Running for political office requires planning and support, and one group is trying to prepare some Louisiana women with their sights on local, state or federal offices.
Emerge Louisiana was in Alexandria this past weekend, in the middle of its first six-week training session that will take the group to major cities across the state. It’s an offshoot of Emerge America, a group that was founded in 2005 to provide support to Democratic women who wanted to run for political office.
The response was enthusiastic, said Melanie Oubre, the state executive director. Twenty-four women were selected for this training session out of almost 60 applications.
“They come from all different backgrounds,” she said. “We have a scientist, we’ve got lawyers, we’ve got doctors. But there’s one thing in common with all of them. They’re proven leaders in their community, and they want to see change either in either local, state or some federal government positions.”
Louisiana was the 19th state to join the California-based group last year. It now includes 24 states. She called the national group’s focus on the Deep South “exciting” and said it’s happening not only in Louisiana, but other southern states.
The goal is to provide the potential candidates with “top-notch training to make sure that their campaigns are winning campaigns,” said Oubre.
With the training, women will learn how to think like a candidate, how to craft their stories, how to raise money, how to express their messages across platforms and how to get that message to diverse populations.
The group has a board of directors who represent women from across the state. One of the members is Alexandria attorney Jennifer Hoekstra, who said it was important to her that the group included women from places other than New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
Hoekstra moved to Louisiana to attend law school at Tulane University in 2004, then moved to Alexandria with her husband about eight years ago. She still has friends in New Orleans and, through them, learned about the group and an informational session after the 2016 election.
She attended a training session for Emerge America when she went with her children to the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. After that, she attended the Louisiana meeting.
“Part of what we like about the idea is that men don’t even normally wait to be asked before they run for election. Women normally have to be asked seven times before they’ll run for anything,” said Hoekstra.
Once they agree to run, women want to be taught what to do to become a politician, she said. Emerge Louisiana fills that gap because state Democratic parties don’t normally provide that.
What she likes about the group is that it focuses on state-specific issues and educates women who could run for school board or city and parish government seats, positions “that actually change local, day-to-day lives.”
Oubre said she anticipates more women taking the training and running for office. She said the phones haven’t stopped ringing “from women around the state who are ready to run, who are sick of what they’re seeing, not only coming from the White House but coming from Baton Rouge, and the inability from our lawmakers to work together.
“Women are proven consensus-builders who get stuff done, and who will reach across the aisle to do what is best for our state.”