Running for Office: Getting Ready with Emerge Vermont

Emerge at Statehouse

In January 2018, I spent a day at the statehouse with my Emerge class, shadowing legislators and attending committee meetings. It was the culmination of six months of intensive training.

My campaign was featured on the Emerge Vermont website. I’m a proud 2018 graduate of Emerge’s intensive, six-month training program, which encourages and prepares women Democrats to run for office at all levels of government. (To read the blog post about my campaign, click here.)

Why is Emerge and its work so important? As executive director Ruth Hardy says:

“As the number of elected Democratic women remains flat or even declines, the need for our work is growing. In the 226 years since its statehood, Vermont has never elected a woman to the U.S. House of Representatives or to the U.S. Senate, and only one woman has served as Governor of Vermont. Only 11 women have ever been elected to statewide office in the history of the state. Of 180 State Legislators, only 41% are women, and of the over 1,000 Local Selectboard Members, only 21% are women.

“A pool of highly qualified Democratic candidates is being left untapped. Too often, women do not see themselves running for office—they assume they aren’t experienced enough to serve in office or they don’t know where to begin. Emerge Vermont helps women gain confidence, practices skills, organize their campaigns, and be a part of a powerful network of Democratic women and their supporters.”

Hear, hear: What she said!  To read the blog post about my campaign, click here.

Building a Climate Economy: Earth Day Speech at Manchester Town Green (April 22, 2018)

Kath James Earth Day 2018

Kath takes the mic at the Earth Day celebration hosted by Earth Matters, the local environmental action group, at the Factory Point Town Green on April 22, 2018.

Thanks for coming today to celebrate Earth Day and the great work that’s being accomplished locally by Earth Matters. Most recently, I worked with Earth Matters on a non-binding resolution to urge our community to make a stronger commitment to meeting Vermont’s goal of 90 percent renewable energy by 2050. The resolution passed by unanimous voice vote at town meeting in March.

To be an effective advocate, the first step is to educate yourself, and so I’ve been reading the latest Manchester Town Plan, approved in May 2017. It’s a thoughtful and strategic document filled with excellent ideas. But in 72 pages, climate change is mentioned only three times, and only in the context of responding to or preparing for natural disasters. To my mind, this presents an opportunity. Because climate action is not only an urgent threat and global imperative. It’s also an exciting new avenue for far-sighted vision, for leadership and for positive change … a path that answers the call to action while bringing new residents, new jobs and new business opportunities to our state.

I was up last night until almost 1 a.m., reading a book called The Green Collar Economy by Van Jones. First published in 2008, this book lays out a substantive and practical plan for how we can simultaneously solve two of the biggest problems facing our country: responding to climate change while expanding our economy.

As Jones points out, “fossil fuels are a finite resource doing infinite damage.” And the challenge — the opportunity — that lies before us is to retrofit, reboot, reenergize, rescue and reinvent the U.S. by building a new climate economy … today.

This is not a futuristic task. We have what we need to move ahead. Across the United States, the climate economy can provide hundreds of thousands of skilled, good-paying, family-supporting jobs as we move to weatherize and retrofit buildings, conduct energy audits, install solar panels, plant trees, maintain and repair hybrid vehicles, build mass-transit infrastructure, and much more.

Even better, the climate economy also builds on Vermont’s strengths — the things we already do so well — including organic and sustainable agriculture, specialty and value-added foods, outdoor recreation and tourism, nonprofits and the arts. This is what our elected leaders — at the town, state and federal level — should be focusing on: A compelling, far-sighted vision to lead our country into a new climate economy and a new sustainable world. Vermont can and should lead the way on this issue, and if it does, imagine the possibilities.

A few weeks ago, I had dinner with a group of local folks that I nicknamed the “Green Team,” including solar entrepreneur and Vermont climate commissioner Bill Laberge and Manchester Conservation Commission chair Alan Benoit. In an hour, we filled eight sheets of paper with exciting ideas for how the Northshire could transform itself into a hub for the climate economy and sustainable living.

To give you just one example, we often talk about the need for affordable workforce housing. Alan has a fascinating plan for a “pocket neighborhood” with small zero-energy modular homes that share a community room and a garden. We also talked about a business incubator or “maker” space for climate-tech entrepreneurs … a shared commercial kitchen for specialty food producers … ride sharing and charging stations for electric vehicles … a “food hub” for low-income families where farmers can share or sell their excess produce. Some of these projects are already underway, and others are well worth discussing.

