Regina Moore, Bloomington's former City Clerk, first conceived the idea of a Democratic Women's Caucus during the local 2003 campaigns. She and Susan Sandberg were the only women to run on the city's ballot in 2003. Moore ran for and was reelected City Clerk. Sandberg was the only woman running for City Council on either the Democratic or Republican ticket. She was new to the political scene and fundraising was certainly an obstacle. Unfortunately, Sandberg lost to incumbent Jason Banach in District 2, and on election night 2003, the City of Bloomington elected an all-male City Council for the first time since 1971! Not only were there few women winning elected offices, there were few women running for elected offices. Something had to be done.
Moore and Sandberg began meeting informally with other progressive Democratic women after the 2003 election. They realized an incubator system needed to be developed to enable women to understand the campaign process and to involve more women in politics. Moore had been informally recruiting women since 2002 by simply approaching bright, capable women and asking, "Would you like to run for office?" The Caucus was a natural, grassroots evolution of that outreach. Its mission is to fund, inspire, recruit, support, and train progressive women to increase the numbers of women in electoral and appointed positions. Many women do not consider running for office until asked. This Caucus does exactly that.
The DWC’s first formal meeting was held in January of 2004 at the Village Deli in Bloomington, and it has been meeting monthly ever since. The Bloomington Herald Times ran an article featuring the Caucus in March of 2004, entitled, "Group Seeks to Involve More Women in Politics." In June, another article ran entitled, "Women Still Not Playing On Level Field," discussing the lack of women nationally as well as locally in representative government. Also that year, the founding mothers of the Caucus - Moore, Sandberg, Pam Huggins, Lois Sabo-Skelton and Kerry Conway - attended Emily's List Campaign School in Ohio. They came back loaded with ideas and ready to implement them. The number of women involved in the Caucus grew as its planning and funding took shape. Cathi Crabtree and Jillian Kinzie published an editorial in the Herald Times in October 2004, entitled, "Where Are the Women and Why Does It Matter?" It also addressed the lack of women in government, especially policy-making women, and encouraged more women to enter the political process.
The candidates the Caucus endorsed in the 2004 election all enjoyed overwhelming victories! They were Iris Kiesling (Monroe County Commissioner), Sandy Newmann (Auditor), and Sophia Travis (County Council). The influence of the Caucus in the campaigns of these women cannot be overstated. Imagine, progressive Democratic women scoring big victories in a Republican state. Now that's power! The Monroe County Democratic Women's Caucus continues to meet monthly. Since its inception, the Caucus has hosted an Emily's List training and co-hosted a DFA traning session, and has held multiple home-grown training sessions in Bloomington.