OHIO DEMOCRATIC WOMEN’S CAUCUS
Ohio Women for Kerry began when Tori
Valelley, national women’s coordinator of the Kerry campaign, contacted
Jan Roller in Cleveland and requested that she start the process of building
the organization as well as serve as the state’s representative during
nationwide conference calls. One woman was being selected from each
state to participate in the conference calls. Roller knew Valelley
from living in Boston, Massachusetts in the early 80s. Roller’s twin
sister, Joy Roller, was Tom Valelley’s political director for his first
successful political campaign, that of Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts
in 1982. Jan Roller, a lawyer, had moved to Cleveland in 1983 and
had been politically active ever since.
The first step to build Ohio Women for
Kerry was to identify subconstituencies of women who could use their network
to build a database. Approximately fifteen different constituencies
were identified such as the elderly, moms, lawyers, women in health care,
African-American and Hispanic women, young women, etc. Chairs were
appointed for each of the constituency groups and organizational meetings
were held with the Chairs on a regular basis.
As the data base was being built, house
parties and other events occurred. The house parties were a great
organizing tool. But what was essential to the growth of Ohio Women
for Kerry was a dedicated staff person. Ruth Berggren had tried,
without luck, to be hired by the Kerry Campaign. She was a 50-year-old
women from Cleveland who had moved from California with her husband only
six years earlier. Unfortunately, her husband died suddenly in California.
Ruth was dedicated to getting John Kerry elected. Through informal
contacts, she found out that the fledgling organization "Ohio Women for
Kerry" was looking for staff assistance. Ruth was an exceptionally
talented person. She was very computer literate and wrote well.
She dedicated herself, 24/7, to the efforts of Ohio Women for Kerry.
This really got the ball rolling. Ohio Women for Kerry t-shirts were
made and Ruth created a website.
It was always the hope that the strong,
organized effort in Cuyahoga County would expand on a statewide level once
the national campaign moved into Ohio. Unfortunately, this did not
occur until after the primary in July, 2004 and, more unfortunately, once
it came to Ohio, it was disorganized and unable to incorporate the structure
that was working so successfully in Cuyahoga County.
After the 2004 defeat, the dedicated
women of Ohio Women for Kerry were only more determined to elect Democrats
during the 2006 election and to be ready for the 2008 presidential campaign.
However, there was no leadership from the Ohio Democratic Party or the
Democratic National Committee to assist in creating a new organization
for women in Ohio. A core group of women from Ohio Women for Kerry
in Cleveland continued to meet regularly to determine how best to organize.
Finally, after the election of Chris Redfern as the new Chair of the Ohio
Democratic Party, the Ohio Democratic Women’s Caucus was formed.
Redfern authorized the creation of a new caucus of the Ohio Democratic
Party. Sarah Topy, Redfern’s assistant, provided invaluable
guidance and assistance.
The Ohio Democratic Women’s Caucus now
serves as a networking and communication resource for women’s caucuses
and groups which currently exist in Ohio. Peggy Wilkinson of Ashtabula
and Jan Roller are the founding co-chairs of the Caucus. It is the
goal of the ODWC to create a caucus in every county where one currently
does not exist. The ODWC has a website – www.Ohiodwc.org. It
is in the process of creating a statewide database for use by Democratic
candidates. It is actively working in support of the statewide Democratic
ticket for 2006 and hopes to be better organized to make a significant
impact on the 2008 presidential election.
website (Nov. 1, 2004):