Meet a Matriot: Cathe Kobacker

Cathe Kobacker is a woman of many titles. She is one of the original founding marchers who returned from the 2017 Women’s March with an idea that more women in elected office could be the solution to our country’s political stalemate. She is one of The Matriots most loyal supporters, a Matriarch, and a member our our Research Committee. She is a community activist who helped found The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio, served on the board of the YWCA,  and has dedicated over 30 years of her life to advocating for end of life care. In 2004 in Cathe was recognized as a YWCA Woman of Achievement for her many years of community service.  Cathe is an amazing woman, Matriot and member of the Columbus community – we are proud to count her among our hive!

Cathe, you are one of The Matriots PAC original founding marchers. You traveled to Washington D.C. for the Women’s March in 2017 and returned with the inspiration to create The Matriots PAC. Can you share with our members why you think The Matriots’ vision for more women in elected office is the solution to today’s political rancor?

When we returned from the Washington March the founding marchers sat down and consensus was that marching was not enough. The amazing thing is that I was struck by the wide range of ideas that were given a hearing. The path was made clear after by much research and interviews with Trail Blazers.

The idea that we could sit with a group of strong-willed women with diverse points of view and come up with the PAC idea is a perfect example of why we need more women  in political office. Thanks to the PAC and Sally Crane Cox’s coming up with the name The Matriots I know we are doing something important. Keep in mind we are 51% of the population and have 21% of the political representation in Ohio.

In 2004 you were recognized as a YWCA Woman of Achievement for your many years of community service and activism. What is your advice to women hoping to make difference in their communities?

Believe in what you are doing and gather interested people around you. There is a lot of talk about passion these days and I think of it more like what my Mother used to call “stick to it ness”. Recognize what you are good at and find people who have skills you do not. I got important training from my fellow board members of the YWCA. Hospice volunteering and the Harmony Project Tapestry  choir at the Ohio Reformatory  for Women have taught me that there are important and satisfying lessons in all volunteer work.

You’ve invested more than three decades in community hospice efforts, a passion that took you around the world to study best practices and culminated in a TED Talk in 2016. Can you tell our members what you learned on your journey and how you found this passion for hospice and palliative care?

Forty years ago a close family friend was dying of a brain tumor. There was no hospice care in her community so a “we group “ formed to support her family.

When I returned to Columbus I found we had a hospice program in Columbus and I signed up as a volunteer. Supporting Good, wholistic end of life care has become a driving force in my life. I also have worked to change vocabulary so that people living with a life limiting illness are not required to use battle metaphors unless they themselves choose those terms.

The Matriots endorsed 34 women in 2018 and 9 women in the May primary election. Can you tell our members about a candidate who inspires you and why?

How to pick? What impressed me about the candidates was the diversity of training and experience they brought to their races. The experience of doing research on these women made it clear to me that we are on the right path to have more women in all levels of Ohio politics.

Now for something fun: Tell us about your favorite thing to do in the great state of Ohio. It could be a hobby, a favorite place to eat or something we might not know about our state!

One of my favorite hobbies is watching equine competitions. Two young women I have known most of their lives compete at national and international levels in different disciplines. They are cousins and both are from Columbus, Ohio (Ellie O’Neal and Ali Wolff) they make me proud every time I watch them.

My other is walking half-marathons. I have walked eight 1/2 Columbus Marathons. Nothing like thirteen miles on a cold October day..come join me.

On to November!

Yesterday, several Matriots-endorsed candidates won their primaries and will advance to the general election on November 5, 2019.

“I thought if I could get a seat at the table, I could make a difference.”

Five of them will advance to the general election in Ohio where they are one step closer to claiming their seat at the tables where policies and legislation are written. They believe in their power to create change and they are fiercely committed to improving the lives of their communities.

They did what women do, they did the work. They rolled up their sleeves and they hit the campaign trail determined to bring new voices to the halls of power.

Join The Matriots as we congratulate these women who will advance to the general election.

