03/22/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Lessons From the Coakley Loss

There are a lot of lessons to be learned from the Coakley loss last night.

First, hello Democrats and progressives! When are you going to start investing in the pipeline?? Candidate recruitment and training should be priority for our state and national party leaders -- not an afterthought. Go to the national party website -- I challenge you to find a single word about candidate recruitment and training. This is a national issue -- not just an issue for Massachusetts. Here in California where I live, we are about to enter into an election with Jerry Brown as the Democratic nominee -- a man who served as Governor of this state from 1975-1983. He held office 35 years ago. Where is the back bench?

Hats off to the women in Massachusetts who were hell bent on electing a Democratic woman the United States Senate. Massachusetts, after all, had never elected a woman to the Senate. And the Democratic women had been waiting a long time and knew that this was their chance -- now or never. There was one woman who held state-wide office and that was Martha Coakley. So the Democratic women in Massachusetts got behind her. And how much training did Martha Coakley get? What kind of a difference would it have made if she had been through a training like Emerge America, the premier training program for Democratic women? How much training do any of our Democrats (male or female) get in the actual nuts and bolts of running for office? We expect our public servants to be great campaigners and also policy wonks, but we give them little to no formal training. Since when is politics the one area where every candidate needs to be an entrepreneur relying on high priced consultants who typically have lost more races than they have won.

At Emerge America, we train Democratic women to run for office. We take them through a 7 month training program where we teach them the nuts and bolts of running for office; provide them with inspiration and mentorship. We start our first training off with our top notch communications training session because -- guess what -- you can't win a race for dog catcher if you can't communicate your message and connect with the public. We ask them all to dig deep and get in touch with why they are running -- what motivates them -- and then we help them figure out how to communicate their passion into a three minute message.

As Democrats and progressives, we must learn a lesson from our losses in Virginia, New Jersey and now Massachusetts. We must identify, train, invest in and run the very best candidates possible -- male or female. And I for one, will do everything in my power to make sure that we have great women candidates ready to run -- trained to run.

And please, let's not skewer Martha Coakley. I am still smarting from the skewering of that very first Massachusetts candidate that I supported in 1988 -- Mike Dukakis. Thank you, Martha Coakley for stepping up to the plate. There are a lot of people who never dare to compete and say that politics is just not for them. You did and that was very brave. Public service is personal sacrifice.

But, please women -- don't lose heart. Despite the fact that I am completely heart-broken that we are not going to add our 18th woman to the Senate, the good news is that sexism did not seem to play a big role in this campaign. Sure I doubt that a woman candidate who had posed in Playboy (as Brown did for Cosmo) could ever leave the gate. After all -- women candidates -- actually suffer if they are too attractive, as Jennifer Granholm discovered when she ran for Governor of Michigan. But the bottom line is that politics still comes down to who can run the best campaign and communicate their message effectively. The sex of the candidate is secondary to the quality of the campaign they wage. Women DO have to work twice hard as their male opponents to win and we can't take anything for granted. Not one single vote.

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