Julie Emerson never made it her personal, life goal to run for public office in her hometown of Carencro, La. Instead, she has preferred working behind the scenes of politics.
However, this election cycle, Emerson is finally coming to the forefront to challenge the Louisiana Democratic Party’s poster boy, Rep. Stephen Ortego (D-Carencro) of District 39.
At just 27 years-old, Emerson has already accomplished a career most 30-something year-olds dream of. Emerson founded her small business, the Lagniappe Communications Group, right out of college.
Additionally, Emerson has worked around the country as a public relations strategist and currently serves as one of the youngest members of the Republican State Central Committee.
“I’ve worked a lot with legislators around the entire country and I’ve been in the communications role, not just with campaigning, but afterwards with drafting legislation,” said Emerson of her experience.
Though having an established career already under her belt, Emerson’s personality is based in humility, an attribute so rare in politics it sticks out like a sore thumb.
“It’s very important to learn from your peers,” said Emerson.
The sense of political clout Emerson carries does not in any way disconnect her from her small-town roots.
In fact, Emerson’s campaign chairman owns the local dry cleaners where she grew up, saying she got to know him because she has been a customer of the dry cleaning business for years.
While Emerson says her District 39 opponent, Ortego, is young and motivated, she says she has the motivation, new-generation perspective and proven ability to work hard to give the 31 year-old a run for his money.
Ortego originally ran for the District 39 seat on the platform of shaking up Baton Rouge, touting that he would be the youngest state legislator and campaigning on green energy. But what has happened is that Ortego has burned bridges in the legislature, making enemies very quickly.
The outcome of Ortego’s time in Baton Rouge has left District 39 feeling as though it is not represented to its full potential.
Emerson says she can change all of that.
What makes Emerson distinct from other 20-something year-olds is her sense of self-awareness and grounding, saying that as she gets older, the more she realizes that there is always more to learn.
“I’m one of the youngest members of many of the committees and boards that I am on,” said Emerson. “And you have to go in there and earn respect. Not that you shouldn’t stick to your principles and beliefs, but you eventually need to shut up for a little while and soak in everything and learn new things.”
That is not to say that Emerson is willing to compromise her principles. Her District 39 community is practically oil and gas country. And her father and brother both work in the oil and gas industry in Lafayette.
“Whether you like it or not, the oil and gas industry is the bread and butter of our state,” said Emerson. “We live and die by the oil and gas industry in Louisiana.”
If there are three stances to know about Emerson, it is that she is pro-oil and gas, pro-business and pro-life. Emerson lives and breathes these conservative principles and not for political purposes, like many in Baton Rouge.
On oil and gas, Emerson’s extended family actually owns an oil and gas company in northern Louisiana.
On business, Emerson owns a small business herself, which provides first-hand knowledge of what businesses in the state put up with when it comes to regulation.
On being pro-life, Emerson has been a volunteer, active supporter and event coordinator for a pregnancy help center in Lafayette.
But, Emerson said the issues are not always liberal or conservative. The issue that matters most to the type of small-town, rural communities in District 39, Emerson said, is listening to the people.
“These people need to be heard and it’s not about political parties,” said Emerson.
Due to the burned-bridges reputation Ortego has garnered during his short time in Baton Rouge, it will take influence and power that a young woman like Emerson has.
“You need to have someone with clout to be representing areas like this, rather than someone who puts their name on something and it gets thrown out because another legislator does not like them,” said Emerson.
With a versatile resume and a dedicated commitment to the principles of community conservatism, it is no wonder Emerson is a force to be reckoned with and a rising star.