Why not now?
“I come from a big family, so organizing big events is in my blood.” Explains Pinky Vargas, “I’ve always been a community organizer.”
And while her interest in local Bellingham (a Seattle suburb) politics grew over the years – she’d even watch the local access channel’s broadcast of city council meetings – the idea of running for office stayed in the back of her mind to do many years down the line.
And then Pinky was at a lunch and panel discussion featuring local women leaders. She happened to be sitting near the city’s mayor, and when the conversation turned to Pinky’s interest in local politics, the mayor asked her, “Why not now?” And Pinky thought about it. “At first I thought, ‘settle down’ there’s so much planning I need to do, and experience to gain before I’d be ready to run.”
But then she learned that the incumbent city councilmember from her ward was stepping down, and that question from the mayor stayed with her and it inspired her to act.
So she talked with her friends and neighbors, coworkers and local leaders and decided to jump in the race. And soon she heard that a group called Wellstone Action was headed to Seattle for an annual Camp Wellstone:
"Camp Wellstone was rock solid. It grounded me. Win or lose, I wanted to bring my true self to the race, run authentically and responsively. Wellstone's where the rubber hit the road for me, it gave me a set of tools and the confidence to run smart, to run effectively, and to run as myself!"
And Pinky did run authentically, right down to embracing her name with yard signs and campaign literature with plenty of pink on them (not a particularly common look in the red and blue world of campaign graphics). "A woman told me that her 10-year-old daughter saw my sign. It inspired them to talk about politics, and what it means for their community. Her daughter became a big supporter. I'd talk to young women and they loved that I was using pink, it showed them that you can be a woman, you can be you, you can be unique, and you can still care passionately about politics."
The campaign wasn’t always easy. Pinky didn’t have any campaign experience, so the learning curve was steep. But her experience at Camp Wellstone helped her get started in the right direction. The long days, the tough opposition meant that running for office took growing a thick skin. But the message development and focus she gained at Camp Wellstone helped her stay confident, authentic and responsive throughout the race.
So Pinky ran the campaign she wanted to run: an authentic campaign, a principled campaign. A campaign that inspired young women to tune into local politics and take action.
And she won, the Wellstone Way.
“I love representing my community. You don’t get to the top by sitting on your bottom! From affordable housing to incarceration rates, I’m having a big influence on issues I care deeply about. Camp Wellstone was a crucial part of that victory. It gave me and my campaign manager the tools to run an authentic campaign, and a winning campaign!”
So the next time you’re asked, “why not now?” know this: if you’re fired up to run and win as a progressive, and as an authentic leader, Wellstone’s got your back.
And together, we’ll grow a movement to win enduring progress across America.
(Photos thanks to Pinky Vargas)