Perfecting Your Political Pitch: Join Us for Online Training February 27, 2021

We know that when a woman stands up and speaks truth to power, there will be attempts to put her down. So I’m not going to be put down and I’m not going anywhere. — Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA)

When running for political office, it all starts with your pitch or “elevator speech,” in which you have 118 seconds to tell voters who you are, what you stand for, and how they will benefit if you’re elected.

Join us online Saturday, February 27 from 2-3:30 pm to learn how to craft a persuasive pitch and incorporate it into all aspects of your campaign.

Messaging and communications strategist Sandi Sonnenfeld will walk you through the steps needed to create your pitch, while elected local Democratic politicians Kenya Gadsden, Amber Grant, and Sarah Imboden will discuss what works and what doesn’t work on the campaign trail.

We will then break out into smaller groups to refine and test-drive your pitches, so come prepared with your platform points!

Click Here to Register

This free webinar is for women Democrats running for local, county, or state office as part of DDWC’s So You Want to Run for Office candidate training program.

Join Us February 6 at 2 pm for our 2021 Annual Meeting (Via Zoom)

The Dutchess Democratic Women’s Caucus (DDWC) will hold its annual membership meeting via Zoom on Saturday, February 6th at 2 pm. Alyssa Mastromonaco, former Deputy Chief of Staff to President Obama, is the keynote speaker.

“Our annual membership meeting is a way to bring together committed Democrats across Dutchess County to discuss, advocate for and celebrate the important role and contribution of women politicians and activists to build Democratic power at the local and county level,” said Amber Grant, DDWC President and Beacon City Councilperson.

Keynote speaker Alyssa Mastromonaco previously served as president of Global Communications Strategy & Talent at A&E Networks and chief operating officer of Vice Media. She is also a contributing editor at Marie Claire magazine. From 2011-14, she was White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations in the Obama Administration, the youngest woman to hold that position. She’s also the New York Times bestselling author of Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? and So Here’s the Thing and the co-host of Hysteria, a Crooked Media Podcast.

“We are so thrilled that Alyssa Mastromonaco will be joining us. Born and raised in Rhinebeck, Alyssa is a national role model and inspiration for women who want to get involved in politics and make a positive difference whether as a candidate or behind the scenes,” said Grant.

Attendance is free, but attendees are strongly encouraged to join or renew their membership when they register for the event as membership fees help provide financial support to DDWC endorsed candidates in upcoming election cycles. Participants must register in advance.

Membership levels are:
● Eleanor Roosevelt Donor – $500
● Sojourner Truth Donor – $250
● Shirley Chisholm Donor – $100
● Lucille Pattison Donor – $50
● Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Donor – $25

As a further incentive, Oblong Books (Rhinebeck & Millerton) will be offering a 20% online discount on Mastromonaco’s books to new or renewing members of the DDWC.

About the Dutchess Democratic Women’s Caucus
DDWC is a grassroots, nonprofit organization working to elect qualified Democratic women to public office at the state, county, city, town, and village levels and to encourage every Democrat to become politically active. Since our founding, we have helped more than 300 Dutchess County women seek public office by providing campaign workshops, one-on-one mentoring, and financial support. Visit for more information.

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Photo by Nathan Mullet on Unsplash

So You Want to Run for Office? Join Us on January 16, 2021 to Learn How

The Dutchess Democratic Women’s Caucus (DDWC) will be holding an online forum for women, including transwomen and nonbinary persons interested in running for elected office in 2021 or beyond. The forum will be held via Zoom on Saturday, January 16th from 2-3:30 pm.

“Women face unique challenges when running for political office, yet more women are running for office than ever before. This forum is designed for women who are interested in running for one of the many open municipal and county races that will be on the ballot in Dutchess County in 2021 or who are just looking to help get women elected,” said Amber Grant, President of DDWC and Beacon City Councilperson. “This Zoom training will cover the basics of how to get started running for office as well as help address any concerns potential female candidates may have.”