Ginger Baylor, for Akron city council member-at-large*
Tara Dyer, for Marion city council, ward 5
Jen Kanagy, for Newark city council member-at-large
Marilyn L. Keith for Akron city council member-at-large*
Linda Omobien, for Akron city council member-at-large
Samantha Turner, for Youngstown city council, ward 3

*In the Akron city council member-at-large race the top three vote getters will advance to the general. Linda Omobien and Jeff Fusco have secured the top two seats. Currently, Ginger Baylor is in third place with 18.5 percent of the vote. Trailing by 45 votes is Marilyn Keith, with about 18.4 percent of the vote, which will likely trigger a recount. One of the two of these Matriots endorsed candidates will advance.

But our work is just beginning.

The Matriots is gearing up to support many more women who are adding their names to ballots across the state from school board to mayor for the general election. These women and their elections matter.

Become a member today and help us elect these women and many more on November 5, 2019. Your investment will make a difference for women candidates in Ohio.

JOIN NOW

Meet The Matriots: Emily & Kate Law

Emily and Kate Law are a captivating pair of Matriots members. Hailing from Cincinnati, Emily (left) and Kate (right), are a mother daughter duo working hard to help The Matriots elect more women to public office in Ohio. Beyond their financial investment in The Matriots PAC, the duo recently hosted a House Party to connect us with their friends and family to raise money to help female candidates.  

Emily & Kate, you are both members of The Matriots PAC. How did you learn about The Matriots and what drew you to our work?

Emily: Last year I happened to sit down next to Helen Fite, Communications and Political Relationship Manager for The Matriots, at a Columbus Young Professional’s Coffee with a Cause on women empowerment. We each asked the inevitable question “What do you do?” She told me all about The Matriots and I was absolutely blown away by the story and mission of the organization.

I was drawn to The Matriots because women are severely underrepresented in elected office in Ohio. I appreciate that The Matriots is a nonpartisan organization focused exclusively on getting Ohio women into office. The specificity of The Matriots’ mission allows them to make a significant impact changing the landscape of politics.

Kate:  I learned about The Matriots from Emily! Since her high school days, she has had her ear to the ground on politics. Her Ohio State undergraduate political science degree was a perfect fit for her instincts. I knew to trust her judgement on finding The Matriots as a group to support

Emily, you are young professional pursuing you master’s in public administration. Why do you think that it is important for younger people to invest in the political process?

Elections matter and the excuses that “you are not political” or “one vote doesn’t matter” can no longer fly. We’ve seen the power elections have in shaping policy on the local, state and federal levels. While voting is critical step, I would like to see more of the Millennial Generation and Gen Z engage in the political process by canvassing for an issue or candidate, donating or even running for office one day. By investing in the political process, young people can ensure that their voice is heard.

Kate, you and Emily graciously hosted a House Party in April. You helped connect us to your network of family and friends and in the Cincinnati area. Can you share with our members about your experiences hosting a Matriots event?

Hosting a party was an easy yes when Emily approached me with the idea. I was in full support of helping The Matriots expand their reach into the Cincinnati area. Since the 2016 election results, I have personally felt an increased urge to get involved with elections and have many friends who feel the same way. We hosted a small group ranging in age from 22 to 86. It was a great way to learn more in a comfortable setting.

Emily, The Matriots endorsed 34 women in 2018 and 9 running in May primary elections in 2019. Can you tell our members about a candidate who inspires you and why?

Ra’Cole Taltoan is current Class of 2019 Endorsed Candidate running for Youngstown City Council. What impressed me about Ra’Cole was her life-long commitment to public service. Ra’Cole not only attended board of elections meetings and resident’s councils in her community, but also served as an AmeriCorps Vista member. She is a fantastic example of the many opportunities women have to engage in the political process.

Now for something fun: Tell us about your favorite thing to do together in the great state of Ohio. It could be a hobby, a favorite place to eat or something we might not know about our state!

Kate:  Emily and I have spent many hours combing through all that Columbus has to offer including the Columbus Metro Park hiking trails with her black lab Luna, The Columbus Museum of Art, the Short North shops and restaurants, The Franklin Park Conservatory and more!

The Matriots is looking to expand our team!

Want to join a team committed to electing more women to public office in Ohio?

We are looking to add to our dynamic team. If you’re interested in helping us grow our membership, and enjoy electing more women to public office in Ohio,  we’d like to meet you!

We are looking for a reliable and detail oriented Development/Finance Director. Our membership is growing quickly, with more than 800 members statewide. The Development/Finance Director will play a key role in our efforts to continue our growth.

