Welcome to Louisiana Lefty, a podcast about politics and community in Louisiana, where we make the case that the health of the state requires a strong progressive movement fueled by the critical work of organizing on the ground. Our goal is to democratize information, demystify party politics, and empower you to join the mission because victory for Louisiana requires you. I'm your host Lynda Woolard. On this episode, I speak with Representative Mandie Landry, friend of Lefty, who returns to the podcast for a quick pre-Election Day update. Known as 'the good Landry,' Mandie joined us on season one of Louisiana Lefty so if you'd like to hear a longer conversation with her, check out that previous episode, which I'll link to in our Episode Notes. Rep. Landry is running for reelection in House District 91, and I caught up with her on the campaign trail to get her takes on my top Louisiana issues of the moment, the ones I call existential, climate insurance and the state of the state Democratic Party. In typical Mandie fashion, she pulls no punches in her answers. Please be sure to check out the Episode Notes for links to more information on the topics we discussed, like the 'happiest little bill' Rep Landry pest to recycle oyster shells for coastal restoration. The Fortified Roof Program passed in the last session that provides grants of up to $10,000 for homeowners to repair or replace their roofs. And the article we're both quoted in, where we offer prescriptions for rebuilding the Louisiana Democratic Party, which I continually contend is essential for the state to survive. No hyperbole. Representative Mandie Landry, thank you so much for joining me on Louisiana Lefty.
Always good to be here. Of course.
Well, right! I have to say welcome back because you have been with us before, and if folks are interested in all that you're about they can go back to the season one episode we did with you, which I'll link to in the Episode Notes. We've had a couple of male candidates on right before election day, I wanted to make sure we had someone from the woman's gender on to speak before we go on to Election Day because it's a big year for women in politics.
We always need more, we always need more, we always need more. And we have what? Two women running... three women running statewide? Like, that's a little disappointing. So looking at these down ballot races is more important now than ever.
Yeah. And you have built a career, even before you were involved in politics, helping on the abortion issue for women. So I wanted to make sure that we pointed that out. I think anyone that's followed you knows you're not shy about mentioning that. You mention it frequently. But I did want to give you an opportunity to talk about that a litte bit.
Yeah, so I've been a lawyer a long time. Well, it's 18 years next week. So I was a big firm lawyer in DC and New Orleans, and... I don't know, I got bored with it, you know, doing the same sort of commercial stuff. And I had been thinking of trying to do something more interesting and social justice related. And I had always been a little bit more for women and women's issues, and I was, like, reading a news article one day about like the local clinic and I saw that there was this woman, Ellie Schilling local, who was listed as the attorney for Planned Parenthood. And I was like, "Whoa, there's someone, even in this city, who represents an abortion clinic." Like, I was shocked. Because, you know, the state is so anti-abortion. And I started poking around in her firm and they did a lot more interesting stuff. And one way or another, I got myself there. So I literally went there, I wanted to do that kind of, you know, reproductive rights work. And we represented a clinic. We also did some fertility clinic work, which is opposite side and, like, equally as important. We represented Sofia Vergara when her ex was trying to force her to... they had fertilized eggs when they were... I guess you could say when they were together. And then they broke off and they were on ice and he was like trying to get a surrogate to have them. Talk about the worst, most abusive ex in your life doing that... So I did that and I represented some minors in judicial bypass, and then when the time came to run, one of the reasons, it was post-Trump, the governor kept signing bad laws. And I said, "Well, if I'm gonna run, I'm going to do it as myself, for what I believe in." And I knew that my district was heavily pro-choice. Like, I just knew they would be okay with it. And they weren't just okay with it, they're like, "Hell yeah! Why won't more people do this? Why won't more people talk about this?" So I'm dealing with all kinds of progressive issues, and it's worked with my district. And I'm really fortunate, I call it a 'unicorn district.' And I'm really fortunate that I can talk about and push a lot of progressive issues.
