possible."

The League of Women Voters of Washington sponsored Mendoza's attendance at the workshop. League executive director Laura Cava Northrop says it's important to encourage more people to be involved in politics. And although that means putting one's personal life under the microscope, she even sees an upside to that.

"Lives are becoming open books," she says, "but I think that also encourages a level of integrity and openness from folks who are considering running."

Toby Guevin, senior policy and civic engagement manager with the group OneAmerica, says many immigrants have stories of perseverance and adaptability that can help them earn voters' respect. One goal of the training, he adds, is to convince them that their heritage is an advantage.

"Instead of being a barrier and a challenge," he says, "there's a lot of elements of that experience and those values that you bring as a new American that can really be helpful in our legislative process, in elected and appointed office."

During the weekend, prospective candidates from their 20s to their 60s created their "stump speeches" and got advice on canvassing, raising money, getting endorsements and more. It is the first time the training, from the New American Leaders Project, has come to Washington.

Information about the training is available at http://newamericanleaders.org/.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA