By Dr. Sharmin Dharas
How It All Began. In 2002, a Democratic woman who wanted to run for office as district attorney in California approached her friend Andrea Dew Steele, a realtor, who had an extensive network and was well-versed in politics within the state. They sat down together in Andrea’s kitchen, went through her Rolodex and started calling their networks to let them know Andrea’s friend was running for office. That night they put a plan together and started to canvass the district. The friend later went on to win her campaign. Her name? Kamala Harris.
Andrea realized there needed to be a program that trained Democratic women to do this very thing: to run and win! So Andrea founded Emerge California in 2003. She helped cultivate a board of directors, including one person who moved to Arizona and founded Emerge Arizona in 2004. In 2006, a board member from Emerge Arizona, Juliana Koob, moved to and founded Emerge New Mexico. There are now 26 affiliates across the country, in addition to the national affiliate, Emerge America.
Emerge New Mexico is the only premier signature program that trains Democratic women for 70 hours over 6 months. We strategically recruit and identify women of color and women from a diverse spectrum. We mentor them and provide a powerful network and sisterhood. We train them on how to create a successful campaign.
Emerge New Mexico is a very successful and competitive program, as our results prove. Many of our graduates have run for office and won here in New Mexico, and it hasn’t happened by chance. For more than a decade, we have been building a movement that encourages women to run and supports them in campaigning for elected office. It has taken 14 years to get to an election cycle like 2018.
- Elected one of the first Native American women to serve in the United States Congress
- Elected the most female court of appeals in the country (went from four women and six men to eight women and two men)
- Elected New Mexico’s first woman and Latina Land Commissioner
- Elected the only sitting Latina state governor in the U.S.
- Re-elected a woman Secretary of State
- Elected the first woman and Latina to represent southern New Mexico in Congress
My Journey. I started with Emerge in 2017. Before that I was practicing medicine in Arizona and Nevada. I quickly learned modern American medicine wasn’t what my childhood dreams were about. Medicine in America equated to a lot of paperwork and restrictions, unlike the medicine I was used to in East Africa. I was frustrated with the system and my husband saw that and asked, “Why don’t you do something about it?” How could I? All I’d ever known was medicine, all my life. I didn’t know anything about policy. His response was, “You know people and you know how to communicate what they need.”
The day that President Trump spoke about the “Muslim Ban” sealed the deal that I needed to run for office. As a first- generation Muslim-American doctor, I needed to speak up. But how?
I went to an ice cream social as a board member of the Nob Hill Mainstreet organization, where I met Bernalillo County Treasurer and soon-to-be Emerge sister, Nancy Berce. She told me about Emerge, so I went home that day, looked it up, and applied. My questions about how to run for office and what to do were answered by ice cream and Nancy! The following year I started my journey as a cohort program member. I was so impressed by the program that on Day One I told the Executive Director, “Someday I want to do what you do.” Fast-forward: That same year I was offered a job with Emerge Arizona as their Executive Director. I ran that program for 2+ years, until I saw that Emerge New Mexico was in search of a new Executive Director. Albuquerque is where I was born and raised, and I felt it was time to return and raise my daughter where I grew up. So I applied, and here we are, full-circle back to where it all began: with my mission to train as many Dem women as possible, to change the face of politics, and to help women have a seat at the table in important decisions on healthcare, education, and women’s rights.
This year we have 71 incredible Emerge women (aka Emergistas) running for office! Emerge New Mexico is successful and will continue to succeed, thanks to our amazing Board of Directors and our supporters.
Click here to find out more: Emerge New Mexico
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