By Jack Shea
Read on The Daily News

NEWBURYPORT — A group of local women has formed a Greater Newburyport committee for the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus, aiming to further the organization’s goal of increasing female civic engagement and getting more women elected to public office.

The Greater Newburyport committee is the third regional group to be established within the MWPC, which has also organized at the local level in the Berkshires and Worcester County.

The committee started to take form days after the 2016 presidential election when a group of Newburyport women got together to discuss political issues, including the generally low number of women elected to office at the municipal and state levels in Massachusetts.

The committee, led by Dawne Shand as chair, also includes Wendy Hall, Elizabeth Kilcoyne, Karina Moltz, Judy Tymon, Juliet Walker, Donna Quinlan and Alida Frey.

Recently, the Greater Newburyport committee led an effort to endorse four Essex County candidates for state representative: Jennifer Rocco-Runnion (1st Essex), Christina Eckert (2nd Essex), Allison Gustavson (4th Essex), and Tram T. Nguyen (18th Essex). 

And now, the committee is giving residents a chance to meet the four candidates at its official launch Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. at Paula Estey Gallery, 3 Harris St. 

In an email to The Daily News, Shand said she is excited to finally hold the event and to see the committee participate in local politics.

“This started as an idea, a conversation between friends. That initial spark could have easily died,” Shand said in the email. “Here we are, almost two years later, officially part of a statewide organization committed to a goal that is, in essence, the core question of a national conversation — Do we need more women in office, making the critical decisions?”

In a press release, MWPC President Gail Jackson-Blount said the organization is excited about the launch of its Greater Newburyport committee and emphasized that its goal is to reach as many women as possible who are passionate about running for political office.

“We are proud of the work our four endorsed candidates, their staffs and supporters have accomplished,” Jackson-Blount said in the release. “Together, with the Greater Newburyport committee, they have further ignited positive change for women’s leadership in Massachusetts.”

Jackson-Blount said she sees evidence that Massachusetts voters recognize the importance of state politics in influencing nationwide priorities.

“They have sent us a clear message: Change is now,” she said.

Shand also called for change because in Massachusetts, women hold only about 22 percent of municipal offices and 25 percent of state office seats.

“In total numbers, that means, in the history of the commonwealth, 197 women have been elected to state-level offices. Many communities have elected fewer than 10 women as their public decision makers,” Shand added. “This state’s greatest democratic institution is local governance, but Massachusetts has a reputation for not electing women. We intend to change that.” 

For more on the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus:

Staff writer Jack Shea can be reached via email at or by phone at 978-961-3154. Follow him on Twitter @iamjackshea.