KeyTraits:

  • Appropriately persistent
  • Results oriented
  • Reliable
  • Emotionally intelligent
  • Able to connect the dots

Job Description

The development director has four principal areas of responsibility, all of which result in income for The Matriots PAC, including but not limited to:

Planning: Develop a well-informed plan for meeting budget goals, with careful quantitative and qualitative benchmarks.

Prospecting and fundraising: Identify prospective members through your own networks and those of others, including prospecting strategies and tactics learned through campaign experience; manage and support solicitations of new members, by calling on existing assets and relationships with the board, staff, and volunteers.

Relationship building: Establish and implement programs for cultivation and stellar stewardship resulting in loyal and growing support of the PAC.

CRM maintenance: Manage all membership data and internal reporting; analyze data for opportunities and planning purposes. Build and leverage CRM for communications and relationship management.

Duties and Responsibilities

  • Manage membership and fundraising efforts, including processing contributions, tracking pledges, communicating with contributors, mailing acknowledgments, managing member benefits, and providing timely financial reporting to the accountant and the executive director.
  • Ensure strict and complete compliance with election law and guidelines.
  • Coordinate CRM input and output, insuring accuracy for all existing and future databases.
  • Create and execute member-moves management plans in coordination with fundraising solicitors.
  • Build relationships and solicit contributions in person and via telephone and email.
  • Manage key projects, events, and materials related to membership and fundraising.
  • Manage meeting scheduling, document organization, and maintenance of records for the Membership Committee.
  • Maintain an open and service-oriented relationship with board members and committee chairs.

Qualifications

Bachelor’s degree. Experience in client or member services, including identifying, stewarding and renewing contributors at the major-gifts level, either in nonprofit and/or political environments. Exceptional written and verbal communication skills (particularly fundraising copy); 7+ years of professional fundraising experience; high analytical and critical-thinking skills; self-starter; ability to exercise independent judgment and work efficiently with minimal supervision; highly organized; detail-oriented; proficient in MS Office and CRM programs. Comfortable in a fast-paced and ever-changing environment.

Competitive salary based on experience.

Working for The Matriots offers the unique opportunity to work in fast-paced start up organization with big aspirations. We offer a vibrant work place with opportunities for growth. If you, too, passionately believe in the importance of women’s leadership for our state, this is your chance to join our team!

Interested candidates should send a cover letter and a resume via email to info@matriotsohio.com by Wednesday May 1, 2019.

Meet The Matriots PAC 2019 May Primary Endorsed Candidates

Class of 2019 Slate Card

Meet Some Amazing Women Running for Office in Ohio.

We are thrilled to share our Class of 2019 Matriots-endorsed candidates for the upcoming primary election on May 7th, 2019.

Our endorsement and research committees were hard at work the last few months. We interviewed and researched women running for office in primary elections across the state. Below you will find a qualified and captivating group of 9 candidates running for city council seats in May. These women are well poised to promote an Ohio that is both equitable and economically healthy.

The Matriots prioritized our endorsement on candidates who had competitive primaries, knowing that early support is key to advancing women to November. Across the state many races in 2019 will move directly to the general election. Many candidates will not have a primary opponent and therefore will not appear on the ballot on May 7, 2019. We focused our endorsement on races in Ohio’s most populous cities (communities with a population of 30,000 or more).


Read more about the women and their campaigns below. Please join us in supporting, encouraging, and, most importantly, voting for these women in May.


Ginger Baylor for Akron City Council, Member At-Large

Ginger has been twice elected to Akron board of education and spent 30 years in the Akron community as a teacher, adjunct faculty member, and liaison for US Rep. Marcia Fudge. Ginger is running to encourage job growth and development, support diverse neighborhoods and concentrate on matters of safety and infrastructure.

Marilyn L. Keith for Akron City Council, Member At-Large

Marilyn currently serves as a ward 8 council member in the city of Akron. As a retired educator, Marilyn brings leadership skills learned as a teacher to the city council. Keys issues Marilyn will address if elected are supporting organizations mitigating homelessness and addiction; and bolstering social services and recreational programs that help families, women and children.

Linda Omobien for Akron City Council, Member At-Large

Linda has served as a member of Akron city council since 2004. Prior to her service on city council she served on the Akron board of education for 16 years. Linda remains committed to policies that are a catalyst for economic development and create laws to reduce the burden on families around quality childcare, healthcare and safety.