These ideas are not only exciting, but they also provide an incredible branding and marketing opportunity for Vermont and for the Northshire in our efforts to attract new residents and young people. And Millennials don’t deny climate change, by the way. They get it. And they’ll be drawn to states and communities that get it, too. They will be drawn to states and communities that take the lead on climate change, instead of lagging behind.

True confession: I’m not an economist. I don’t have an advanced degree in urban planning. But I don’t have to. The ideas are out there. The experts and entrepreneurs are out there. The technology is ready and getting better all of the time. The solutions are here. What we need right now is a citizen’s movement that not only embraces but demands this kind of vision from our elected leaders. I’m dedicating myself to this goal by running for the state legislature this year, and I hope you’ll join me.

 

 

Making the News: GNAT Airs Segment on James Campaign

Greater Northshire Access Television (GNAT), our local community media and training center, aired a segment on the race on April 11. Thanks to Andrew McKeever of “The News Project” and GNAT-TV for covering the kickoff party and keeping local voters informed! Click here to watch the story.

Kicking Off the Campaign! (Plus: Watch My Campaign Speech)

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A packed house at the Northshire Bookstore on April 8 for my campaign kickoff party.

I kicked off my campaign for the state legislature on April 8 with a party at the Northshire Bookstore, co-hosted by bookstore owners Barbara and Ed Morrow and former State Rep. and longtime Manchester town manager Jeff Wilson. The turnout was fantastic: 60+ people showed up to talk politics, learn more about my campaign, sign up to volunteer, and donate!

Tristan Toleno, the Assistant Majority Leader and Whip, drove over from Brattleboro to represent House leadership and the Vermont Democratic Party. Many current and former state legislators were also there, including Sen. Brian Campion and Reps. Linda Joy Sullivan, Cynthia Browning, Robin Chesnut-Tangerman, Steve Berry, Bob Stannard and Mary Ann Carlson. Was also gratified to see a crew of students from Burr & Burton Academy, since youth engagement and political awareness is a high priority for me.

Thanks to all who came, and to the many people who have supported my decision to run. For those who couldn’t attend, here’s a link to my campaign kickoff speech.

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Time for the speech! To watch a video, click on the link above.

Kathleen James Announces Candidacy for Vermont House of Representatives

kathjamesforstaterep.com

Kathleen James Announces Candidacy for Vermont House of Representatives

Kathleen James has announced her candidacy for the Vermont House of Representatives from Bennington-4, a legislative district that comprises Manchester, Arlington, Sandgate and northwest Sunderland. The chair of the Manchester Democrats, James will challenge incumbent Brian Keefe (R) for one of the district’s two seats.

“I’ve lived and worked in the Northshire for 22 years and I know how hard it can be to make a living here,” says James. “I’ve owned a small business, worked for small businesses, and been self-employed. I know what it’s like to juggle two or three jobs as a working mom in a small-town, rural economy.  That’s why I’m motivated to provide Vermonters with equal access to the economic building blocks that we all deserve — good-paying jobs, affordable housing and healthcare, and an outstanding education from pre-K through high school and beyond.”

James is a nonprofit manager, editor and writer who’s currently executive director of the International Skiing History Association and editor of its bimonthly journal, Skiing History. Previous jobs include editor-in-chief of Vermont Magazine, admissions director at Southern Vermont College, and communications director at The BOMA Project. She also co-founded and co-owned a small magazine publishing company.

James has served on the boards of Manchester Elementary Middle School, Zion Preschool, Northshire Community Foundation, Friends of MEMS and the Manchester School Fund. She’s a Class of 2018 graduate of Emerge Vermont, a statewide organization that trains women Democrats to run for public office. The chair of the Manchester Democrats, James also works with grassroots political groups like MoveOn Manchester and Earth Matters on projects that promote voter awareness and engagement. Most recently, she helped to promote a non-binding climate-action and renewable energy resolution that passed by voice vote at Manchester town meeting.

“Taking action on climate change is not only a global imperative, but an economic opportunity for Vermont and for the Northshire,” she says. “The green economy is an exciting, forward-looking sector that can transform our communities, foster new jobs and new businesses, attract new residents and keep young Vermonters in the state.”

Former State Reps. Jeff Wilson and Steve Berry have endorsed James and are actively supporting her campaign, which kicks off in early April. James will host an open house for volunteers on April 22, Earth Day, and details will be posted on her Website.