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.
On this week's episode, I speak with Tamara Agins, Executive Director of Emerge Louisiana. Emerge has been mentioned on several previous episodes, so it seemed like a logical move to dig into their organizing a little deeper. And as you'll see, I believe they play a crucial role in Democratic progress for our state.
Tamara Agins, thank you so much for joining me on Louisiana Lefty today.
Thank you so much for having me on, Lynda. I'm so excited to be here.
Well, I always start the podcast with how I met my guest, and I know we met through our mutual friend Britain. They connected us at least via email during the pandemic, but you reminded me that we'd actually met in person earlier than that through Britain still.
Yeah, so Britain was my colleague when I was working in Mayor LaToya Cantrell's office. I was working as her director of research and policy. And Britain had an extra ticket to a Saints game. And I went with them. And we were seated all the way up at the top. And at some point during the game, Britain was like, "Hey, my friend Lynda is also at this game. Let's go see her." I was like, "Yeah, sure, why not?" And so, we made our way all the way down to your incredible seats. And I'm not sure at that point if I had been that close before. And so, I'm sure I was totally starstruck. And you were having a great time chatting with Britton. And I'm sure we talked, but I'm sure also that I didn't make any kind of impression because I was just so struck by what an incredible experience it was.
Well, you know, Saints games for me, were always like going to work, right? Because you had to be the 12th man there when the defense was up. So, it's very possible that I pay very little attention to anything going on around me besides screaming at the opposing team. But those tickets are unfortunately a casualty of COVID because I did not renew. So, we'll see what happens with Saints games moving forward. But that was one of my beloved activities that I participated in. So anyway, it's lovely that we connected there, nonetheless. What is your political origin story? What got you interested in politics?
So, I've been working in government for almost a decade now. And I guess what got me interested was coming at this from a policy question. Something I was really passionate about studying in school was the environment. And one of the things that I really focused on was managing environmental resources and looking at all these different systems and institutions and really the best way to go about addressing these environmental issues. And coming out of school, I basically decided that I wanted to work in this field. And the way that I felt like I could make the most difference was by working for city governments. That's where you were closest to the problem. And so that's how I started working at the Department of City Planning, where I was a city planner for almost five years working on Brownfield redevelopment and resilience planning and actually doing affordable housing. And so really, it's this idea that there was a problem that I was passionate about that I wanted to fix. And I felt like this was the political position and the path forward to making the most impact on that particular policy problem.
Okay. And then you've switched from that government work to doing more political work. How did that happen?
Yeah, so it was quite the transition. Working in New York at the Department of City Planning, we did research and policy, and it was a lot of demographic work. It was survey work. But there was also a lot of community engagement where we were bringing our plans out to the community and making sure that what we were doing was the most appropriate solution for the community that we were working in. And I think the story of how I ended up in New Orleans, it's cliche, it's corny, but basically, my former boss at the Department of City Planning, I was her intern, moved down here, and I came to visit her. It just so happened to be during Mardi Gras. I swear, it was the only time that I could get off for vacation. And I came down, and I was born and raised in New York. I'm like a New York City brat through and through where you grow up, and you think there's nowhere else I'd rather live. And so, I came down here to visit my former boss, and I just immediately fell in love. And I thought, I could live here, and I came back the next year, and I thought, oh, I should live here. And the following year, I came down, and I was like, what am I doing? Why do I not live there? I cried the entire way home. And I immediately started looking for jobs here. And I ended up working in Mayor Mitch Landrieu's office. I had applied for a couple jobs at the city and actually had a couple job offers and decided that that would be the most interesting one. And boy, I was not wrong. I was still kind of in the research and policy field, but, and I was actually pretty insulated, right? Like it was my job to look at a problem and write a memo about the most appropriate way, according to the research, to address it. And I worked for Ryan Berni, who was at the time Deputy Mayor of External Affairs, and of course, you had him on a podcast recently. And so, I was kind of in his shop doing all the research but in a lot of ways insulated from the politics of it. And I would come into more and more meetings where I would be kind of the impartial voice sharing the research but starting to hear more and more of the political considerations that go into policymaking. And it was just a really interesting way to take that research and policy background and see how it fits into the political conversation. And that was kind of a transition for me into coming into a much more political role like this, where I feel like I still bring a lot of that policy background to it. But it is, in many ways, much more political than the work that I was doing before.
