After Kate

Posted October 1, 2003 at 5:55pm

Kate Michelman’s announcement last week that she would step down as president of NARAL Pro-Choice America in April, after more than 18 years on the job, was not surprising to people who follow abortion-rights organizations and other liberal political groups.

Michelman has spoken openly for a while about how she needs to spend more time with her family. Her family obligations may also dampen speculation that she is planning to seek political office sometime soon in her home state of Pennsylvania.

The departure date is significant for two reasons. It means Michelman will helm the organization through the next big abortion-rights rally, scheduled for April in Washington, D.C. But it also reflects the fact that the organization has no heir apparent to its departing 61-year-old leader, and will need the next six months to fill the slot.

“It will be very difficult to fill Kate’s shoes,” Sally Patterson, chairwoman of the NARAL Pro-Choice America board of directors, said in a statement.

Already there is some discussion about what type of person NARAL will seek to replace Michelman.

One Democratic Party powerbroker with close ties to NARAL suggested that the organization could draw a nationally known political figure — even a Member of Congress. This Democrat compared the high-profile NARAL job to vacancies at powerful, D.C.-based associations that appear to be attracting Members to their applicant pools.

NARAL, of course, would not pay as much.

“It’s going to be huge for that organization to replace her,” the Democratic leader said.

Meanwhile, a half dozen sources in the women’s political movement said NARAL would probably search for the “next” Michelman — a leader who is at a comparable station in life to Michelman’s when she took over the advocacy group.

“You’re looking for someone who is the Kate Michelman or [EMILY’s List President] Ellen Malcolm of 20 years ago,” one source said. “The 40-something-year-old woman who’s going to make the long-term commitment.”

Michelman was plucked from the Pennsylvania office of Planned Parenthood when she became NARAL president.

Two names have surfaced as possible contenders, though it is not clear whether either is interested. One is Gloria Totten, NARAL’s former political director who left two years ago to become executive director of the Progressive Majority Political Action Committee.

The other is Cecile Richards, a former member of the NARAL board and former chief of staff to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) who now heads the organization America Votes. Richards is the daughter of former Texas Gov. Ann Richards (D).

But that’s all speculation at this point.

NARAL Pro-Choice America has apparently hired an executive search firm to help find a new leader.

“We’ve begun a national search for a new president with the stature and accomplishment to build on [Michelman’s] work and take us into the future,” Patterson said.

Empower Power. A former assistant to Vice President Cheney for domestic policy has joined the board of directors at Empower America, the conservative organization headed by former Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.) and former Education Secretary Bill Bennett.

Cesar Conda, currently a partner at Navigators, a government relations firm, is expected to write op-ed pieces and serve as a front man for Empower America on a host of issues. Prior to joining Cheney’s staff in January 2001, he spent a dozen years as a Senate staffer, working for then-Sens. Spence Abraham (R-Mich.) and Bob Kasten (R-Wis.) and serving as minority staff director for the Senate Small Business Committee.

Conda was also a policy adviser to the Dole-Kemp presidential campaign in 1996.

(What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding? The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, a New York-based organization dedicated to smoothing inter-ethnic tensions, has opened a D.C. office whose sole mission will be to strengthen relations with and between the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Jewish Congressional Delegation and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

Eric Deutsch, a spokesman for the foundation, said the group will have one full-time staffer stationed in D.C., though that person hasn’t been hired yet.

To mark its new project, the foundation will sponsor a forum on Capitol Hill this afternoon, featuring a few dozen Members of Congress and leaders of several advocacy organizations. It is co-hosted by the NAACP, National Council of La Raza, World Jewish Congress and National Council of Asian Pacific Americans.

The forum runs from 4 to 6 p.m. in Room 2168 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

Smarts. The first-ever Bradley Prizes, awarded to individuals or organizations for espousing ideas or achievements that dovetail with the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation’s goal of a smaller, more pro-business government, will be handed out Tuesday at a ceremony in the Library of Congress.

The awardees — who will each take home a $250,000 prize — are: Mary Ann Glendon, a law professor at Harvard University; Leon Kass, a professor at the University of Chicago and fellow at the American Enterprise Institute; and conservative columnists Charles Krauthammer and Thomas Sowell.

Back to School. The College Democrats of America this week announced that Stephanie Sanchez will become the organization’s new executive director. Sanchez will work out of the national office at Democratic National Committee headquarters.

In 2000 and 2002, Sanchez was the Democratic nominee for Congress in Connecticut’s 4th district, taking 40 percent and 35 percent, respectively, of the vote against Rep. Christopher Shays (R). Prior to her first Congressional run, she was elected to the Greenwich legislative body at age 24 and then served as selectwoman (deputy mayor) from 1997 to 1999.

The College Democrats has more than 500 chapters across the country.