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Small Town Girl: Big Time Influence

In today's cynical society, when people hear about politics they automatically think about corruption. It seems as if every day breeds a new scandal and yet another generation moves closer to disillusionment. That is why the world of this Ada resident, Somerlyn Cothran, is both surprising and remarkable. She has immersed herself in the world of fundraising, both for politicians and trade associations, yet still exudes a refreshing enthusiasm for her work and the world in general. Perhaps this is because the number one priority of her company, Cothran Development, is ethics; she works only for clients that she believes in and respects.


Before Cothran takes on a client, she does a two-hour interview to decide if she both can, and will, help them. She has a passion for the 'underdog,' and this is expressed in her business practices. Small or suffering trade associations come under her advisement and become powerful national entities. Political candidates that might have little chance of winning, or raising the funds needed to continue a campaign, accumulate, with Cothran's help, three times as much money as their nearest competitor. However, she does remind me that her job is, "To get the candidate funded, not to get them elected." But money can be a definite advantage.


Though she works primarily on the state and national level, she will also help those locally, giving them free advice if they can't afford a successful fundraising firm like hers. Cothran believes deeply in what she does and holds great respect for those who run for office and want to do good. As she says, "The political world is a demanding world. I admire anyone who runs for public office because they are instantly under a microscope."


The world of politics provides many challenges, but Cothran is the type of woman who faces them, confronting them boldly. When she graduated from college no jobs could be found, not even with a BA in Communications and an MA in Organizational Development. Those that were available all started at the bottom, and, for Cothran, this would not do. So at 21, she started her own business. She called the Oklahoma State Senate Energy Chairman to ask if she could raise money for him. He said yes, and Cothran ended up setting records while building her reputation and business. Despite having many powerful clients, Cothran was not thinking about gaining wealth and prestige. As she puts it, "I was just thinking about making my next car payment."


Now, ten years later, she has been named a "Rising Star in Politics" by Campaigns and Elections Magazine; she has been a nominee for Oklahoma's "Woman of the Year" and was chosen to be Rudy Giuliani's Oklahoma Finance Director-raising three times as much money for his campaign than any other Republican running for the 2008 Presidential nomination. Her outlook is the key to success. "There is a delicate and strategic form to raising money, especially for political races."

It has not always been easy, though. Being a woman in business is difficult, but being a woman in the political world is even more so.


"The glass ceiling in the political world is twice as thick," she explains. "You can't be passive; you must be to the point, maybe even a little harsh."


Since she knows how tough it is to be a woman in a competitive world, Cothran is a firm believer in helping other women. A glance at her website will show you that of the seven other people employed at Cothran Development, only the web designer is male. Since she was lucky enough to have a connection that could open doors for her, Cothran feels that it is her duty to do the same for others, especially women.


The business of political fundraising is not easy, but it is rewarding. Cothran and her associates have the opportunity to get to know politicians, businesspeople, and donors. These relationships become very close over time, and evolve into trusting friendships. Every day presents a new challenge as she strives for creative ways to do her job, help her clients, and promote the ideas and causes for which she cares.

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