So, you are the, and I'm going to say still new even though you've been there for a while now, but we've been in this pandemic situation, so you may not have been introduced to as many people as normally we would be in an open world. You're the new Executive Director for Emerge Louisiana. And fun fact, the very first podcast I hosted was for the Bayou Brief with Lamar White back in 2017. The topic was women in politics, and the guests were New Orleans Council at Large Helena Moreno and Emerge Co-Founder Andrea Dew Steele. She had come to Louisiana for the Emerge Louisiana launch. And we sat down for a conversation before the event. And it was actually a pretty good conversation, which I'll link to in the podcast notes for anyone interested, but you've been now the Executive Director for Emerge Louisiana for how long?
So, I started towards the end of last year. So definitely coming on during COVID has been rough. I'm really excited to get out and meet everyone across the state when I can. Yeah, it's definitely a rough time to be starting a new gig like this.
Well, I definitely wanted to speak with you because your organization has been named-checked on Louisiana Lefty over several podcasts now, partially because I've hosted two Emerge graduates on previous episodes. But it's also been mentioned because you've become known as one of the go-to places for women who want to run for office in our state to get trained.
Yeah. So, Emerge Louisiana was founded in 2017, and we're an affiliate of a national network called Emerge America. You mentioned you had done a podcast with Andrea Dew Steele. She was the former president of the organization. And so, Emerge America's mission and our mission here in Louisiana, is to increase the number of Democratic women in public office through recruitment, training, and providing a powerful network. So, we inspire women to run, and we hone their skills to win. And Emerge America was actually founded around 2002. And it was founded around the story of a young woman running for district attorney. And she was a first-time candidate. And she asked her friends for help, and some of them became really involved in her campaign. And she ended up winning, but it was really hard. It was hard to raise money. It was hard to find the right campaign staff, and all of her friends that stepped up and served on her kitchen cabinet decided that it really shouldn't be so hard for a first-time candidate to run for office. So, they worked together to found what would eventually become this nationwide organization to recruit and train Democratic women to run for office. And as Emerge grew and expanded across the U.S., that first-time candidate that we were founded around ran for higher office. She became attorney general and then a U.S. senator. And I think you know where I'm going with this, but today she's serving as the Vice President of the United States. And that's really our story here. And since then, we've trained over 4000 women to run in 45 states and territories. We have alumns serving at all levels of government: mayors, sheriffs, legislators, lieutenant governors, congresswomen. And this year, we actually reached a huge milestone with our first alumna ever confirmed as a cabinet secretary. So, congratulations to Emerge New Mexico alumna Deb Hollins. But really, there are a lot of incredible organizations that do this kind of work, who we partner with to do trainings across the country and across Louisiana, but what sets us apart from the Run for Somethings, From Higher Heights, from Emily's List is that we're a state-based organization. We recruit and train Democratic women in Louisiana to run for office. And we're building a bench, and a really deep bench, to run for all of these positions from local Democratic Party to school board, to mayor, to state legislator, to congress, and hopefully president one day.
Well, it's a powerful story that Kamala Harris was the beginning of Emerge with her friends, a group of women in California, and that it's grown into this powerful network of Democratic women across the country. And what I love about all that story you just told is you just answered like the next four questions I have and literally in order so that was very impressive. I did not share the questions with you in advance. That was very impressive. Unlike Emily's List, there's no litmus test to be an Emerge candidate. Is that correct?
