About Us

Are you a Democratic woman who wants to run for office? Let us help you!

Our Mission

To increase the number of Democratic women leaders from diverse backgrounds in public office all across the state and in all offices through recruitment, training, and providing a powerful network.

Who We Are

Emerge Washington is changing the face of politics by recruiting, training, and providing a powerful network for Democratic women who want to run for office.

We offer the only in-depth, multi-month, 80-hour, cohort focused, training program that provides aspiring female leaders with cutting-edge tools and training to run for elected office and elevate themselves in our political system.

Our program’s trainers are comprised of an elite team of campaign consultants, advisors, and staff from all over the state of Washington, who have been involved in some of the most successful campaigns and initiatives seen in recent election cycles. Participants learn from these experts and develop practical knowledge in areas such as public speaking, fundraising, campaign strategy, voter contact, media and messaging, and more. Candidates also meet an array of dynamic women who hold elected and appointed office and become a part of a supportive network, which includes a national association of Emerge alumnae, the Emerge board, and advisory council members.

Emerge WA has trained 92 women and 27 Emerge WA alumnae are currently in elected office.

  • More than 4,000 women trained to run for office since 2002.
  • More than 500 alums currently serving in elected office across the United States.
  • More than 380 women on the ballot in 2019.
  • In the 2018 election, 213 Emerge alumnae won their elections.
  • In WA State, 77% of Emerge-trained women won their general election races in 2019.
  • Strong record of diversity: 70% of Emerge WA- trained candidates in 2019 were women of color or LGBTQIA+.


Executive Director

Karen Besserman is Emerge Washington’s inaugural Executive Director. She comes to Emerge Washington with a long history of managing and advocating for women candidates. Before moving to Seattle, she managed the campaign of Sharon Sayles Belton in Minneapolis, the first African-American woman elected as mayor of a major city. She also worked in Seattle on Maria Cantwell’s campaign for the Senate in 2000.

In 2001, Besserman started Besserman Associates, a consulting firm specializing in local candidate and issue campaigns, individual fundraising, and public affairs and advocacy. The firm helped with the Women’s Bioethics Project launch of a national book club program, and the World Association for Children and Parents (WACAP) develop a program to feature adoptable children on the news each week with the goal of finding them families, among other major projects. Her other clients included the State of Washington, the Committee for Children, the Minority Executive Directors Coalition, and the Refugee Women’s Alliance.

Besserman has served on the board of directors for a reproductive health clinic and currently serves on the board of directors of Win with Women.

You can reach Karen at karen@emergewa.org


Emerge Washington is a state affiliate of Emerge, which has trained more than 4,000 women to run for office since 2002. Emerge alumnae across the country have won more the 1,000 elections to date and hold office at every level of government. There are currently Emerge affiliates in 26 states — Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado,  Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin, with plans to expand to more soon. Emerge has trained women in 44 states and territories.  Women who graduate from Emerge Washington’s training program are plugged into both the state network of Emerge Washington alumnae, as well as the national network of Emerge alumnae across the country.

Why Women?

  • Studies have shown women in elected office overwhelmingly support and push forward democratic principles like equality and fairness.
  • When women hold public office they are more actively involved in a variety of gender-salient issue areas, including healthcare, the economy, education, and the environment.
  • Women legislators are more responsive to constituents, value cooperation over hierarchical power, and find ways to engineer solutions in situations where men have trouble finding common ground.