Democratic Group Wants More Elected Women in Louisiana

Emerge America, a national organization whose sole purpose is getting Democratic women elected into public office, has spread its roots to Louisiana. Twenty-five women, several of whom have already gotten their feet wet in past local elections, are part of the state chapter’s inaugural class.

Emerge Louisiana Executive Director Melanie Oubre told LaPolitics reporter Sarah Gamard that class members have yet to determine what offices they want to run for. But the organization, which has met personally with Gov. John Bel Edwards to discuss the topic at least once, is adamant to see more of its target group in all areas of government.

The chapter’s advisory council has members from across the state, including some prominent New Orleans Democrats: former Sen. Mary Landrieu, Reps. Helena MorenoRodney Lyons and Gary Carter, and Sen. Karen Carter Peterson. Organization leaders are reaching out to more. They were seen speaking with Baton Rouge Democrat Reps. Patricia Smith and Denise Marcelle at the LSU Redistricting Summit at the Lod Cook Alumni Center last Friday.

Several of the women are from New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Some are from Broussard, Paulina, Gonzales, Shreveport, Monroe, and Hammond. The state chapter believes all class members have the credentials and, after its handful of weekend workshops meant to prepare them for modern-day politics and governing, could be hard to beat.

Class member Tammy Savoie, a New Orleans native that the organization hopes to groom for Republican Rep. Stephanie Hilferty’s district seat and, one day, Congressman Steve Scalise’s seat on Capitol Hill. Savoie does not have previous experience in elections, but touts a worthy resume: an Air Force veteran once deployed to Afghanistan, a graduate of St. Mary’s Dominican High School (your high school alma mater is a campaign staple in New Orleans) with a bachelor’s from UNO and a PhD from Emory University, and a mother.

Many women, like Savoie, haven’t thrown themselves in the public arena before. But the list does include past candidates for East Baton Rouge School Board (Belinda Davis), East Baton Baton Rouge City Court judge (Janice Miller), St. James Clerk of Court (Kristina Harrison), New Orleans City Council (Aylin Acikalin Maklansky), Lake Charles City Council (Nicole Moncrief) and state House of Representatives (Alsie Dunbar, who lost the Ascension Parish seat to Ken Brass in 2017). Others have held positions before: Missy LaSalle is a former member of Alexandria City Council and Lisa Diggs is on the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee (OPDEC), both of which require an election. Attorney Maria Losavio (also Alexandria) is listed as a member of the state Workers' Compensation Advisory Council.

Nothing is set in stone yet for which class members will end up running, or for what. “Right now, I’m just learning,” Savoie said. Which ballots will have which names will become more clear in the next few months, as scheduled trainings on various political skills, like communications and fundraising, commence over the coming weekends. Some are expected to run this November.

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