That is correct. And I think that's something that speaks to the nature of an organization like Emerge, right? And so that goes back to the idea of what really sets us apart from some of these other incredible organizations that we do work with is that we are a state-based organization, right? So, what works in Georgia or Virginia or California or New York isn't necessarily going to work here. And one of the decisions that was made pretty early on at Emerge America was that in order to be successful and competitive when expanding in the south, which actually happened after the 2016 election, and a lot of women were kind of galvanized by Trump, so they decided that they were going to found Emerge chapters. And so that happened here in 2017. We had a group of incredible women found Emerge Louisiana. But the decision was made at the national level that in order to be able to operate successfully in southern states, our Emerge sisters like Emerge Arkansas, Emerge Texas, which is our newest affiliate, Emerge Alabama, Emerge South Carolina, Emerge Tennessee, we wouldn't have a litmus test. And so, we accept any woman who identifies as a Democrat. We actually accept anyone who identifies as a woman and as a Democrat.
Well, I think that's really important, what you're talking about the local level, because one of the things I talk about all the time is that your messaging, your candidate, anything you're doing that's going towards trying to flip a seat or making sure that a seat stays Democratic has to be focused on the district at the local level. And a really easy, obvious example that I use all the time is that you can't run AOC in Monroe, Louisiana. That's not going to work. That's not the person for that district. So, what you're doing and the way you've set up your organization is designed to make it easier for you to find the right candidates for those districts in each state and each region who can be successful running for that office. I think that's really important.
Absolutely. And that's exactly the work that we're doing right now in terms of recruitment, right? We're looking at all the races that are coming up, and we're figuring out who's working in their community, who's going to make that change, who's already doing that work and figuring out how to get them into our program, how to train them, and how to really build that bench so that when the time is right for them to run for office, they have the skills and the training that they need to make a successful, competitive run. And I think one of the other things that we really believe here at Emerge Louisiana is that the people who are closest to the problem are best equipped to solve it. And something that an Emerge Virginia alum has said a whole bunch, this is a woman who's currently running for governor in Virginia, and she could be the first Black woman ever elected governor in the United States, is that a candidate shouldn't have to empathize with a problem because they should understand it. And that's really the kind of candidate that we're seeking to empower here at Emerge Louisiana.
I love that. And that's just a shift entirely in how we would think about candidates, and I would love for us to head in that direction. How many Emerge classes have come out of Louisiana now?
So, we've had three classes. As I mentioned, we were founded in 2017. And we actually graduated two classes in 2018 and one class in 2019. And so just backing up, we offer three trainings here at Emerge Louisiana. The first is a really basic training. It's super accessible, it's quick, it's an hour long, and we call it a Step Forward. And it's designed for candidates, or it's designed for anyone, really, anyone who's interested, who's maybe just starting to think about running for office or never thought about running for office before. And it's designed to kind of plug these folks into the system and get a sense of how to turn their passion into a political position. So that's our Step Foward training. We actually did a couple of them last week that were focused on specific races. One was for positions around the energy sector. And so here in Louisiana, that's the Public Service Commission but also, interestingly enough, the New Orleans City Council because they are actually the regulators of Entergy. The other training we did last week was actually focused around Mother's Day. We had a bunch of mothers, who are currently in office or who are running for office, share their experiences about what that's like. So those are our Step Forward trainings. We're holding a couple in the next few months. So, if you're interested, please sign up for our emails. I'll be blasting out those dates and times. I'm really excited for one that we're going to be doing with Run For Something in mid-June. But the other two trainings are kind of like really our bread and butter. We have a Boot Camp, which is designed specifically for active candidates. And it's really just to turbocharge your campaign. And then we have our Signature Training Program, which is six months long, 70 plus hours of training. It includes campaign strategy, fundraising, public speaking and communications, media and messaging, field endorsements, and we're going to be doing a Signature Training in 2022. We're recruiting specifically for women who are running for the legislature and for statewide office. We're also doing a Boot Camp this summer, which I'm really excited for. It's geared towards the local municipal elections here this fall in New Orleans but also looking ahead to 2022 for the congressional races that are coming up. Every single member of our congressional delegation who voted to overturn the November 3rd presidential election results, they're going to be up for reelection next year. And we need to have a strong Democratic candidate running against every single one of them. So, we're recruiting right now for both of those training sessions and talking to some really inspiring potential candidates that you're going to see over the next couple years here in Louisiana.
