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CAWP Election Watch

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Education and Training

The 2012 Project

About the 2012 Project

The 2012 Project was a national, non-partisan campaign created by political consultant Mary Hughes in collaboration with the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) to increase the number of women in Congress and state legislatures by taking advantage of the once-in-a-decade opportunities of 2012.

The 2012 Project relied on a three-pronged strategy:
  • Direct outreach to executive-level, accomplished women in the private and public sectors who have not previously considered running for office. Outreach to women of color is a priority.
  • Mobilization of existing state-based coalitions that will carry out the mission of The 2012 Project in locations where opportunities for women to run are greatest.
  • Launch of a large-scale public education campaign to raise awareness about the lack of women in elected office and the unique opportunities of the 2012 election.

Why 2012?
The US has a poor track record of electing women, and the 2010 elections only underscored the problem. The number of women in Congress dropped to 17 percent, and the number of women in state legislatures declined by nearly 80 seats, the sharpest drop since CAWP began tracking numbers over four decades ago. The election of 2012 presented a unique opportunity for women to increase their numbers in office. Following the 2010 census, every congressional and state legislative district in the country was redrawn, and new and open seats created. Reapportionment creates opportunity, and research shows that women have more success winning open seats. Also, presidential elections coincide with redistricting only once every 20 years, and research shows that voting patterns in presidential years further boosts women candidates.


The 2012 Project assembled a faculty of former elected women legislators to share the facts about women's underrepresentation and the many benefits of public service.  Women interested in taking the next step toward candidacy were connected to leadership institutes, think tanks, campaign training programs and fundraising networks designed to help them succeed in their own states.