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Emily’s List Brings Candidate Training to Miami After 15,000 Women Ponder Runs

Miami New Times: Emily's List Brings Candidate Training to Miami After 15,000 Women Ponder Runs

by Paola de Varona

This past January 21, Luisana Perez, a Venezuelan immigrant living in Miami, traveled to D.C. to march alongside nearly half a million others protesting Donald Trump's misogynistic comments. Later that day, she found herself in a room of like-minded women, all seeking to get more involved in local politics. They were brought together by Emily's List, a nonprofit devoted to drafting liberal women into electoral runs.

"It was unbelievable how many women were interested in taking the next step," Perez says.

Perez is far from alone in eyeing a path toward politics. Last week, Emily's List announced 15,000 women had reached out about running for local office since Trump's election. "We usually have 900 women in a normal cycle," Emily's List spokesperson Vanessa Cardenas says.

A number of them, like Perez, live in Miami and hint at a possible surge of younger female candidates who could remake the electoral landscape in South Florida.

Perez had been involved in student government politics in Venezuela before moving to Miami in 2008. She began volunteering with immigrant groups and the Florida Immigrant Coalition, where she helped campaign for a bill that would help undocumented immigrants obtain driver's licenses. In 2015, Perez began working for then-state Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, who is now a state senator running for U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's seat. Today Perez is Rodriguez's legislative aide.

But after watching Trump's rise to power, she wanted to do more. Emily's List says Perez is far from alone in that sentiment. The group has held five training sessions since January and is planning one in Miami October 28. The group helps potential candidates with the basics of running for office through presentations by elected women and tips on building networks for fundraising.

"Sometimes when you think about running for office, you see it as something really far away, like 'Oh, I can't do it. I can't get to that point,'" Perez says. "But they try to explain it in a way that you feel like you can do it."

Cardenas says the training program has revealed two trends since Trump's election: A large number of women interested in running are younger than 45, and many are women of color.

"The biggest qualification is having a commitment and passion to their community," Cardenas says of potential candidates. "Everything else they can learn."

Many races are ramping up for next January, but Cardenas says it's difficult to pinpoint exactly how many of those 15,000 potential new candidates will actually follow through to run for office.

However, Emily's List has already endorsed two female candidates in Florida: Rep. Gwen Graham, who looks like the frontrunner in the Democratic race for governor, and Stephanie Murphy, who is running for a second term in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Though Perez has no immediate plans to run for office, she says someday she will.

"We have to understand that running is not just for the big seats," she says. "Running also means running for school board member; county, city commission; everything... We can make changes in every level."