Well, very good. And I know I've actually done a field training for you at one of the boot camps you had in Baton Rouge. It must have been in 2018. Were your efforts hampered significantly by COVID? Were you just not able to run some of your programs because of that?
So, I came on late last year, and we are doing a training this summer, which I'm really excited for. So, I do think we will be able to have a training my first year, which I'm really excited for because it does fill this specific need of recruiting candidates for these races. And again, that's New Orleans municipal elections this fall and the congressional races in 2022, but there are also a ton of down-ballot races happening across the entire state in 2022. So, the same races that we have here in New Orleans this fall, so that's mayor, city council, sheriff, clerk of court, coroner, assessor, that's just a sneak peek for everything that's going to come up in 2022. So, I'm really excited for that training. It's a little bit different because everything that we're doing this year is virtual. So that does make it a little bit harder. But in another way, it's actually a great opportunity for us to take advantage of some things that we weren't really able to in the past. For instance, this particular training that we're going to be doing in August is actually something that we're doing in conjunction with all of our other southern sister states. So, I'm really excited because all of our Emerge Louisiana candidates are going to go through this training with other candidates across the south from Arkansas, from Alabama, from Mississippi, from Florida. And so, what's taken away is that camaraderie of just a Louisiana based class, but what's added is this element of other networks and people and experiences to connect with and to learn from. So, I'm really excited about that. And I guess the last thing I would add to that is for our Step Forward trainings, it's actually been a lot easier to do a whole lot more of them during COVID because everything's virtual. And so, like I said, we did two of them last week. We did one the week before with an incredible woman named Mary Morrison, who actually serves on our kitchen cabinet here in Emerge Louisiana. She is the first African American who was elected to the Lafayette Parish School Board. She's the only Democratic woman serving in that role. And she's one of just a handful of Democratic women serving in the entire parish. And so, we were able to do a great Step Forward with her that a lot of women, a lot of young women and young mothers who are really interested in running for school board seats came to. So, we're going to have a lot more opportunities like that to be able to kind of plug in and connect people to our trainings and our network here.
It's an elegant solution to having to organize virtually to coordinate with EDs across the south. Do you have a close network with the other EDs? In Emerge?
Absolutely. And I think, again, this is one of the things that really sets Emerge apart from some of these other organizations is that we're 100% state-based here in Louisiana, but we do have access to this broader network of both candidates and campaign staff and even donors across the country. And it was definitely difficult for me to come on during the pandemic. I really appreciate working for an organization that is essentially led by women because I feel like, in a lot of ways, they really set me up for success. There are a couple other executive directors that came on right around the beginning of the pandemic, and they set up a regular call for me with these women that they call the pandemic support group. And so, I found real mentors in Emerge Arkansas and Emerge Tennessee and Emerge Alabama. And when the Executive Director for Emerge Texas came on just a couple months ago, I really felt like I was able to support her in some ways because I had just gone through the experience myself. And so, it's really great. And working in government, working in politics, it's kind of non-stop. It's oftentimes a very unhealthy environment. And I think working for this organization has really been a shift in how I feel about my employers and work-life balance and definitely something that I'm going to be bringing to our training here at Emerge Louisiana is that competing is tough. It's really hard. And one of the most important things that you can do is really make a commitment to take care of yourself during that. And so that's something that I'm going to be incorporating into all of our trainings moving forward and also in the candidate calls and the candidate support that we do while our alumns are running for office.
That's so important. That's really important. And something not enough of us pay attention to is the self-care and work-life balance.
