Dec 152016
 
Danae Columbus

Danae Columbus

This week’s announcement by State Rep. Helena Moreno that she is launching the new nonprofit, bipartisan Ignite Advocacy Network (igniteforchange.org) is the latest example of women tapping into the national discontent over a lack of equal opportunities and channeling those feelings into action. The election of Donald Trump is also inspiring liberal and conservative women around the country to consider a career in government.

Under Moreno’s direction, Ignite will serve as the umbrella for other interested individuals and non-profits to advocate for the passage of trailblazing legislation in such areas as wages, education, domestic violence and women’s health. Louisiana traditionally receives extremely low ratings on almost every issue affecting women. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research gave Louisiana an “F” for women’s health and well-being. Shrinking the gender pay gap should be high up on Ignite’s first legislative agenda.

Louisiana already has one of America’s most restrictive abortion laws. Last week, the Ohio Legislature passed “the toughest piece of abortion legislation in the country,” according to the New York Times. Meanwhile, anti-abortion leaders nationally believe the Trump-appointed judges could eventually overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark abortion decision. Trump’s win was also seen as a “devastating loss” for gay and transgender people.

Conservative Christians are excited that the pro-life movement is again gaining momentum. They also see Trump’s victory as a clarion call for other conservative causes, according to the Wall Street Journal.

While the dreams of many female Clinton supporters were crushed by her defeat, millions of white women voted for Trump because they believe he speaks for them and their long-term financial needs. It’s still the economy, stupid! The Democratic Party will have to place economic issues first in order to rebuild.

The easiest way to pass the kind of legislation Moreno’s Ignite will be lobbying for is by electing more women to office. At the national level, only 19 percent of Congress members are female, while over half of the U.S.’s population is female. There are only five female governors.

Though women make up the majority of Louisiana residents, women have always been woefully under-represented in the Louisiana Legislature as well. Today only 11 percent of Louisiana’s legislators are women, according to the Louisiana Legislative Women’s Caucus Foundation. Louisiana women comprise approximately 25 percent of elected officials in the state. Baton Rouge has just elected Sharon Weston Broome as its first female chief executive and New Orleans City Councilmember LaToya Cantrell has announced her candidacy for Mayor of New Orleans.

Before women can seek elected office, they have to get ready to run. Loyola University offers the Institute of Politics, under the direction of Tommy Screen, as a training ground for men and women. Several universities around the country including Rutgers and Iowa State offer election training targeted specifically to women. With affiliates in eighteen states, Rutgers’ program features the fundamentals of running a campaign – from fundraising to media training to mobilizing voters.

Women candidates across metro New Orleans are already lining up for the spring races and will be victorious in most.

With the election of John Kennedy to the U.S. Senate, conservative Kenner state Rep. Julie Stokes has thrown her name in the hat for State Treasurer. In Orleans Parish, three judgeships will be up for grabs on that same March 25 ballot. They include two open seats on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (one previously held by the Judge Dennis Bagneris who is retiring and the other by Judge Paul Bonin who was elected last week to Criminal Court) and the Civil District Court Division B seat currently held by Regina Bartholomew-Woods who was elected to the Court of Appeal. Qualifying will take place in January.

Also in the fall of 2017, elections will be held for Mayor, City Council and other positions.

Women govern differently than men in substance and style, according to the New York Times. Congresswomen tend to be “more collaborative and bipartisan”. While female legislators push for far more policies meant to support women and children, gender bias often causes their bills to fail.

Yet women elected officials also have advantages in governing because of their superior ability to build coalitions and reach consensus, often behind the scenes.

Women have led over 70 nations, starting with Sri Lanka more than 50 years ago and today are at the helm of Europe’s top two democracies – Germany and England. Some of the world’s earliest women leaders followed in the footsteps of their husbands or fathers. Others were tapped as temporary leaders or chosen via parliamentary deal-making.

The outcome of the recent presidential election inspired women young and old to seek elected office. Surely, many of them will run and win.

Danae Columbus has had a 30-year career in public relations, including stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board. Among the recent candidates who have been represented by her public relations firm are Foster Campbell, Regina Bartholomew, City Council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.

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