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Erin Forrest, Emerge Wisconsin: "Because we don’t talk about this enough, we have these individual experiences with sexism that we don’t understand are systemic, and it really undermines our self esteem."


Among the immediate responses to Donald Trump's election last week, Emerge Wisconsin director Erin Forrest wasn't expecting enthusiasm from women looking to run for office.

But over two days last week, the group received 18 applications from women seeking admission to its training program for Democratic women looking to become candidates.

For perspective, before the election, the group had received 40 applications since the submission period that opened at the beginning of September. 

Forrest believes the flood of applications over a couple days is a direct response to Hillary Clinton, who would have been the country's first woman to serve as president, losing the election.

"I just think it speaks to the resiliency of these women and how motivated they are by this to step up and try to make a difference, and that they still see elected office as a way to make change in their community," Forrest said.

The increased interest this year is leading the group to look for ways to include more women in its activities than it has in the past. The training program admits 20-25 women per year, and the application period for the upcoming session will close on Nov. 18.

"We certainly don’t want to discourage any of these women from their gut instinct to run for office and make the world a better place," Forrest said.

The six-month training program focuses on areas including public speaking, fundraising, field operations and cultural competency. Alumnae include former state Sen. Nikiya Harris Dodd, state Sen.-elect LaTonya Johnson and state Reps. Dianne Hesselbein, Melissa Sargent, Lisa Subeck and JoCasta Zamarripa.

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Forrest said she's also noticed a "trickle" of $5 and $10 donations to the group from throughout the state, while Facebook "likes" and email list signups for Emerge have also gone up after the election.

As someone who invested a lot of time and energy into backing Clinton, Forrest said it's been a source of personal motivation to see so many women respond this way.

"There was an incredible movement of people out there who are ready to sort of walk the trail that Hillary blazed, and we just want to make sure we’re here for them, helping them and supporting them, helping them get to where they want to be," she said.

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Jessie Opoien covers state government and politics for the Capital Times. She joined the Cap Times in 2013 and has also covered Madison life, race relations, culture and music. She has also covered education and politics for the Oshkosh Northwestern.