And if you don't mind my asking Lynda, what do you do for self-care? What are the things that you do to take care of yourself?
Well, a number of things. If you follow me on any of my social media, you've no doubt seen my three little rescue dogs, who are my constant companions and my clowns. And so, I spend a lot of good time with the dogs. I do a lot of gardening, which is really good for me as an Aquarius. Having my hands in the dirt every now and then is very grounding for me. And I'm not doing it this year for a couple of different reasons, but I have spent the last several years raising monarch butterflies, which is a really nice meditative practice for me. And I do meditate also, by the way, but that's been relatively new to my repertoire. I started meditating last year. And that's been, I think, really important. That has helped me through 2020 and the beginning of 2021 a lot.
Wow. So definitely for another time, but I would love to talk to you about continuing to do organizing trainings with Emerge Louisiana but also meditation and mindfulness and more importantly, monarch butterfly raising. That's so cool.
I mean, it's important. In particular, if you're interested in the environment, there's a whole lot that goes into that. So, and there are different schools of thought, of course, so you're right. That is another podcast and another conversation. But look, I do know that a lot of these groups are starting to offer self-care and meditation and yoga as practices because we do burn out not just on campaigns, but in progressive organizing, Democratic organizing in general, we just tend to work work work because the work is never done. And it is very easy for us to lose sight of that need to take care of ourselves in our daily lives. And it does cause us to burn out. And that's not healthy for the movement or the mission at all.
Absolutely. And I think that's one of the reasons that it's so important to be thinking about it now is returning to this idea of a bench and that this work takes time. And so, this is an investment that we have to make now in order to be successful both next year but also five years from now and 10 years from now. And I think one of the other things that I'm really excited about in terms of bringing this into the work is that at Emerge, we have these three things: we recruit, we train, and we connect. And so, this idea of bringing self-care and self-love is also about connecting with one another in our community. And so, the people who are sharing these skills and this knowledge are alums or they're people who are in the program right now, and it's something that we're all sharing with each other.
As executive director, what takes up the biggest chunk of time on your schedule?
That's a great question, and it definitely changes based on the time of year. So obviously, when we're in the middle of a training, that's what will take up most of my time. So, in August, when we're holding the boot camp, that's what I'll be doing all the time. Right now, I would say it's split between a couple of things. And one of those is recruitment, right? I need to make sure that we're out there finding the right people to be in this boot camp who will then run in the races this fall and next year. And the other thing is fundraising, right? That is a lot of the work that I have to do. And it can be fun, it can be tiresome, but it's definitely something that I enjoy, actually.
What is your favorite part of the job so far?
I would say my favorite part of the job are these conversations that I get to have with women who are already thinking about running for office, some of them or some who are just starting to kind of explore and toy with the idea, but it's that initial conversation where you're taking that passion and making the connection that this is something that could be a political office. It's something that you could do, and there's so many different reactions to it that I love. And I think oftentimes, it's one of excitement, sometimes it's confidence, and other times it's nervousness that people are like, "Oh, wait, wow, this is really happening. Like I could do this. This could be something." And they're all great reactions. And I love having those conversations with people. And I do have office hours every week for anyone who is just thinking about this. If they want to have a conversation, I'm available for it. And it is really one of my favorite parts of the job.
So how do you find women to recruit?
So, there are lots of different ways, right? And because of my background in policy and research, that's where I start. I need to know, what are the races that are coming up? And I need to know: what do those districts look like, who's in office right now, who's run in the past? And then we go into some of our programming. So that's the Step Forwards. It's publicizing our Step Forwards. It's getting people to show up. And then there's the relational organizing, right? Getting to know these communities and who's doing the work now and partnering with organizations and organizers across the entire state to have this conversation continually. What's happening today in the legislature? What happened last week on the library board? What are people upset about? What's motivating voters? Who are the people that you trust in your community doing this work right now? And then having that incredible one-on-one conversation with the person who's been recommended to me saying, "Hey, have you ever thought about this? Maybe you should run for office." And they say that you have to ask a woman seven times before she runs for office. And so, it's being just one of those asks in that process.
