An array of high-priced political talent gave time this week to tutor a unique group of people trying to toddle into the big time of elected office: 2 women who are thinking about running for Congress.
The advice they got ranged from the strictly practical (always have an aide take along an extra pair of shoes for you) to the slightly more cosmic field of image making. Eighteen of them are scheduled to spend their final day today following around an existing congresswoman on Capitol Hill.
Carol Ann Rambo, who was an advance person for Jimmy Carter during the presidential campaign, had practical advice aside from the extra shoes: don't drink iced drinks in the summer before making a speech or your voice will crack. If you're going to be in a helicopter, wear a pantsuit. Have an advance person travel ahead of you at least half a day to check out the directions, find the phones, get the latest news, find out if the sound system is working, find the bathrooms, and so forth.
"And if you're the type of person who relaxes in a car, don't let reporters travel with you," she cautioned.
The women came from 17 states and the Virgin Islands. All but a few have held some kind of elective office from county clerk to state senator, and all were accepted for the program because they are considered "realistic" candidates.
Aside from the practical advice, which most of them seemed to find helpful, the underlying theme of the four-day conference at Mount Vernon College was mutual support and confidence bolstering.
There aren't very many women running for Congress. It's important to know you aren't a freak," said Susan McLane, a Republican from New Hampshire.
"Here I am," she said, "a state representative, chairman of the ways and means committee - but I sometimes feel a lack of confidence that I don't think men, who are brought up with the idea they can be president, feel."
The fellowship McLane found at the conference was important, she said. "The first two nights the air conditioning in the dorms wasn't working and it was about 120 degrees. The second night we got two bottles of bourbon and went down to the modly basement and sat around in our petticoats, taling. The camaraderie is great."
The purpose of the conference, which was sponsored by the Washington Institute for Women in Polities with $5,000 in grants from unions and other organizations, is quite simply "to get more women in Congress," said organizer Susan Tolchin. There are now 18 women among the 435 ton Institute for Women in Politics members of the House - fewer than before the last election. There are no [TEXT OMMITTED FROM SOURCE]
Some of the advice offered yesterday was contradictory, and some of the speakers less inspiring than others. "One person said direct mail is a waste, another said it was goo," said Sen. Mary Gojcak from Nevada, a former blackjack dealer who was nearing a Susan B. Anthony medallion and carry a Title IX canvas bag. "And I don't agree with (political consultant) Gary Nordlinger that blue (ink) photo's are no good."
Nordlinger advised them not to use pasterl colors for their campaign insignia, but rather "masculine" colors. He thinks stick-on paper buttons look chaps, recommends vinyl bumper stickers, and thinks a congressional candidate button with just a name is "pretentious."
Be sure to have a "nice hokey family shot" in your brochure, he said, showing them the example of Lanny Davis. Whose unsuccessful congressional race he worked on in Maryland last year. "That family picture came to be known as the 'rent-a-family' shot." he said, referring to the appeal of the photogenic Davis family.
The speaker who impressed many of the women the most was David Garth, a television consultant from New York who showed them the ads he made for New York Gov. Hugh Carey and Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley. Smoking an elegant thin cigar, Garth told them in his blunt New York accent that "you got to have numbers, do good research and know the facts."
He advised them to have at least two good issues - not five, which would be so many as to be confusing, but two well-researched and documented issues.
One problem that was brought up often yesterday is one that male candidates never have. Female candidates don't have wives. "People are always asking who's looking after the kids and cooking dinner," one woman said.