Veronica Sims for Akron City Council, Member At-Large

Veronica was elected to Akron city council in 2015. Her professional career includes service to the Akron board or education and the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus. Veronica plans to continue to fight for sensible gun laws, to create livable spaces that support Akron’s growing aging population, and to fight for the most marginalized and underrepresented among us.

Janice O. Davis for Akron City Council, Ward 4

Janice is a retired healthcare information manager committed to the welfare and health of her community, and policies that improve early childhood education outcomes. She began her education and career at 45 and now holds an MBA and is a doctoral candidate. Janice approaches legislation through a systematic perspective and is keenly aware of how legislation impacts citizens and their everyday lives.


Tara Dyer for Marion City Council, Ward 5

Tara is a retired teacher who remains active in the Marion community. A board member for Marion Public Health, Tara understands her community’s needs and is committed to helping small businesses thrive, and to creating safe spaces for residents to get a hot meal, access to basic needs and help finding a job.


Jen Kanagy for Newark City Council, Member At-Large

Jen, a director of nursing, brings her healthcare background and fierce commitment to lifting families out of poverty to this election. A co-founder of the Newark Homeless Outreach project, she will advocate for needle exchange programs, and public transportation to help families access better paying jobs.


Ra’Cole Taltoan for Youngstown City Council, Ward 2

Ra’Cole is committed to her ward and her community of Youngstown Ohio. From attending board of education meetings to resident’s councils, Ra’Cole is deeply involved and participative in the legislative process. A former AmeriCorps Vista member, if elected Ra’Cole will work to provide economic security for women and to facilitate effective change in her community.

Samantha Turner for Youngstown City Council, Ward 3

Samantha, an operations director for a local nonprofit, is a rising star running for office for the first time. Deeply committed to Youngstown, she is raising her young family in the community and wants to build and support initiatives with neighborhood groups. If elected Samantha will focus on community infrastructure, encouraging home ownership and business development.


 

Primary Elections in Ohio

A primary election is an election used either to narrow the field of candidates for a given elective office or to determine the nominees for political parties in advance of a general election.

Primary elections can take several different forms in Ohio. The methods employed to determine the outcome of the primary can also vary from city to city, or district to district.

In a partisan primary, voters select a candidate to be a political party’s nominee(s) for a given office in the November general election.

Nonpartisan primaries are used to narrow the field of candidates for nonpartisan offices in advance of a general election.

In Ohio, the law provides for open primaries, meaning voters do not have to register with a party to participate in its primary. Voters select the ballot of the party whose primary they wish to vote in at the polling place.

Winners in Ohio primary elections are determined via plurality vote, meaning that the candidate with the highest number of votes wins, even if she did not win an outright majority of votes cast.

You can vote for more than one candidate? Yes, sometimes!

In many at-large and school board races, each voter selects up to X candidates on the ballot. In nonpartisan races, voters are commonly permitted to cast their votes across more than one party list. The X candidates with the most votes (who may or may not obtain a majority of available votes) are the winners and will fill the positions, or move on to the general election. See below for an example of a race structured this way. 


Plurality-at-large example

The Matriotstown City Council consists of three seats, and seven candidates are vying for these seats. Voters each select a maximum of three candidates.

Election results
Candidate Votes
Susan 1,250
Ida 800
Elizabeth 650
Alice 600
Lucy 500
Millicent 400
Lucretia 300

Since Susan, Ida, and Elizabeth received the most votes, they will comprise the Matriotstown City Council. If this were a primary, Susan, Ida and Elizabeth would advance to the general election. Susan and Ida each obtained a majority of the maximum 1,500 votes available per candidate; Elizabeth obtained only a plurality. In most races in Ohio, only a plurality is necessary.


Across the state, many races in 2019 will move directly to the general election. If a race either: (1) a nonpartisan election which waived the primary, or (2) the race includes candidates who do not have a primary opponent, the race will move directly to the general election on November 5th, 2019.


Primary Election Key Dates

April 8th, 2019: register to vote for the May 7,  2019 primary election. Click here to register to vote.

April 9th, 2019: Absentee and Early In-person voting begin. Click here to find your county’s early voting center. 

May 4th, 2019: Deadline to request an absentee ballot. 

May 7th, 2019: Primary Election (polls are open from 6:30 am – 7:30 pm)


Join The Matriots PAC today to help support our Class of 2019 candidates. Your investment will help advance female candidates to the general election and prepare to endorse, support and encourage more female candidates in 2020 and beyond. 

Meet a Matriot: Valerie Lemmie Thomas

Valerie is a Founding Member Class of 2018 and a member of The Matriots board of directors. Valerie is a brilliant strategic thinker with extensive experience in public policy. She is from the Dayton area and currently serves as the director of exploratory research at the Kettering Foundation.

Before serving at the Kettering Foundation, Valerie served as city manager for the cities of Petersburg, Virginia as well as Dayton and Cincinnati, Ohio.  Additionally she was a commissioner on the Public Utility Commission of Ohio and the acting chief of staff for Congressman Turner, of Ohio’s 10th district. She has served on several boards, including the House of Representatives Committee on Urban Redevelopment and President Clinton’s Greenhouse Gas Advisory Committee. We are so fortunate to have Valerie as a member and leader of The Matriots PAC!

You are a member of The Matriots board of directors, and serve on several committees, what drew you to our work?

As a career public administrator, my goal was to ensure the organizations I managed were efficient, effective, and economical, the values recognized in the profession as the pillars of good government.   As one of the first African Americans and women to serve as city manager, I represented the importance women and people of color brought to the governance process.  When I learned about The Matriots and their core belief in the need for more political leadership and participation by women, it resonated with my personal and professional experiences and career.  Additionally, professional standards dictate that city managers are nonpartisan, so joining The Matriots has provided me an opportunity to use my knowledge and understanding of local and state government to help encourage and support women who stand for public office.   Through our collective power, The Matriots help ensure the interest of women and families will be central to public policies enacted by elected bodies in our state, strengthening our communities and enhancing the quality of life for all.

You served as the city manager for both Cincinnati and Dayton, can you share with our members what accomplishments from your time in office that you are most proud of?

As a city manager, I aspired to achieve the ideals articulated in the Oath of the Athenian City-State to “…transmit this City not only, not less, but greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.”  I wanted to make a profound difference in the quality of life of those who lived and worked in the cities I managed, and most importantly, to change the order of things so that those who’d been traditionally disenfranchised had a voice and recognized their power to act as democratic citizens.

Building bridges across political, gender and economic divides; finding pathways to success for those who’d been previously marginalized; and promoting women and people of color to key management and leadership positions in local government are some of the relational accomplishments of which I’m most proud.

On an operational level, I’m most proud in Dayton of the (1) redevelopment we began in the downtown of housing and amenities, including, with the approval of the Cincinnati Reds and Major League Baseball, bringing major league baseball to town —the Dayton Dragons have been sold out for the past twenty years and continue to be a major attraction, catalyzing restaurants, housing and other amenities; (2) in a collaborative partnership with Montgomery County and Five Rivers Metro parks, the redevelopment of the riverfront to what is now RiverScape; (3) the construction of a performing arts center in collaboration with many public and private stakeholders; (3) building and renovation of the first market-rate housing in the inner city of Dayton for generations;  (4) partnership with Miami Valley Hospital and the University of Dayton that resulted in the redevelopment of the previously disinvested neighborhood anchored by these two institutions, to create new housing opportunities for residents and students and a new small business corridor; (5) development of an innovative program, in collaboration with Sinclair Junior College, to train minorities and women for positions in the city’s public safety forces (unfortunately, not sustained) and (6) the creation of innovative development financing tools, including the port authority.

In Cincinnati, it was (1) the successful implementation of the Collaborative Agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to change police practices, policies and procedures in response to allegations of racial profiling and the use of force against people of color; (2) creation of a development financing authority to lead and finance redevelopment in the downtown and Over- the-Rhine, the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC); (3) related partnerships with other institutional partners including the University of Cincinnati; (4) retaining key headquarter companies in the downtown; and (5) supporting and financing neighborhood redevelopment.

You were also appointed commissioner by Governor Taft and Governor Strickland to the Public Utilities Commission. Can you share with our members what your role was and why the commission’s work is important?

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) is important because it affects every household in Ohio through its regulation of utility service providers, including electric and natural gas companies, local and long distance telephone companies, water and wastewater companies, rail and trucking companies.  As commissioner, you approve the rates utilities can charge end users, help ensure utility system reliability and the incorporation of renewal energy resources into the energy mix.  During my term as commissioner, we implemented the competitive retail markets for electricity and natural gas.  I also served as president of the Organization of MISO States, a regional state compact that was established to represent the collective interests of states and local utility regulators with the operator of the bulk wholesale power transmission system operator.

Now you are the director of exploratory research at the Kettering Foundation, a nonprofit foundation conducting research focused on what people can collectively do to address problems affecting their lives, their communities and their nation. Kettering’s primary research question is: what does it take to make democracy work as it should? In your opinion, what does it take to make democracy work as it should?

The Charles F. Kettering Foundation studies how to make democracy work as it should and our research is conducted from the perspective of citizens and what they can do collectively to address problems affecting their lives, their communities and their nation.  Our core insights suggest that a robust democracy requires responsible citizens who can make sound decisions about their future and can act on these decisions in democratic and complementary ways with government to produce public goods.  We define citizenship not as a legal status, but as a practice that is more than voting and serving on juries.  Citizens are more than consumers, constituents, clients and customers—they are people who work collectively with government to address shared community problems.

Now for something fun: Tell us about a family member, hobby or a personal interest.

The joy of my life is raising our twelve year old grandson.  He is a delightful, happy, sensitive young man who lights up our life.  For a class project, he and two classmates created a business—they sell keychains they designed and 3-D printed along with baked goods they make.  Their in-school enterprise is so successful they’ve hired two classmates to work for them!  Aden loves sports, playing Forte Night and watching You Tube videos and his active life keeps my husband and me engaged and active!

Meet The Matriots: Sarah Brandon & Michael Bowen

Sarah and Michael are Founding Members Class of 2019 and proud Cleveland residents. This power couple met at Shaker Heights High School, where Michael says he fell in love with Sarah the moment he saw her. Sarah is a realtor and Michael is an associate attorney at Taft, Stettinus & Hollister LLP, where he is a member of the litigation team. Both Sarah and Michael are active in their communities. Michael served as the Campaign Director for Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson in 2017 and recently helped Matriots endorsed candidates, Julianna Johnston Senturia during her race for Mayor of Shaker Heights. 

As Founding Members Class of 2019, why did you both join The Matriots PAC and why do you feel that our work is important?

We both have role models—especially former Shaker Heights City Councilwoman Lynn Ruffner (Mike’s mom)—who played a role in Cuyahoga County politics. We believe that women in elected office are necessary. They provide diversity in thought and leadership. Any organization that puts women elected officials at the forefront is something we must support.

Sarah and Michael, you both have been heavily involved in the Cleveland community, from your perspective what makes Cleveland special?

We were born and raised in this town and we have loved living here. Cleveland is a place full of culture and vigor.

Michael, you’ve been involved in politics most of your life, can you share with our members what you learned from your experiences and what drew you to work in politics?

I caught the political bug early helping on my mother’s campaigns. The number one lesson I have learned about politics is what appears to be going on with the naked eye is not necessarily true. Being one-step ahead of what is actually happening is key.

Sarah, in 2018, The Matriots endorsed our very first class of endorsed candidates. Can you tell our members about a candidate who inspired you and why?

A candidate that inspired me last cycle was Juliana Johnston Senturia, candidate for Mayor of Shaker Heights. And that is not just because my husband ran her campaign! She is a Jewish woman like myself and it was so empowering to see her put herself out there. Regardless of what came up during the election, and it was a tough one, she stayed positive, stayed true to herself and kept working hard until the very end.

Now for something fun! You two recently got married, tell our members how you met and when you knew the other was the person you wanted to spend your life with.

We met at Shaker Heights High School Sarah’s freshman year in 2001. Mike fell in love with her the moment he saw her in the cafeteria that first day. The feeling was finally mutual 10 years later.

Conversation with Class of 2018 Matriots Endorsed Candidates

On January 16, we convened our 2018 cohort of endorsed candidates for a working dinner with our board of directors and endorsement committee.  We discussed how The Matriots was helpful last year and how we can improve our support of women candidates moving forward. It was incredibly stimulating and informative to have so many of our 2018 candidates–-incumbents and future challengers; women in statewide, county and local office—gather together to offer us their feedback. And, as exciting, to support each other moving forward.

This is how we will succeed: by lifting each other up.

Check out some of our favorite pictures from the event below and a special thank you to Dara Pizzuti, who helped facilitate this fantastic event.

Meet a Matriot: Tom Grote

 

Tom Grote is Matriarch and past member of The Matriots PAC board of directors. He was instrumental in our organization’s early growth and  is active in his community. He currently is leading the opening of the Grote family innovation center and is a partner at Grote Turner, which works with companies and non-profits to clearly define and align purpose in their organizations. He sits on the COTA board of trustees and previously served on the board of trustees for the United Way of Central Ohio. He helped found Equality Ohio, and most recently co-chaired the capital campaign for Stonewall Columbus. Tom lives in German Village with his husband, Rick Neal, their daughters Amoret (9) and Sophia (7) and their newly adopted dog, Muppy.

You joined the board of directors of The Matriots PAC when it first formed. What drew you to our work and how did it feel to be the only man on the board of an organization dedicated to women’s leadership?

My husband and I and our girls, Amoret and Sophia, participated in the DC Women’s March in 2017.  I was impressed by the energy and tone of the March. There were thousands and thousands of mostly women, and it was intense.  But intense in a peaceful, determined way. It was powerful. And I was proud that my girls had that experience. Amoret’s take away was one of the chants, “My body, my choice.”  She uses this as a way to claim her own power about all kinds of things. She has internalized this and her daddies could not be more happy and proud.

The women who founded The Matriots were also at that march.  And that is what drew me to them. They have that same peaceful determination.  The Matriots are right that we need more women in office. Because we need more of that peaceful intensity making the decisions that affect our communities and our children’s futures.  

I was proud to be the only man on the Matriots’ steering committee and board.  There is a different dynamic in a group of women rather than a group of mostly men.  Most of the dynamics are better in that there was more discussion and more sensitivity to points of view, and less worry about who got credit.  There were some tears and sharing that were helpful as well. There were comments made that are not typically made in front of men, I think. Some were surprising to me, but I will take them to the grave 🙂

You were instrumental in the founding and success of Equality Ohio, a statewide organization that advocates and educates to achieve fair treatment and equal opportunity for all Ohioans, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. Are there similarities between that experience and helping to get The Matriots off the ground?

So many similarities.  Both statewide, political organizations led by highly motivated volunteers seizing a moment in history.  Both working with many constituencies, challenging them to come together despite differences and backgrounds.  Most importantly, both with an opportunity to define a bold vision and inspire folks to donate time and treasure.  I was able to lean on my experience with Equality Ohio, particularly around challenging us to be bold and clearly define our vision.  The Matriots’ bold goal: 50% of all officeholders will be women in ten years! It is bold, but achievable. And achieving it will make Ohio better.  

In addition to grassroots organizing, you have spent the last year helping your husband, Rick Neal, campaign for US Congress. How was that experience and did it change your view of politics?

I could write a book on this one.  I learned so much. First off, many folks complain about the work around running for office.  But, if you have the right attitude, it can be fun. Our family was all in and we had a blast.  We liked the campaigning. And we liked being able to stand up for our values, particularly in this time of Trump.  While Rick did not win his race, we did get to participate in taking back the house, particularly since Rick ran against the chair of the NRCC.  Despite the loss, this was a huge win for our democracy. Democracy works, but not for the lazy. We got to show our kids that first hand. No regrets.    

What motivates you and Rick to be so politically active?

Rick is a peace corps guy.  He took an oath to uphold the constitution.  He has community in his DNA. For me, I had some dark days in my life dealing with my sexual orientation.  I had an awakening as I navigated through that process. I am deeply connected to a sense of WE versus ME. I resonate with leaders who fight for all of us.  I want to be that type of leader too. So, I usually say yes to opportunities that show up around social justice and community. And a lot of those opportunities are political in nature.  

Now for something fun: Tell us about a family member, hobby or a personal interest.

Given that we had to fight for the right to marry and adopt our kids, family is everything to me.  I love spending time with my kids. And I love being goofy with them. The best times are blaring Alexa to kids bop and 70’s disco songs and singing and dancing our hearts out.  This gay boy is un-stereotypically a very bad dancer, just ask my girls. But those are the best times ever!