Are there parts of the state that you're particularly interested in growing a stronger network?
Absolutely. And that is something that I'm working towards now is that political targeting and strategic recruitment? And we're really building out our infrastructure here and building out our kitchen cabinet. So, I have my own personal goals, but really, so much of this job is listening and understanding what's going on across the state. So, if anyone has any ideas wherever they are about building the bench, growing the party, please don't hesitate to reach out. I want to hear from you. I think there are definitely some places that we need to have more of a presence in. And I think they're the ones that everyone talks about, for the most part, Jefferson Parish, St. Bernard, St. James, but there's so many other places, and it's so specific to the local context.
Okay, is fundraising the hardest thing that you train women on?
I don't know. I feel like you'd have to ask them. I'd love to go back and check-in with Representative Landry or Robin about this. I think for some people, fundraising comes really naturally. Probably, for the most part, that is the thing that sticks out the most is that it's a really difficult thing to do to ask people for money. And I think one the things that we're best at here at Emerge is giving you the tools and the confidence that you need to be able to do that successfully. And so much of it is about practice. And we make sure that everyone who comes through our programming has that practice and is comfortable with that skill. But I think every candidate is different. Everyone brings something different to their candidacy. So, there are all kinds of things that we've seen people both really struggle with but also excel at.
And do you think this sisterhood is the greatest benefit they get from joining a cohort?
I think for some people, certainly, yes. I think particularly while running for office, I hear that that's incredibly helpful. And so, we hold weekly candidate calls during election seasons for people to call in and just talk through the things that are going on in their races and get feedback from other people who are running, from experts, but I think also the skills and the training is something that is so valuable and can't be left off the table. And even just backing up for a sec, going back to the question you had about recruitment, one of the things that I'm really interested in recruiting for our 2022 Signature Training Program is a cohort of women who are going to be running in the 2023 legislative and statewide races. So obviously, that's not going to be the whole class. And some of our Signature Training Program is specifically designed for people who haven't yet decided what they're running for, but because we do have those elections coming up, I'm specifically recruiting for those races and really excited for all of these candidates to go through the training together so that when they're running, they will have each other to lean on, and they can even campaign together if they want to. And I think one of the other things I'm really excited about that particular program is that when we are able to do our classes in person again, the Signature Training, because it's spread out over the course of six months, it's basically one intensive weekend of the month, it's spread out across the entire state. So, one weekend it will be in New Orleans. The following month, it will be in Baton Rouge. Then it will be in Shreveport. So on and so forth. But for the candidates who are running for statewide office, it's also a great way to start building relationships and plugging in and connecting with people on the ground for those statewide races. One of the things I'm really hoping to do, and this is certainly more aspirational, but I was really inspired by the idea of the flip the bench candidates here in New Orleans last fall. And all of our statewide positions are coming up. We don't have a single woman serving in any of those positions. And I want to recruit a Democratic woman to run for every single one of them and have a full slate of women running for all of these positions. And they're the ones that you think about because they're in the news like the secretary of state or the attorney general. But there are some really important but not sexy positions like commissioner of agriculture or commissioner of insurance. So really looking for the right people to run for those races, and they'll all go through the program together. They'll start building relationships across the state so that they, if they want to, can run with each other and support each other.
Please do! That is an exciting proposition. I love that idea. I could get very enthusiastic about that. And we should never have a single race that we don't have a Democrat and of course, I'd love for it to be a Democratic woman, but that we don't have a Democrat running in. And people ask me all the time, "Why did that seat go unchallenged?" Sometimes it's because you can't find a viable candidate who's willing to put their life on hold and do the fundraising needed and put their family on the line to run for that office. But also there are times when I've certainly heard there are other political considerations where folks might be willing to step up, but they're asked not to run because there are other political things going on and other races, and I can understand that, but I am of the mind that we should always have a Democrat running for every seat, period. So, I love your idea.
