(Photo from: Emerge Louisiana’s Facebook)
Editor’s Note: The following series “Bold Females in the Big Easy” is a week-long series curated by Piper Stevens as part of the Digital Research Internship Program in partnership with ViaNolaVie. The DRI Program is a Newcomb Institute technology initiative for undergraduate students combining technology skillsets, feminist leadership, and the digital humanities.
In celebration of International Woman’s Day, this curation takes a moment to reflect on the powerful women and women-centered movements strengthening our New Orleans community. Check out what Emerge Louisiana is doing to promote women’s participation in political elections and get more female leaders in government positions. This was originally published on March 8, 2018.
Victoria Coy had been thinking of running for office for twelve years. Navigating the levers of government had not been a stumbling block – as founder and executive director of the Louisiana Violence Reduction Coalition and the national director of States United to Prevent Gun Violence, she’d spent years working with legislators for common sense gun reform.
Still, to actually do it, to actually run – it just seemed “impossible and implausible,” says Coy. “I’m not from wealth. I’m not from a family that’s been here for generations, and those seemed to be the barriers to entry.”
But thanks to a national program that has now reached into Louisiana, the idea of becoming a candidate is now very real.
Coy is one of about two-dozen women who make up Emerge Louisiana’s inaugural class. Emerge seeks to get more women running for office through support and training on some very practical campaign issues, “things like how to give a speech, how to fundraise, how to manage your campaign staff,” Coy says. (While Emerge does require that its candidates be affiliated with the Democratic Party, “you can be on any side of the major issues, there’s no purity test,” she says.)
The class has had the first two of six training sessions – the first in how to give a speech and the second in fundraising. The remaining four will be held once a month in different parts of the state, Coy says. “After each training we have a dinner session or a happy hour session where community members can come in and meet us and we can do a little fundraising and talk about Emerge.”
Coy says she’s particularly looking forward to learning more about how to organize her campaign team. “I have been involved in a few campaigns now and I know that when you’re in the thick of it, it can be death by a thousand cuts. And you have a bunch of consultants, and they’re all getting paid by the week, so I really am looking forward to learning how to sort out my team – who I actually need, what do I actually need them to be doing, and how do I break through the clutter that I have seen derail candidates that I’ve worked with in the past.
“And I think this is especially difficult for women, again, because, ‘I don’t want to be mean to anybody,’” Coy adds, speaking of the internal struggles many women face. “’I don’t want to tell anyone ‘no’, I don’t want to fire people’, but on a campaign, it’s sink or swim and you don’t have time to talk it out, and so I’m looking forward to learning that skill with Emerge.”
Coy says she’s also looking forward to seeing what her inaugural classmates will do once in office (Emerge has a 75% national success rate in getting its candidates elected). “I think that it’s so true that women run to do something and a lot of times men run to be someone. And so many women in this program have projects already picked out…That gives me a lot of hope for these offices in the future, that once Emerge helps them to get elected, they will be able to accomplish really tangible results for the people that they’re servicing and not just fill a seat just to put it on a resume and have the feather in their cap.”
So for any women out there who are thinking of running for office, “there’s more support than you think,” Coy says. “Now that I’ve chosen to go for it, I’ve been so pleased with the support that I’m getting from my own community and even from communities that might not agree with my stance on one position or another, they’re still supportive of me running and of getting new blood into the Louisiana system and into the Louisiana leadership.”
“And don’t keep it a secret,” Coy adds. “Let people know, talk about it openly, talk about the fact that you want to lead, and do it. Go ahead and lead.”
For more information, visit the Emerge Louisiana Facebook page.