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The Tammy Savoie Interview

Sister District sat down with candidate Tammy Savoie to find out more about her platform and why she’s running for office.

What are some of the key issues you feel strongly about?

Education:

Securing and maintaining adequate funding for public education is critical to the growth of the school system, the foundation upon which the growth of the entire state rests. Teachers must have salaries that reflect the importance of the work they do (and assurance of a commensurate pension upon retirement). They must have up-to-date classroom supplies, resources, and equipment.  Students should be ensured a safe, healthy, comfortable learning environment. And it is crucial that they have ready and full access to quality technology, developmental tools, and support systems—as well as a rich and varied range of coursework that prepares them for college, work, and adult life.

We must help children stay out of prison by removing the police from our schools and providing an equal education to all. When people are educated about the science around climate change, they make better environmental decisions and demand better accountability for industries that pollute.

A good education is the backbone of a successful society, bringing good jobs to the state, creating a more informed populace, saving our environment, and lifting people out of poverty. Education opens a whole new world with new possibilities and informs so much of what we do as individuals. We owe it to our children to provide them with a solid education.

Labor, the Pay Gap, and the Minimum Wage:

Women in Louisiana have the highest pay gap between men and women in the country: 69 cents for every dollar a man makes for similar work, and it is even worse for women of color. The minimum wage is stuck at $7.25. About two-thirds of minimum wage earners are women – which contributes to the gender wage gap, and to Louisiana having among the highest poverty rates for women and children in the nation.

We should raise the minimum wage to a livable wage and allow local control of labor standards, including setting the minimum wage and paid leave. We should eliminate pay secrecy. This is a key issue for me because it’s not an issue that is and of itself – it informs the daily life of every single citizen. It is largely the reason 28% of our children are living in poverty, why generations of the same families are subjected to living in poverty, why so many Louisianians are food and housing unstable, and why so many of us can’t afford healthcare. This poverty leads to chronic stress. These chronic stressors impair childhood development and affect health into adulthood, contributing to the next generation of children growing up in ongoing poverty. It’s a vicious cycle.

By making these small but vital changes we can fundamentally lift up our citizens and work towards a better future. I truly believe that we should all work hard to the best of our abilities and that if we do so, we should be able to afford a decent standard of life.

What first inspired you to become politically active?

I retired from the Air Force in 2016 and returned home to New Orleans where I was very much looking forward to my retirement. That was short-lived! I realized we need real change for our state. I was dismayed that Louisiana was consistently ranked #50 out of 50 states in nearly all quality of life indices. I knew Louisiana could do better. I knew to survive as a state, we would need to do better.

I chose to run for office because I could not very well look at the state of my state and not take action. My 38+ years in the military has trained me to keep going when things get tough. As so many others have done, I thought “why not me?” I am committed to making the changes I know my state needs and that is why I became politically active.

However, so many of our politicians have been in the same office for decades, consistently voting against our best interests. With that in mind, I completed the Emerge Louisiana program and announced my candidacy against Congressman Steve Scalise in Louisiana Congressional District 01 in 2018. I knew this was a lofty goal as a first-time candidate with no political experience, but Congressman Scalise has been in office for over 30 years and has done little to improve the daily life of most Louisianans. I wanted to see someone representing me rather than just voting a straight party line or refusing to compromise to make life for us “every day” Louisianans better.

I did not win that race, though I can proudly say that I cut 10 points away from Congressman Scalise. I took a few months rest before I realized that I could affect more tangible change to Louisianans by running for State Representative. The incumbent’s voting record, when there is one, is appalling. I spoke with my team from my 2018 race and their overwhelming support of a second run pushed me to announce this year.

Because of the campaign last year, we started this campaign for state representative with an understanding of what needs fixing in this state. Luckily, it also meant we kicked off this campaign with great name recognition!

What does your role as a candidate look like on a week-to-week basis?

In all honesty, it depends on the week! I am lucky to have an all-volunteer team that do so much of the administrative and background work a campaign requires. As such, I get to go out into the community and meet the people who make up district 94. At least twice a week, I try to go to different coffee shops in the district and speak with residents directly on the issues that matter to them most and what they want from their representative.

Every day of the week, I knock doors in the district allowing me to converse with people one-on-one and introduce myself. Talking with my neighbors in the district is the most important thing to me and I prioritize it whenever possible.

Depending on the week, I will also be filling in candidate questionnaires, attending meet & greets, calling donors, interviews with community groups or the media, planning fundraising events, and attending community events. I’m often reviewing content for social media before it rolls out, emailing volunteers words of thanks, meeting with various members of my team to discuss next steps or what we can do better. Campaign life is exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time.

What advice would you give to women considering a run for public office?

Be ready for some hard work! I spent over three decades working in a very male-dominated world; when I started in the National Guard in 1978, there were few people who wanted me there, particularly the men. I persevered and worked my way up the chain of command; never was it easy.

I do not think it is a secret that in most careers women have to work that much harder to be recognized next to their male counterparts; campaigning is no different. Your words and your work will be finely parsed for errors.

Some people will constantly question your ability to lead or even accept you know what you’re talking about. People do not admit their bias is based on your gender, but as a woman candidate, it’s likely that you will need to know just a bit more than your male opponents and that you will need to be more assertive in getting your message out.

Do not be intimidated by the inevitable incredulity of others and do not listen to those who would ridicule or dismiss you. Do not listen to every piece of “advice” offered or kowtow to others; depend on your instincts and take sound guidance from those you trust. Surround yourself with good people who know your worth, but most importantly – know your own worth.

What do you love about Louisiana? What are you most proud of?

Louisiana is a unique and beautiful state, both environmentally and culturally – there is no place quite like it. Our communities will come help bail out your car when it floods (with a drink in hand, no less!) or buy school supplies for children whose families cannot afford to do so.

And yet, life shouldn’t be so hard for so many Louisianans. I love our sense of community, but cars shouldn’t be flooding and students shouldn’t be left behind for lack of resources. I am most proud of our people. We are a strong, resilient, fun-loving, community-focused people. We take care of each other.

How would your victory help to change Louisiana’s legislature going forward?

First and foremost, we would have a more united coalition from New Orleans which will mean better representation for people in Orleans Parish. That will especially help all the hospitality workers that don’t personally see the benefits from our tourism dollars and better investment in our infrastructure. I will work towards compromise to effect change.

Consider, for instance, gun violence reform.

Most Louisianians believe that there are common-sense laws we can enact to make our citizens safer. And yet, there has been no movement because our politicians are too steeped in party politics and/or too engaged with the NRA to make these needed changes. The current incumbent will only vote party lines and is largely unwilling to engage with residents from her district. The biggest change I can predict is that I will work full-time to represent my neighbors, meaning that their best interests will be represented in Baton Rouge.

I am not a career politician. Five years ago, I never imagined that I would be running for office. My representation will be led by what the majority of the individuals in district 94, and the state generally, need to make their lives better. I am not running for state representative to grow my political chops. I am running for state representative because our people work hard and I truly believe that Louisiana should be working for them.

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