Who The Folk?! Ellen Luger

Ellen Luger isn’t just going to Philadelphia to be a Hillary Clinton delegate; she’s been actively campaigning for the soon-to-be Democratic nominee since she first announced her candidacy. But her relationship with Clinton goes back well beyond a political campaign. Find out about that and more, as we ask: Who The Folk is Ellen Luger?

When did you first get interested in wanting to be a delegate?

I started working on this campaign for Hillary when she first announced, but I thought about first being a delegate about six months in. So in November or December of 2015 when I started thinking about precinct caucuses; I was hopeful that this would be a historic moment and how exciting it would be to be on the floor, part of the delegation, to actually vote for our first woman–hopefully–president.

What was the process to become a delegate?

It’s a very grassroots process. I went to the precinct caucus, and from there was elected with a small group of folks. At that point we had enough spaces that it wasn’t a competitive election. The people who wanted to be delegates to the next level raised their hand, and we were delegates to the next level, our (congressional) district convention. For that, I reached out to the state party and you’re able to get a list of delegates. I called all of the Clinton delegates. I put together a one-page flyer that I handed out at the convention that morning. My daughter, Stephanie Luger, helped staff (Lt. Gov.) Tina Smith in the governor’s re-election, so she had all sorts of tips and happened to be home the day of the convention. She was there to hand out flyers. At that convention there were many folks running and the people who were interested were asked to give a one-minute speech at the end of a very long day. I did that and ended up being four votes short of getting elected.

There was another opportunity at the Minnesota Democratic State Convention in June. When I left the district convention, I was pretty worn out. I was working on fundraising as well for Secretary Clinton, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to devote the time that I understood it was going to take to run at the state level. As a couple days passed from the congressional district I decided it was worth running. I had some buttons made for the state convention, took my one-page flyer. I decided I was going to run but not get consumed by the process. After a day of talking with people, making a one-minute speech at the end of a 13 or 14-hour day, I ended up being one of the delegates elected.

How many delegates got elected at that stage?

It was seven for Secretary Clinton.

Were the delegates for Sen. Sanders and Secretary Clinton awarded proportionally based on the state caucus numbers?

Yes. I believe it was a 60-40 split in terms of the outcomes of the caucuses and that’s how the delegates were split.

What are you most looking forward to in Philadelphia?

I’m looking forward to the reason I wanted to be a delegate, and that is to be a part of electing Hillary Clinton as the first woman nominee from a major party. For me, as somebody who graduated from Wellesley College, where Hillary graduated from, for someone who looked up to her and been inspired by her as a mom, as a lawyer, a politician who’s been a senator, a first lady and a secretary of state, and really gotten to know her through my involvements at Wellesley College, for me it’s exciting to be a part of and on the floor and cast a vote.

I hosted the first fundraiser for Secretary Clinton in Minnesota this past June. Before that, I had met her many times and really gotten to know her. I served as the president for the Wellesley College Alumni Association, and in that role, introduced her several times at the college. I actually know her.

Knowing her on the level you do, what do you know from your personal interactions to help people know about her?

There was an event at Wellesley where I introduced the president of Wellesley College, Hillary Clinton, and [former Secretary of State] Madeline Albright. The three of us where in a holding room before we went out for this panel that they were a part of. In that room, what was striking to me was the four of us were talking about regular things that anybody would be concerned about. At the time, it was before Chelsea was going to college and Hillary was concerned about where she was going to school. Madeline was talking about doing a book about her pins. There we were, and it struck me: Here are four people just talking about everyday concerns that any mom or person would have. I’ve had the opportunity to see her in relaxed settings where she’s very approachable. She’s funny, she’s easy to talk to, she’s obviously very bright. But that human side of her that I’ve been able to see is something I wish everyone could see.

It feels like she gets painted in an unfortunate light.

When I see the media reports about her and the hatred towards her, it’s upsetting because it’s not truly who she is. I also think she’s very capable and a lot of times that’s threatening to people, a very capable woman. I think that’s changing over time, but she’s been in this for a long time. I think that’s part of it as well.

If gender were reversed, no one would think twice.

Exactly. I often ask people “You have a woman running for president; don’t you want her to want the job? Don’t you want her to be ambitious about doing the job well?” when people step back and think about it, I think they say yes. When you talk about ambition and powerful women, it leads to conversations that aren’t necessarily flattering.

At the platform committee, there was a, some would say, anti-Israel amendment that got voted down. Are you OK with where the platform ended up?

I believe Hillary is a very strong supporter of Israel. I feel the platform we’re coming out with should reflect more of Hillary’s position than Bernie’s. I feel good about that. Hillary is very experienced in foreign affairs, and that’s critical in this world we’re living in.

Favorite Jewish food?

My grandma’s eggplant. We always had it as a spread. We always had it at the holidays. Or sweet kugel.

Favorite Jewish holiday?

I would say Rosh Hashanah. A sweet new year, a new beginning, a celebration, a reflection of the year past and the year ahead.

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