Politics is Kea Sherman’s passion. As an accomplished attorney, wife and mother, Sherman has always thought of running for office. She is just the kind of leader that Emerge America — the twelve-year-old national coalition and premier training ground for Democratic women — is trying to reach.
Emerge America founder Andrea Dew Steele is already in New Orleans for Thursday night’s launch of Emerge Louisiana which will take place at Basin Street Station beginning at 6 p.m. Under the direction an inaugural board of directors and staff executive director Melanie Oubre, Emerge Louisiana will recruit, train and provide a powerful network to help change the face of politics and leadership in Louisiana.
Sherman was attending a seminar hosted by the Louisiana Association for Justice when she first heard about Emerge. The seminar speaker, Lafayette native Lori Andrus, talked about the training she had received through Emerge America. Sherman, who had already graduated from Loyola’s Institute of Politics, knew that having Emerge begin a chapter in Louisiana was an important next step for her and other women interested in public service.
Working with attorney Jennifer Greene and nationally known fundraiser Kate Magsamen (who was former U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu’s Finance Director), the three began spreading the word.
Although women represent at least 50 percent of voters in most cities and states, statistics show they are vastly unrepresented among elected officials. Yet when women do run for office, they frequently win. Emerge gives women cutting edge training tools and a new level of confidence that helps them hone their skills and the inspiration to take the leap. Only 27 states (including Louisiana) have ever had a female governor. Only 19.4 percent of current members of Congress are women. Only 18.8 percent of mayors in cities with more than 30,000 residents are women. Obviously that number will increase after our November 18 election.
Emerge America has enjoyed extensive success with hundreds of women running or having been appointed to office including 335 Emerge alums running in this election cycle.
Emerge Louisiana has just opened its application period for it first class, which will begin in late January, 2018. Comprised of 70 hours of training tailored to Louisiana, it will take place over a 6 month period.
“Personally, I find myself motivated by a desire to normalize women being powerful,” said Sherman. “Our society does not do enough to support smart, hardworking women who want to succeed. My little girl Hayden is 3 and a half now. More than anything, I want her to grow up knowing her value.”
Sherman says she feels very lucky that most of her negative experiences with sexism happened as an adult because she refused to internalize “those damaging messages.”
“We really have to focus building girls up from a young age, so that they can overcome any negative experiences that come their way,” she said. “I want Hayden to feel like she can be anything she wants to be – even President – but we need to see more powerful female role models.”
Studies have shown that women legislators get more bills passed and bring more money home to their districts. “Women have so much to offer,” Sherman explained. “We are less frequently driven by a win-at-all-costs attitude and often focus on different types of legislation.”
Sherman also points to State Rep Helena Moreno who has championed domestic violence legislation. Sherman believes that many male legislators would have shied away from taking the lead on such measures. “We need to see more of the political courage that Helena represents. Electing more female public officials is the solution to the partisan gridlock we are witnessing in D. C. that seems to be making its way into our state politics,” she said.
“Emerge Louisiana is the perfect organization to train and develop new women leaders in Louisiana,” said Magsamen, the fundraiser. “By our active recruitment practices we will create an important pipeline of Democratic women who are prepared to serve,” said LaTanja Silvester, President SEIU Local 21LA.
With a young daughter and a growing law practice, Sherman is still waiting “for the stars to align” before running for office. She is considering a legislative race in 2019. “Public service is a sacrifice,” Sherman concluded, “but one well worth it.”
Danae Columbus, who has had a 30-year career in politics and public relations, offers her opinions on Thursdays. Her career includes stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board and former clients such as District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, City Council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, Foster Campbell, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell. Her current clients include District B City Council candidate Seth Bloom and At-Large City Council candidate Helena Moreno.