Karen Besserman is Emerge Washington’s inaugural Executive Director. She comes to Emerge 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 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.

You can reach Karen at

Emily Carmichael is Emerge Washington’s Deputy Director. Emily is a progressive advocate and activist whose involvement with Emerge WA began with its founding in 2017. She served on the inaugural Board of Directors, was Board Chair from 2018-2020, and is a graduate of Emerge WA’s first cohort in 2018. Her advocacy work has focused on public education funding and tax reform. In 2020, she successfully ran Emerge alumnae Hillary Madsen’s campaign for King County Superior Court, and also served as a Team Lead for Seattle-based organization Common Power, leading volunteers in remote electoral field operations in three key states. She has volunteered many hours supporting progressive candidates up and down the ballot, including many Emerge graduates. She serves as a Precinct Committee Officer for the 37th Legislative District, is the Secretary of the Board of Washington’s Paramount Duty, a public education advocacy organization, was President of the McGilvra Elementary PTA from 2018-2020, and chair of Epiphany Early Learning Preschool’s Advisory Board from 2017-2019.

Emily was raised in Alabama and graduated from Brown University with a degree in French. She also holds graduate degrees from both NYU and Middlebury College. She lives in Seattle with her husband and three children.

Emily can be reached at