Absolutely. And we, of course, 100% agree about that and even running in races that you know that you can't win is important because having those conversations about those ideas is really important. And it changes people's minds. And flipping a district, flipping a state, it all takes time. And that's part of that strategy is that you can't have seats go unopposed. And they'll just stay red forever then.
That's right. And those down-ballot races help the up-ballot races. It helps with that notion of changing the hearts and minds of Republicans who look at Democrats as demons. If we're not speaking to them, we're leaving that open for Fox News and OAN and Newsmax to come in and spread whatever propaganda they're spreading about Democrats that is patently untrue. And you mentioned Robin, and you're talking about Robin Parrott, we did speak about some of this stuff because she ran in a very red district in 2019. And I think some of the conversation we're having now was really echoed in that conversation. Does the Emerge curriculum address the general misogyny that candidates can expect to experience in campaign culture and the press?
Yes, and I think that that's something, again, that's really culturally and geographically specific. And so, the kinds of issues that you'll face in those kinds of races in New York or California is going to be something completely different than Louisiana. But even within Louisiana, and going back to your conversation with Robin, what she faced was something completely different than what Representative Landry faced in her district race here in New Orleans. So, yes, that is definitely something that we cover and something that I'm really excited to go back and talk to all of our alums about, about their experiences. They'll come back and share with our new classes what it looked like in all of those instances, what they learned on the campaign trail, and what you can do moving forward to kind of shift all of that so that eventually, one day, hopefully, we won't have to have these kinds of conversations.
Do most of the women who go through the Emerge system stay in close contact with you?
So that's another great question. It's something that I'm really excited about as a new executive director to build relationships with my cohorts that graduate, right? So, of all of the incredible 70 plus women who have gone through the training program, only a handful of them have done that during my time here at Emerge. So, I've stayed in close contact with them. And I'm definitely working to build the relationships with the women that I don't know who have gone through the program and really excited to be able to finally drive across the state and have these conversations face-to-face, go out to bars, eat some crawfish, really get to know people.
And have a good number of the women who've graduated, have they actually run for office?
Absolutely. So 70 plus alums. Over half of them have run for office, and 29 are currently serving in office right now. I'm really excited this fall we already have two candidates on the ballot here in New Orleans. We have Clerk of Civil District Court Chelsea Richard Napoleon, who is running for re-election, and Susan Hudson, who will be running for Sheriff.
Well, that's really good information. Have you had any candidates run from Emerge who have flipped any seats from Republican to Democrat yet? I know that's the big goal. But I know you're also a young organization. So while I don't expect that to be a yes answer, I did want to ask the question.
So, just like you said, not yet, but we will. And looking to recruit, like I said, candidates for our Signature Training Program in 2022. It's definitely a little bit more complicated because of the redistricting process but doing all of the work that we can right now before those districts are drawn to figure out what are those strategic places that we can and should be recruiting in either to at least just have a presence or to potentially be able to flip. And there was a really interesting race earlier this year: House District 82 right outside of New Orleans. This is a historically red district. It was Steve Scalise's old district when he was in the legislature, which means that it was also David Duke's district when he was in the legislature. But they voted for John Bel [Edwards] by four points in 2019. Those are the kinds of places that we have a real shot at flipping. And so, we really need to keep the pressure on, find that right candidate who can really inspire and galvanize voters there to show up and vote.
Tell me all the places where if folks want to know more, if they want to apply themselves, or if they want to recommend an applicant for Emerge, how did they get in touch with you? How did they find you? All the places.