Well, right. That's another reason I really wanted to have you back on the podcast before Election Day, because, again, I wanted to get a representative woman on here, but really, as a progressive podcast, when I think of progressive elected officials, you really are the first person to come to mind. And I think that's probably true for a lot of people. I had a couple of other things I wanted to ask you specifically about because they've sort of been the through line that we've talked about with the previous candidates this election, and because I think they're really existential issues for the survival of the state. I mentioned climate, I mentioned insurance a lot. I know on the insurance piece, you've talked a lot about feeling like there should be a federal solution to our insurance issues. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Yeah, it's something that just seemed obvious to me as much as a year ago, and it's finally getting a little more discussion this year. You know, I've kind of realized I was, like... we have flood insurance and it is federal because we couldn't afford it on our own. And what kept happening with more storms and floods and we're not ready for it and they're more frequent. I'm like, "The state can't afford this." Like, we can't pay for all of this every time a storm happened. And while I understand that means we're going to have to have some hard, hard conversations overtime within the state and federally, but you can't just dump people overnight. And then they're, you know, they're in such danger of losing everything in the next storm because they don't have insurance. And now more people are talking about it, they're gonna have to do something about it. You know, we have the Roof Program here, fortified roofs and - you should Google that if you're looking into it - that's great. But we can't do it on our own, the feds have to come in. And if they don't, what's going to happen is they're going to be a couple of storms, and because everyone with a mortgage needs homeowners insurance, they're not going to have it and what's going to happen to all these banks? So even if they don't care about it, maybe they care about the economy, and can figure something out. And it just doesn't seem like that's on the top of anyone's list. And it should be.
Okay. So my worry, Mandie, is this climate piece, particularly down here in southeast Louisiana, although, as Dr. Wilson mentioned on the last episode, we've got hurricane force winds that are getting up to North Louisiana now. And I'm wondering what your thoughts on the climate issue are? What are our odds? We've got a Republican majority going into this next term, right off the bat. And there's nothing to be done about that. We're obviously... I know the House Democratic Caucus, who is supporting you, is trying really hard to make sure we don't get a supermajority in the house. But what are the opportunities for climate, given that that's such an existential issue for the state?
That's a place that, I don't want to say it's bipartisan, but kind of starting to get there. And they would never use that word for it. But you just look at like coastal erosion masterplan, diversion, CPRA, like, none of those things are controversial. But they're not presented in terms of climate change either, even though it is. It's just kind of presented in a like, "We want to preserve the coasts, we want people to live there without falling into the ocean" And it's kind of ridiculous that no one talks about why, which is a combination of climate change, the oil and gas companies for almost a century just ripping up the state and the state allowing them to do it. And there's actually a bunch of lawsuits out there, the coastal litigation suits, that are hoping to get a lot of money from oil and gas to build more... to either build more land or to block it off or to do what needs to be done. But it's interesting that people don't use climate change, but, like, they know that's what it is. And so there's been a lot of bipartisan stuff. I've done some work in that arena, some hazard mitigation, the Oyster Shell Bill that everyone loves... but no one will use that word because you still got the crazies that say it doesn't exist. That's something we can't fix. But I think the adults in the room, which is a lot of people, realize that this is coming faster than anyone expects. And it's... I mean, purely look at the amount of storms, huge storms that we're having regularly. And that never happened years past. So I think they know what's going on, but they're not going to use those words.
If progress can be made, who cares what they call it?
Yep, I agree. With health care, they've finally come around, I think, into realizing they can pay $1 now for preventative or early care or they can pay $10,000 in the emergency room later. And a lot of them don't like it. But most of them have realized this from a financial perspective. They have to like it. And it's been happening.
Now, you mentioned upfront that you come from a legal background, that you were a lawyer before, well... you're still a lawyer as well, as a legislator. How significant has it been that you have that legal training as you do this legislative work? It seems to me like maybe not necessary, but it's really helpful.
Very, very, very, very, it's so helpful. And it's the only way I can kind of make it through. You have to realize, we only have one aide. One! And they don't get paid well. And my aide is one of my good friends who wanted the job for health insurance by the way, that's how terrible our state is. And she's amazing because she has a customer service background so she does all constituent requests. And we get a lot. Part of it is because we're in a big city and people don't really know where to go and also, to our credit/dismay, we get a lot of requests for help way outside the district because people know we respond. So point being, I don't have an aide who helps me with legislative stuff. Every day in session, to some degree, there's your own bills that you have to present in committee and, if they make it through, you have to present them on the floor. You have your own committee where you have to look at the bills coming in. And as session goes on, you have bills on the floor. And so you're preparing for three things every day, and it's really hard to do, and I don't do it as well as I'd like to, I don't do it as broad as I'd like to... And I still know I'm doing it better than most people because I can, like, consume large amounts of information in a short amount of time. I can stay up till two in the morning doing work and a lot of people can't. They just aren't trained for that. And we do need all these votes and opinions from different areas of the state and different, you know, different careers, different jobs. But as a legislator, there aren't so many of us that can do this stuff in such a high pressure environment.
What committees are you on, Mandie?
