One of the biggest stories of 2020 was the election and how candidates had to try and campaign during a pandemic. The Campaign School at Yale, which has supported over 4,000 female candidates over two decades, was there to help.
“There were women who were running for office. There were women who had lost their jobs and were furloughed and women who lost their child care and were also homeschooling,” Patti Russo, executive director of The Campaign School at Yale, says.
Russo says getting more women elected to office is why The Campaign School at Yale was established 26 years ago and they weren’t going to let a pandemic stop them.
“Quite frankly we just need more women everywhere in leadership,” Russo says.
Russo says graduates and candidates called for help when the pandemic hit and they began offering one-day sessions online for free. She says candidates urgently needed help messaging and improving their social media and hundreds signed up.
“How do you get your vote out? You can’t meet with people, you can’t go door-to-door. How can I be able to effectively make a connection?” Russo says.
The pandemic made candidates think differently about the campaign.
“How do we use that in our stories and our voices in new ways? I think that’s up to us to say how do we figure that out,” Kate Farrar says.
Farrar, a graduate of The Campaign School who was elected for the first time in November, says she hopes it’s a real galvanizing moment for women.
“We know we have more women running than ever before at every level,” Farrar, a Democrat from West Hartford, says.
Eleni Kavros Degraw was another graduate of the program who won election this past November says the program made all the difference.
“The five-day program is so intense. I mean most of the nights you’re up until 2 o’clock in the morning because you’re doing a case study,” Kavros Degraw says.
Kavros Degraw attended the five-day program in 2019 after losing her race in 2018 by 100 votes. This year she ended up winning by over 500 votes.
“The Campaign School decided to provide ongoing workshops all year long for candidates, not just for the alums of the program, but for any woman who was running for office,” Kavros Degraw, a Democrat from Avon, says.
Applications for The Campaign School at Yale will open on January 18 and 80 students will be accepted for the five-day June session, which for the first time will be offered only online.
As far as pandemic silver linings go: “we’ve never had every grad running in Connecticut win, except for this year,” Russo says.
The Campaign School, which used to be called the Women’s Campaign School at Yale, has an impressive list of alum including U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood and U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams.