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Barbara Lee Family Foundation
SEPTEMBER 28, 2004
10:48 AM
CONTACT:  Barbara Lee Family Foundation
Sarah Magazine 617-234-0355
Cracking the Code: Political Intelligence for Women Running for Governor - The Barbara Lee Family Foundation Presents Innovative New Research Every Women Running for Office Must Have

WASHINGTON - September 28 - The Barbara Lee Family Foundation today released the latest addition to the innovative and highly successful Governor’s Guidebook Series, Cracking the Code: Political Intelligence for Women Running for Governor. This new guidebook focuses on the lessons that can be learned from both the wins and losses of the 10 female gubernatorial candidates in 2002. Nine women currently serve as the chief executives of their states, the most to serve simultaneously in our nation’s history. This year women are running for governor in Missouri and Washington and one is seeking re-election in Delaware. If each of them wins, for the first time ever, 20 percent of our nation will have women at the helm of state government.

“We have come a long way since we released Keys to the Governor’s Office, but we still have a long way to go,” said Barbara Lee. “Women possess immense political power- but this power remains largely untapped. Over 22 million unmarried women did not vote in the 2000 presidential election- the largest group of unregistered and non-voting citizens in our country. Research has shown that one of the best ways to engage this critical mass of women is to show them women like themselves in positions of political power. When women see these examples they are more likely to become engaged in the political process, to vote and to picture themselves as candidates. It is my hope that our guides serve as practical tools that pave the way for more women to hold elected office and to help make this the year of the woman voter.”

For Cracking the Code, the Barbara Lee Family Foundation commissioned the Democratic public opinion research firm Lake, Snell, Perry & Associates in consultation with the Republican firm American Viewpoint and the Democratic strategic communications firm Staton & Hughes to conduct this groundbreaking research. The researchers conducted focus groups with swing voters in states where women were running for Governor in 2002 as well as extensive interviews with the candidates, campaign managers, finance directors, press secretaries and reporters in the states with women candidates in 2002.

“This research provides tremendous insights into the public’s attitudes toward female candidates for executive office, and will lead to the development of key recommendations for women seeking elected office at all levels. It is our hope that this work will assist the next generation of women leaders reach new heights,” said researcher Celinda Lake.

Keeping Up Appearances: More Important Than You Think

Our research confirms that voters’ perceptions of female candidates based on the candidate’s personal presentation, style, confidence and communications skills are critical.

Among the recommendations:

Appearing Confident Breeds Confidence: Identify three or four reasons why you’d be an excellent governor and refer to them whenever possible.

First Stop: The Professionals: Don’t wait until midway through the campaign to get the professional assistance you need, whether it be a voice coach, personal shopper, stylist or media trainer. Months before your announcement do a personal inventory and get the help you need.

“Women face unique challenges in running for any political office,” said former Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift. “Every woman who is running for office, whether for county sheriff, state Treasurer or the United States Senate should keep this research handy and refer to it often.”

Performance Under Pressure: Grace and Grit Win

Debates provide snapshots of authenticity in what is often a highly controlled media environment. In 2002, debates were often critical to voters’ final evaluations of candidates. Our focus group participants told us that not only do they use debates to learn a candidate’s position on the issues, but also to see how they perform under pressure. Among the recommendations:

Humor Often Wins the Day: Self-deprecating humor is appreciated in a tense moment and can make a candidate appear more human.

Know Your Debate Objective: Study what voters need to know about you and then show them.

Who’s The Boss: Tell ‘Em. Show ‘Em. Tell ‘Em Again.

Voters look for candidates who will prove to them that they are up to the task of running the state government and managing a state budget while also working with an often unruly legislature. All of the four successful female gubernatorial candidates in 2002 seized on opportunities to take on powerful opponents and prove that they could stand up for themselves and their constituents.

Among the recommendations:

Look for Opportunities to Right a Wrong: There is no shortage of vulnerable communities- from seniors to young children--who will you choose and how will you protect them?

Be Strategic in the Opponents You Take On: People admire those who go up against the powerful. Because they are still perceived as “lesser” in the power game, women get even more credit for doing so.

“Campaigns are full of uncertainties, and the key to winning the race is to anticipate and prepare for as many of them as possible,” said Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas. “That’s where Cracking the Code comes in. It’s an invaluable guide for women candidates, as it prepares them for the variables of the campaign ahead.”

“We are so grateful to all of the women who stood up in 2002 and said that they were willing to lead,” said Lee. “Because of their courage, we can all benefit from the lessons that their experiences have to teach us. I know that with women like these on the front lines of this battle, it is only a matter of time before we reach our ultimate goal- a woman in the White House.”

About the Governor’s Guide Book Series

In addition to Cracking the Code: Political Intelligence for Women Running for Governor, the Guidebook series also includes:

Keys to the Governor's Office Unlock the Door: The Guide for Women Running for Governor (2001)

With 40,000 copies in circulation, Keys to the Governor's Office: Unlock the Door: The Guide for Women Running for Governor, is a comprehensive research report about women running for executive political office, highlighting key challenges that keep women from competing on an equal footing with men in gubernatorial contests.

Speaking with Authority: From Economic Security to National Security (2002)

A new urgency emerged from September 11th, one in which we recognized the need for women candidates to address terrorism and the causes of terrorism in addition to the economy, education, and the other issues on our national agenda. As our research shows, women offer different skills and perspectives during times of crisis. This guide provides specific advice for

women candidates on connecting with voters about their concerns about jobs and personal security.

The Barbara Lee Family Foundation was established in 1999 and is dedicated to cultivating women's full engagement in the American democratic process and promoting their participation at all levels of government. For more information about The Barbara Lee Family Foundation or to download a copy of any of our guidebooks, please visit our website at


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