Great question. So first, if you haven't already, sign up for our emails at bit.ly/emergeLA, and LA is capitalized there and nothing else. You can also just go onto our website and put in your email address and sign up that way. We have a boot camp coming up in August. The deadline to apply will be in July. And you can find the application on our website. But we also have another handy little bit.ly. And this one is bit.lyapplyLA, and LA is in all caps. Then we have another form online that, like you said, you can recommend a woman to us, and this one is bit.ly/runTOWIN. And the to and the win are in all caps. And I'll share this all with you, Lynda so that you can put it in the podcast notes. Anyone can shoot me an email to schedule some time to have a conversation. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I will most assuredly put all of the links in our podcast notes, so people don't have to memorize that, or if they're driving and they can't write it down, they'll be able to find it in the podcast notes. Oh, and social media. I wanted to ask you, you have obviously, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, is that all emergeLA, is that the @emergeLA for all of those?
It's all @emergelouisiana, all spelled out.
Okay. And again, I'll make sure we'll link to those. All right, so we're at the lightning round. Last three questions I want to ask you: Tamara, what do you think are the biggest obstacles for Democrats in our state right now?
I think, and I know this is jumping ahead here but bear with me, I think our biggest obstacle is also our biggest opportunity and that's building a bench of qualified, compelling candidates and really getting those people who are closest to the problem closer to being able to solve it.
I think that's smart. So okay, so you've answered the what our biggest opportunity question is at the same time unless you think there's another opportunity we should be looking at?
No, I think it's really building out that bench, right? We need a strong pipeline of Democratic women who are well-positioned and ready and able to run for these races when they become available because it's always election season here in Louisiana. We have elections at the drop of a dime. We're about to have another special election here in New Orleans. There's a good chance we'll have another one right after that. And we need to be ready. And that's why we need to have that bench, right? And they need to be prepared across the entire state for those opportunities that happen so quickly. And that's the infrastructure that we're building out here. And it takes time. And we're not doing it alone, but we need your help. And whether that's you running for office, stepping up, taking the time, joining the fight, or if it's volunteering on a campaign or even joining our kitchen cabinet here in Emerge, right? We do all kinds of things. We're looking for people who will help us with strategy with organizing and operations. We're here waiting for you. We're all in this together. We need to elect more Democratic women and change the face of politics here in Louisiana.
Yeah, because while we do okay in the cities with getting women elected, look at the legislature. It is just not enough representation and that's problematic. And that's just the women part. We also just don't have enough Democrats elected. So yes, we need to move past the point where all of a sudden, there's an election, and we're looking at qualifying, and we're scrambling to figure out who we can get to plug into different roles and different races that suddenly we're facing no Democrat running in a race. So, Emerge has a really important role to play there in rectifying some of that situation. So, thank you for stepping up to help with that. All right, last question: who is your favorite superhero?
I've been wondering how you would feel about my answer to this. And I don't know if it's allowed, either. But I really enjoyed reading Watchmen when I was a kid. And during the pandemic, we watched the HBO series, and I was just so struck by that mini-series. I thought it was breathtaking. I thought it was so well done. And it just addressed these complexity of issues in such a nuanced way. And the character that I was most obsessed with was Angela Abar, Sister Night. And so, I know it's not the traditional answer, but it's the one that really resonated.
There are no rules to who is your favorite superhero. So that's perfectly allowed. I think that's a great answer. As I repeatedly say, my superheroes are organizers. So, I think that is a legitimate response. Tamara, thank you so much for joining me on Louisiana Lefty. I can't wait till we can connect again in person since we can start doing that now, finally. And I want to help you in your mission in every way I can because I think it is crucial to the health of our state. So, thank you for what you're doing.
Thank you so much, Lynda. And you have already done so much for this organization. We would not be here without you. And I'm so excited to continue to work with you moving forward. Thank you so much for having me on. I've really enjoyed this. I love your show. And I can't wait to hear more episodes.
Thank you for listening to Louisiana Lefty. Please subscribe to our podcast and then follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Thanks to Ben Collinsworth for producing Louisiana Lefty, Jennifer Pack of Black Cat Studios for our Super Lefty artwork, and Thousand $ Car for allowing us to use their Swamp Pop classic "Security Guard" as our Louisiana Lefty theme song.