I was on... first I was on civil law, which I loved as a lawyer. I was on civil law, which I really liked his lawyer. It's a good committee, we did, you know, some of it tort reform, which they did endlessly, but there was a lot of, like... qualified immunity was in there and we have an interesting days. And then I moved in the last few years to Ways and Means, which is a tax committee and all money for Capital Outlay. So Capital Outlay is when money goes to the physical building. And then I was on natural resources, I liked that for knowing the coastal to litigation suits. And I kind of learned a lot about the sort of fights and issues and barriers between like... it's like commercial and corporations trying to, like, go into areas where, like, the craw fishers and oyster fishers are, like, "No, this is where we live here. This is how we make a living." And it's probably people who voted for Trump who are like, "Wait a minute, you're taking our land?" So anyway, that was interesting. And then judiciary as a lawyer made sense. That committee dealt with a lot of stuff with obviously the judiciary, but it also grabbed all the, like, guns, alcohol bars, breweries. Weird stuff, like Sharon Hewitt's bill that the Star Spangled Banner has to play at events in all state buildings. This is like one of the dumbest bills that was voted on. I was on the Ronald Greene subcommittee too, where we investigated the Louisiana State Police, their actions surrounding his murder. And that turned out to be a lot different than we thought.
First of all, say hi to Max and Beau, who we heard playing in the background. Secondly, thank you for doing that work because all of that sounds, Mandie, extremely like something I would have no interest participating in. So I'm glad that there are wonky people who enjoy doing that stuff so I don't have to. So when I tweeted that you were going to be the next guest on the podcast I mentioned climate and insurance and said we talk about anything else you want to talk about. So are there any topics that you particularly what to bring up?
I am very nervous about rollbacks and criminal justice reform. I think there's possibility there'll be a special session at the beginning to essentially just roll back all of that, and it's very frustrating, and damning and so harmful because we were just making baby steps with some non-violent crimes. And this is baby steps. And now they're gonna roll it back. And I mean, we're still the most incarcerated state and I think still the most incarcerated in the world, maybe after Libya or something. And you're gonna roll it back and just say, like, "We're crime infested." And like, clearly, we're not doing it right because we throw all these people in warehouses and crime stays the same. So I think there'll be some of that. We won't have to do taxes this year, luckily, because it's a every-other-year thing. So that'll be the next year.
The fiscal because... Fiscal session?
Fiscal is every other year so we can't raise our taxes. I think healthcare will remain the same. I would really like to get a lot more money into maternal and infant care since Roe is overturned and we need it... and the governor and the anti-choice people didn't do any of that this year, for whatever reason. I think all those things will be some of the bigger things, and perhaps social stuff will move up the chain, just because so much has been happening there.
Well, and I know you're campaigning so I promised I wouldn't keep you long. The last little grouping of topics I wanted to talk about was the state party, if you're willing, you and I were just both quoted in an article about the Democratic Party and the need for change there. I don't think it's a big secret. I've done a whole series of podcasts to define the Democratic Party and trying to... I mean, I talk to people every day about the need for a better party. And look, I want to underscore that by saying that's not personal and it's has nothing to do with, you know, anything to do with the people that are involved. My entire focus on that is because we... in addition to climate and insurance, this is the other issue that I use the word 'existential' with because I do believe the state doesn't survive, unless we elect more Democrats, which requires a high functioning party that can do the work of electing more Democrats in the state who can represent working people at the state level in the legislature, who can represent women, who can represent LGBTQ plus people and offer more protections and offer more progress. Right? So that's why I talk about this. We were both quoted in an article about it. And I just wanted to know, is there anything you'd like to share, from your perspective, on the state party and what needs to happen there?
Yes. So there's that article. There is an article that was in the paper today about me and this Republican-endorsed candidate in my race. There's a hot seat I was on and I went a little further than we ever have before, I guess because it was on TV. And I mean, I think for the sheriff I used the word 'corrupt.' I think he's incompetent and corrupt and all the above. And I said that on the WDSU Hotseat and we said that in the paper. People don't like that, they don't like people like me, you and others, talking about that, they really don't like elected officials. And you and I are the opposite, we're like, "Y'all have to talk to us about this. We have to fix this. It's not working." And the article today started, to the writer's credit, and said how the Democratic party didn't field candidates at all in what? Like 40 something races? So Republicans started out with a majority. And like, that's absurd. I know it's hard to find people statewide because it's such a big commitment, but legislative races? And they just haven't done it. And meanwhile, they're gone, like, you know, full bore against me, one of their more well known, effective people who people like because they don't like anyone who talks back. And one of them said recently, she's like, "We don't need to air our dirty laundry out." And I'm like, "We don't even have laundry anymore." Like, we set it on fire. And the poor and women and LGBT people who are really being abused? Like, I feel like they don't have anyone really because I feel like there's just... there's some people who sort of stand up for them. But there's not like a statewide group, or strong collection of people who do that. And I'm tired of the big tent stuff. I fully understand people can have different views, but that doesn't mean we can't work more together on basic human rights. And it's just not happening.
