07/05/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Women Need an Establishment of Their Own

As a former Congressional candidate, I can tell you it's tough out there for women. In fact, it's more than tough - what women candidates experience can be brutal.

And if they don't have the support of the political establishment, forget it. Yes, some tough-as-nails candidates may forge ahead, and some may manage to win. However, having a political paradigm that continually prevents women from succeeding is unacceptable.

We saw this happen with Dede Scozzafava in NY-23 last November, and now we're watching it unfold with Colleen Hanabusa in Hawaii and Secretary Elaine Marshall in North Carolina.

But perhaps the most poignant example so far is Secretary Jennifer Brunner.

Brunner wasn't just abandoned or ignored by the establishment—she was blatantly told to wait her turn and not run for U.S. Senate.

But luckily, Brunner is one of those tenaciously tough women who didn't give up—and the Women's Campaign Forum (WCF) was by her side the entire time.

When she was told not to run by Party leaders, we told her to stay committed. When people told her to "wait her turn," WCF said, "no--it's your turn now."

Brunner didn't win her bid for Senate this time - but her ability to garner 44% of the votes after running a purely grassroots campaign and being outspent 4-1 should be celebrated—especially since she did it in the face of the establishment.

I know Congress and our country still need Jennifer Brunner, and WCF will continue to encourage her to run again, as we do all of our former candidates. Because we only lose when women don't run. As we saw with Hillary Clinton, we need women to crack all the glass ceilings around the country in order to pave the way for new candidates.

And this is precisely what sets WCF apart from the rest: We exist to support women who make the decision to run for office--despite the odds, and even when the system gets in their way.

WCF is here to help clear the path, chop through the weeds, and guide talented women through their candidacy--women who exceed expectations at every turn, forge their own path through the political wilderness, and light the way for those who follow.

Since 1974, WCF has often been the first endorsement a woman candidate receives.

We launch the political careers of women and stay by their side throughout the course of public life. Our candidates know that they can call me up, day or night, and ask me directly for advice. We believe in being not only helpful, but extremely accessible to our women.

This is because at WCF, we focus on the woman—not only the race. We believe in truly empowering women and closing the gaping gender gap in our government. And we know that in order to achieve equality at all levels of government, we must support women who defend reproductive health choices on both sides of the aisle.

WCF's nonpartisan approach to increasing women's political participation enables us to break from the mold and create our own political paradigm—an Establishment of our Own, if you will.

We've already endorsed over 100 candidates for the 2010 elections, at all levels of office, from first-time runners to re-endorsed incumbents. We have a real chance to make a dent in women's unequal representation this year.

In 1992, the Year of the Woman, we elected 24 women to the House and five to the Senate. At WCF, we want to make sure this year blows 1992 out of the water. We want to make 2010 the REAL year of the woman.