Former Democratic Rep. Cedric L. Richmond will get the successor he wanted after voters in Louisiana’s 2nd District elected state Sen. Troy Carter in a special election runoff Saturday.
Carter was leading Karen Carter Peterson, a Democratic colleague in the state Senate, 56 percent to 44 percent when The Associated Press called the race at 9:35 p.m. Central time.
This was the first special election in a deep-blue district in the new Congress and one of a handful of races seen as an early indicator of the future trajectory of the Democratic Party, which controls both chambers of Congress and the White House.
Carter ran as a centrist and consensus builder who was willing to work with Republicans to move legislation. Carter Peterson, who is not related, cast herself as the progressive in the race.
Touted bipartisan bills
Carter, 57, stressed his track record in building relationships and passing bipartisan legislation in the state Senate during a March interview with CQ Roll Call. “In congressional halls, relationships matter,” he said. “Being able to work with people matters.”
He also pointed to his experience in local government as a top aide to New Orleans Mayor Sidney Barthelemy in the 1980s and a member of the city council in the mid-1990s.
“That’s demonstrative of someone who doesn’t sit in the ivory tower,” he said. “That’s demonstrative of a leader that likes to be in contact with people. And the strength of having empathy for the people that you serve is very important.”
But the differences between the two candidates were subtle and often came down to personality and style. Both had extensive résumés with decades of political experience and frequently found themselves on the same side of issues popular on the left, from raising the minimum wage to opposing limits on legal abortions.
During the campaign, they emphasized the gradients of their disagreements. While Carter proposed raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, Carter Peterson wanted to boost it to $20. He lined up with President Joe Biden’s calls for lowering health care costs through a Medicare-like public option, offered alongside private insurance. She joined Sen. Bernie Sanders’ call for universal health care through “Medicare for All.” Carter also sponsored a resolution voicing support for police and opposing efforts to defund law enforcement, a stance Carter Peterson called “tone deaf” during a campaign debate.
Endorsed by other Black lawmakers
Each candidate had an extensive list of endorsements. Richmond, who resigned in January to become a senior adviser to Biden, backed Carter, who said the connection would give him extra leverage in Washington.
Carter also received nods from Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn and eight Black Louisiana state senators. He also got help from two super PACs that spent $200,000 on ads and mailers against Carter Peterson.
Carter, a state senator since 2015, projected an air of a mild-mannered coalition builder. He touted his friendships with his state legislative colleagues and even had endorsements from a few Republicans.
Carter’s campaign also attacked Carter Peterson, 51, as an opportunist who only recently came to identify as a progressive. His mailers highlighted that as the Louisiana Democratic Party chairwoman in 2016, she favored Hillary Clinton over Sanders for the presidential nomination.
Louisiana’s 2nd District was drawn to take in Black voters in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, and 21 percent of residents are below the federal poverty line.
This was the second time Carter and Carter Peterson had faced off for the seat. In 2006, Carter finished fifth in the all-party general election while Carter Peterson came in second and then lost to Democratic incumbent William J. Jefferson in a runoff. Carter also sought the seat in 2008, finishing sixth in the Democratic primary.
Carter was the heavy favorite in the first round of voting in March, winning 36 percent to Carter Peterson’s 23 percent. He also led in fundraising, with reports through April 4 showing him raised $1.1 million to her $830,000.
Carter also reported taking in more than $105,000 in the campaign's final days, including $2,500 from the leadership PAC of New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.
The third-place finisher in the March primary, progressive Gary Chambers, who won 21 percent, endorsed Carter Peterson in the runoff.
Carter’s win came despite $1.3 million in spending against him or for his opponent by Women Vote!, the independent expenditure arm of EMILY’s List, which backs Democratic women who support abortion rights. Other super PACs also spent another $731,000 supporting Carter Peterson.