Forum speakers include Dutchess County Democratic Chair Elisa Sumner; Dutchess County Legislator and Minority Leader Rebecca Edwards; and Fishkill Town Board Member Kenya Gadsden.

Register at: Registrants will be sent a Zoom link prior to the event.

“So You Want to Run for Office” will be the first of a series of campaign trainings the DDWC will hold during the winter and spring of 2021. Future topics include:
● Crafting Your Pitch
● Fundraising 101
● Basics of Campaign Communications

Can’t attend on January 16th? Contact

DDWC is a grassroots nonprofit organization working to elect qualified  Democratic women to public office at the state, county, city, town and village levels and to encourage every Democratic woman to become politically active. Since our founding, we have helped more than 300 Dutchess County women seek public office by providing campaign workshops, one-on-one mentoring, and financial support.

Join us Sept 10 at 7:30 pm for Women’s Suffrage Trivia Night!

Please join us on September 10 for a fun evening with candidates running for office in Dutchess County. We’ll be celebrating 100 years of women’s suffrage with trivia questions about women in power.

Your suggested donation of $25 will help women running for office in our County. And when women win, we all win!

A few things to note:
This is a virtual event. When you purchase a ticket, we’ll follow up via email with the Zoom info. To attend, click

If you want to attend but are unable to donate at this time, please send an email to and we’ll add you to the registration list.

Call to Action: Rescind the Jail Bond

In 2016, Dutchess County had an unprecedented opportunity to change what a county jail is and how a criminal justice system addresses its inmates. The county legislature chose the most expensive and least effective way to seize that opportunity.

On March 21 2016, the Dutchess County Legislature voted to approve a $192 million bond to build a new sheriff’s office and upgrade the county jail to 569 beds: the most expensive jail related project in New York State in recent history. The plan, named the Justice and Transition Center, was unveiled on February 4 2016 and was rushed to a vote after five town hall meetings.

To those concerned that the plan did not include funding for the services and programs needed to reduce incarceration, county officials asserted that we would receive grants for these services as the county would be acclaimed as a “model for the nation” in criminal justice reform. Instead we are the poster child of fiscal irresponsibility and social injustice.

In 2015, Dutchess had a significantly higher rate of incarceration than the state average. 70% of the inmates in January 2016 were unable to make bail and were awaiting sentencing – significantly worse than the state average. Over 70% of the inmates had mental health or drug abuse issues that would be more humanely served in a therapeutic setting.

Despite one of the largest outpourings of citizen speakers protesting the jail bond at the March county legislature meeting– going on close to midnight – the bond was approved. All but one Democratic legislator voted against it; their opposition has proven prescient.

Unfortunately we have already spent about $34 million of the bond on a new upscale sheriff’s office with a state-of-the-art fitness facility, one of the most expensive sheriff office renovations in the state. What county-wide problem did we solve by building a mega-sized sheriff’s office?

Fortunately, approximately $155 million allocated to the jail has not yet been spent. We need to immediately redirect these remaining funds to a more just use.

Since the vote to approve the bond, our environment is far different than it was in 2016. The New York State Bail Reform law significantly decreased the number of inmates awaiting sentencing. In May 2020 the average inmate population was 146, far lower than the projected 569 in the bond. And this number can be further reduced in two ways: by diverting those with mental health or addiction issues and by decreasing the time from arrest to arraignment.

The County Comptroller audited various criminal justice programs and found that many alternatives to incarceration were more cost effective than housing non-violent offenders in jail. Individual offenders with substance abuse addiction or mental illness are better served in the community with appropriate restrictions, without any increase in recidivism.

Dutchess County has a larger percentage of inmates awaiting arraignment, trial, or sentencing. In 2016, 70% of inmates in the Dutchess County jail were unsentenced; in May 2020 the percentage was approximately the same. Dutchess County has made no improvement in this potential violation of the constitutional right to a speedy trial. The average percentage for other county jails in New York is 55%. If Dutchess only met the state average our current jail population would be less than 120.