Yeah, I want to pull up that article, and I'll link to it in the Episode Notes, because it's 93, Mandie. 93 statewide or multi parish races that didn't have a choice this election cycle. That includes 22 of the 39 State Senate seats, and 59 of the 105 State House races! That's just an enormous number of seats to concede before the first vote is cast.
Over the rest that you said got up to 90.
Yeah, it was either statewide races, because there were two statewide races without challengers, and then the rest were, they said, multi parish races. So not legislative, but other other races that would cover more than one parish.
I got you. Well, there was no attempt, from what I understand, of recruiting. Like, none. Besides like, "Dude, you want to run or something?" Nothing! And it's a few years in a row that they haven't even helped. Like, Luke Mixon ran for Senate last year. I know Gary's in the race too, and some others. And I had asked someone, "Well, what did the state party do to help y'all? nothing? Didn't Katie, recruit him?" He's like, "No, he wants to run on his own." I don't know what he's been doing. You don't have money, you don't recruit candidates, like, literally, what are you doing?
And those are the top two jobs of the state party chair. Now, there's a full executive committee that all should be doing things as well. And I mean, at the end of the day, the biggest thing they should be doing is holding the chair accountable. So that there are 210 seats at the DSCC, all of whom could be doing work as well, for the party. There's so many, and we've talked about this on a previous episode, where I've talked about the party, there's so many people in the state who could be working to build the party. But you know, they have to be activated, they have to be engaged, and they have to be given, you know, basically a roadmap of, "Here's the things that y'all could be doing." And I just don't think any of that exists. So I think there's... it worries me that we don't have a high functioning party, but what that also tells me is there's a huge opportunity to change the party.
Yep. All of what you said is true. I mean, you and I, Davante, others, probably hear more than most people reaching out, "What can I do? What can I go on? I want to be involved. Can you send me towards something?" And it's so frustrating that there's so much energy out there, there's so much interest, they know who to reach out to, at least some of them do, and I don't have anywhere to send them. You know, I tell them, "Vote, power, step up." But you know, those are... everything needs more people. But for some people in particular I've started telling people the DSA because I joined recently and they're helping me out. But there's just not... even, like, the reproductive groups are... they're wonderful, but it's not like something you can go volunteer for often.
Right. Well, you've mentioned Power Coalition, Voters Organize to Educate, Step Up Louisiana and the Democratic Socialists. All are great organizations, but if you are a hardcore Democrat and you want to work on party building, there may not be a place for you. Those may not be the places. There needs to be a place for people who believe in the Democratic Party want to be able to say, you know, "I am a proud Louisiana Democrat!" There's got to be a place for those folks to go. So that's what needs to be built.
And they want to do that. They want to be involved in the party. I get those questions, too, like, "Are we doing voter registration? Or what can I do?" And I'm like, "There's nothing I can point you to" I want to get the party back. There's a lot of people on the ground, you've heard it too, who understand now what the DSCC is, which is basically like, the legislature of the party, sort of, and they know what it is, and they want to get involved and they want to elect people. And they realize that, like, we need to do this, if we're gonna have a functioning party, and elect people that we need to start on the ground, and it'll take us a few years, but I think it's moving in the right direction.
Well, there's certainly a lot of energy out there and hopefully it can get focused and put in the right direction and move things forward. Mandie, like I said, you've already done a previous podcast with me so I've got all kinds of information about you that people can learn if they go back and listen to it. But I will ask you one final question. If you could have any superpower, what would you choose?
Oh, do I have to have it all the time? Or can I turn it on and off.
There's no rules. You can do what you like.
Oh, okay. Sorry. Well... different things to think about. Like, I would like to read people's mind, but I don't want to know it all the time. I just want to know it, like in the capital, maybe. I don't want to read your mind, Lynda, but I would like to read some of my colleagues mind sometimes...
I get it. I get it. Well, maybe you can have, like, a tool belt that has a hat that gives you that.
Yeah, definitely. Or maybe ability to like, need less sleep.
Okay, that's another good way. I can see that coming in handy with your job. Mandie, thank you so much for joining me for a real quick pre-Election Day podcast. I wish you all the best of luck and good luck out there campaigning.
Thank you so much. I appreciate it. Bye Linda!
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