The jail plan has been downsized by the county from its original design of 569 beds to 328 beds and the time line for completion of the new jail has been delayed four years from April 2020 to April 2024. According to a May 2020 comptroller report, the estimated cost is approximately the same at $147 million and the timeline for construction is estimated to start in December 2020. Even this revised plan is totally unrealistic. County officials cannot lay the blame for this ill-conceived plan on the State Commission of Corrections (SCOC) as they attempted to do in 2016.

As the looming financial crisis of COVID-19 hangs over us, it is irresponsible to saddle taxpayers with this unnecessary burden for years to come. In addition to being financially irresponsible, it would be incredibly tone deaf and offensive to continue with this project in light of the serious need for racial justice and criminal justice reform. We can no longer turn a blind eye to the fact that our justice system disproportionately and severely impacts black and brown people. While Blacks represented approximately 11% of the Dutchess County population in 2016, they were 39% of the jail population. Hundreds of thousands of people across the country, from a wide array of demographics, are in the streets saying ENOUGH!

The DDWC has a long history of working on jail reform. Since our founding in 2005, we have proposed many changes to criminal justice system in Dutchess County. We organized the protests at the town hall meetings and at the March 21 meeting of the county legislature. Our opposition to the 2016 plan has been vindicated. We call on the county legislature to immediately rescind the bond authorization until the county develops a plan that more equitably supports the needs of all the county residents. The plan should be developed in concert with the relevant community agencies and organizations that are working on alternatives to incarceration. We are willing to be part of that process.

We have the chance to do better and we must take this opportunity to act.

DDWC Stands Against Racial Injustice and for Positive Change

George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Dimas Diaz. Stephanie Quiroz. Jimmy Atchinson. These are just five of the 1,038 Americans who have been killed by police over the past 12 months. All five were unarmed and all were people of color. Indeed, according to data from the Washington Post, African-Americans are more than twice as likely and Hispanics are 1.5 times more likely to be killed by the police than white Americans. How do we overcome systemic racism? How do we stay hopeful in the wake of so much tragedy?

We look for signs of change that we’ve never seen before such as the police reforms just announced in Albany, including rolling back Rule 50a that kept private the record of complaints filed and disciplinary actions taken against police officers. We look at the diversity of the hundreds of thousands of people peacefully protesting in the streets, and the now overwhelming majority of Americans who favor stronger gun control laws, and the success of books like Ibram X. Kendi’s How to be an Antiracist, Robin Diangelo’s White Fragility and Stacey Abrams’ Our Time is Now.

Most of all, we act in our communities, supporting better funded schools, youth sports and arts programs, better health, social and transportation solutions for the working poor, disabled or elderly, taking the time to welcome and talk to our neighbors regardless of race, religion or ethnicity. We act by encouraging and voting for progressive Democratic lawmakers, particularly women and people of color, who will better represent all of the members of our community and fight for equal economic opportunities, civil rights and environmental justice.

This is in keeping with the mission of the Dutchess Democratic Women’s Caucus to encourage, support and vote for Democratic women, including women of color. If you want to make a difference, vote for candidates who believe in what you do, who stand up for the oppressed and the underrepresented. If you want to make a difference, contact us about how you can get involved, including how you can run for office.

The time for change has never been more important. The time for change is now, starting with your vote in the June 23 primaries. Because Black Lives Matter.

2020 Endorsement of Democratic Candidates

The DDWC Executive Committee is happy to announce its endorsements for the 2020 local elections:

NY State Senate
Karen Smythe (41st district)

NY State Assembly
Didi Barrett (106th)
Laurette Giardano (105th)
Jonathan Jacobsen (104th)
Kevin Cahill (103rd)

Dutchess County Judge
Jessica Segal

Fishkill Town Board
Kenya Gadsden

Mother’s Day 2020

Happy Mother’s Day from!

On behalf of the DDWC Executive Committee, we want to thank the following donors who made a contribution to our Virtual Spring Mother’s Day Fundraiser in honor of all the influential women in their lives:

Mary Benkart in tribute to my mother Patricia Thomas, an elementary school teacher who taught me women can do anything they believe in with their strength compassion and wisdom.

Debra Blalock in tribute to Katherine Mason Blalock who loved her children fiercely and taught us how persevere in even the toughest times.

Clare Brandt in honor of Mary Hannon Williams and Diane Jablonski

Deirdre Burns

Brenda Cagle in honor of my strong, generous mother Crystal McFrederick Knight (from West Virginia, home of the 1st official Mother’s Day)

Eleanor Charwat in honor of Anna Buchholz, my political mentor

Irene Di Maio

Jill Fieldstein in memory of my mother Judi Fieldstein, who was not active, but taught me the importance of voting.

Gayle Garin

Sandra Goldberg

Amber Grant

Shirley Handel

Mary Hathaway in honor of Clare Brandt, DDWC Founding President. I hope she is proud of the success of this wonderful organization.

Janet Houston

Sarah Imboden in honor of Jo Thornton, the best US history teacher on the planet who encouraged me on the path to loving history; and to my stepmother Deb a strong feisty woman and a leader!

Susan Jessup

Beth Kolp in memory of Carol Roper, former New Paltz Town Supervisor and Board Member, died April 24 at age 86. She served in leadership positions in countless other community, church, and cultural organizations and taught for many years at Dutchess Community College. Carol was a model of dynamic, intelligent civic engagement.

Alison Lankenau

Robin Lois

Mary Lunt in tribute to Ellie Charwat, constant champion of important organizations and causes.

Wendy Makenzie

Barbara Markell

Ross Patison

Joan Posner in honor of Elizabeth Posner and Katie Legomsky my daughter and daughter-in-law who are amazing mothers and wonderful role models for their sons.

Tricia Reed

Margaret Ross in honor of my intrepid mother and her remarkable granddaughters.

Amy Rothstein

Donna Salem

Ann Shershin in tribute to Jean Murphy, first woman elected to the Dutchess County Legislature

Julie Shiroishi

Nevill Smythe in honor of the Mothers in my life: mine, Ann Smythe; my mother-in-law Anne Strain; and of course my favorite candidate and soon to be NYS Senator, Karen S. Smythe!!!

Mary Williams in tribute to my mother Marcella Hasson who arrived in New York from Ireland at age 19 in 1929. With a 6th grade education, she worked as a maid to send money home to save the family farm, which is still in our family today.

Latest Update from DDWC

The COVID-19 epidemic has resulted in us having to cancel our annual Mother’s Day Spring Celebration on May 9th. However, everyone at DDWC is thinking about the important women in our lives–mothers, grandmothers, friends, teachers, mentors, lawmakers, bosses, literary role models–who regularly challenge, inspire or comfort us when we need it most. In fact, many of our DWCC friends including Congresswoman Didi Barrett, Congressman Antonio Delgado and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand among others have created video tributes to the women who have influenced them most as part of our virtual Mother’s Day Tribute which begins May 3rd.

You can view new videos each day through May 11th here.

Join us for our annual meeting

January 25, 2020 at 2pm at LaGrange Town Hall, 120 Stringham Rd in Lagrangeville

Short business meeting to approve revisions to the by-laws, elect 2020 officers and at-large members, and approve the 2020 budget. See the details on the Annual Meeting Reports page.

Meet the 2020 Dutchess County women candidates:
Karen Smythe, Candidate for State Senate District 41
Didi Barrett, Assemblymember District 106
Laurette Giardino, Candidate for Assembly District 105
Jessica Segal for Dutchess County Judge
Kenya Gadsden for Fishkill Town Board

Panel Discussion: What’s at Stake in 2020
Legislative Priorities, Headwinds, and Actions

Elections: Beth Soto, Dutchess County Board of Elections – Democratic Commissioner
County: Rebecca Edwards, Dutchess County Legislator District 6, Minority Leader
State: Didi Barrett, Assemblymember, District 106
Federal: Joan Mandle, Executive Director of Democracy Matters