…and by all indications she’s going to drive it even further into the ground than her predecessor Buddy Leach did.
Peterson, a state senator and perpetual candidate of sorts (as was Leach; the difference being that Peterson was actually able to get elected every once in a while), doesn’t differ ideologically with Leach all that much. Both are fairly hard-core left-wingers. But while Leach presented his leftism with a patina of good-old-boy populism and at least a feint to the center, Peterson’s style is much more in-your-face.
As such, the shift from Leach to Peterson is going to look something like the national Democrat Party’s shift from Clintons to Obamas.
While that might well have worked in 2006 and 2008 for the national party, though, it’s harder to see it paying dividends in Louisiana.
This is, after all, a very conservative state. Louisiana’s voters demanded of Democrats – certainly before, but most notably in the 1970’s and 1980’s as the state’s GOP became a viable political organization – that they at least show some facade of friendship to business, that they not trample the Second Amendment and that they make pro-life noises. Typical Democrat politicians like John Breaux, J. Bennett Johnston and even to an extent Edwin Edwards were happy to follow that prescription, and in doing so short-circuited the rise of the GOP in Louisiana for longer than other Southern Democrat parties were able to manage.
But the rise did come, and when it did fewer and fewer Democrat politicians came up through the ranks to replace the Billy Tauzins and Mike Fosters when they abandoned the Dems as left-wingers increasingly took over the party nationally.
Leach’s tenure as chair of the LDP was a pathetic harkening to an era long gone, as he oversaw the loss of the state legislature to the GOP and the loss of all the statewide offices – with attorney general Buddy Caldwell the last of the Democrat officials to flip.
And now Peterson takes the reins after unseating Leach by an 85-75 vote at Saturday’s quarterly meeting of the state party.
She’ll likely be more articulate than Leach was, probably more active, and certainly more openly, militantly left-wing. Without question, she’s going to be the Obama campaign’s face in Louisiana, for better or worse…
Peterson Was State Chairwoman Of Barack Obama’s Campaign. [Peterson] “served as the state chairwoman of Obama’s Louisiana campaign.” (Gerard Shields, “Louisianians’ roles in Obama’s D.C. emerging, Baton Rouge Advocate, 1/18/09)
Peterson Is Key To Obama In Louisiana.“But those close to Peterson consider her key to Obama’s contact with Louisiana. Peterson was in Grant Park in Chicago on election night to see Obama make his historic victory speech.” (Gerard Shields, “Louisianians’ roles in Obama’s D.C. emerging, Baton Rouge Advocate, 1/18/09)
Peterson’s Political Consultant Called Her Obama’s “Go-To Gal.” “‘I know she’s really involved,’ said Cheron Brylski, the New Orleans political consultant who ran Peterson’s unsuccessful campaign to unseat former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson in 2006. ‘The signals are there that she may be the go-to gal.’” (Gerard Shields, “Louisianians’ roles in Obama’s D.C. emerging, Baton Rouge Advocate, 1/18/09)
Peterson Had Trouble Getting Fellow Democrats On Obama Bus Tour. “As the meeting opened, state Rep. Karen Peterson, D-New Orleans, said there needs to be ‘racial reconciliation within the party.’ Peterson, an early Obama supporter, said it was ‘a very difficult process for me to engage some of my colleagues’ in the historic campaign that featured a black candidate at the top of the ticket. She said she could not get many fellow Democratic officials to participate in a statewide bus tour for Obama.” (Marsha Shuler, “La. Democrats meet, plot comeback,” 1/11/09)
Peterson Has A “Direct Line” To Obama. “Locally, state Rep. Karen Cater Peterson, speaker pro tem of the Louisiana House and an early and avid Obama supporter, appeared to have the most direct line to Obama. ‘The times he came down here, she was the go-to person,’ said her husband, political consultant Dana Peterson. And whenever she was in Chicago on business, she spent time at the Obama headquarters. The Petersons were in Grant Park in Chicago on Election Night to hear Obama declare victory. (Jonathan Tilove, “Few in Louisiana have close ties to Obama,” New Orleans Times-Picayune, 11/24/08)
Peterson Was Obama’s Point Person In Louisiana. “It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that state Rep. Karen Carter Peterson’s association with Barack Obama dates back to the dawn of his presidential aspirations. Four years later, Peterson, House speaker pro tem, is probably the closest thing Obama has to a point person in Louisiana.” (Stephanie Grace, “Obama has a friend in La.,” New Orleans Times-Picayune, 8/28/08)
Peterson Spent Democrat Convention Learning How Sell Obama Campaign. “And Peterson is spending part of her days at this year’s Democratic convention in what amounts to surrogate school, learning how best to sell the Obama campaign.” (Stephanie Grace, “Obama has a friend in La.,” New Orleans Times-Picayune, 8/28/08)
Peterson Lobbied For Her Former Campaign Director To Run Obama’s Louisiana Campaign. “Peterson ‘lobbied heavily’ to get 22-year-old David Huynh hired as Obama’s state director. He worked on her failed congressional campaign in 2006 and managed her ally Cheryl Gray’s successful state Senate campaign last year. His tender age gave the Obama people pause, but Peterson vouched for his skill at grassroots campaigning, which she sees as the Obama camp’s greatest need.” (Stephanie Grace, “Obama has a friend in La.,” New Orleans Times-Picayune, 8/28/08)
Peterson Was Obama Delegate: The delegates pledged to Barack Obama are: Rachel Jones of Pearl River, James Harlan of Lacombe, Cheryl Gray of New Orleans, Karen Carter Peterson of New Orleans, Jay Banks of New Orleans, Dr. Camalyn Gaines of LaPlace, Edmonia Lee-Jackson of St. Martinville, Matthew Block of Thibodaux, David Huynh of Morgan City, Dr. Dorothy Holt of Shreveport, Lydia Jackson of Shreveport, Richard Anderson of Keithville, Edith Douzart of Monroe, Betty Robinson of Columbia, Herbert Dixon of Alexandria, Dan McKay Jr. of Bunkie, Darlene Fields of Baton Rouge, Joseph Stone of Baker, W.T. Winfield of Baton Rouge, Marie Renaud of Opelousas, Brian Thomas of Opelousas and John Hadley Jr. of Opelousas. (“La. Dems announce delegate allocation,” Monroe News-Star, 3/9/08)
So we’ll likely see an extension of the Obama camp in the state Democrat party, at least to a far larger extent than before. After all, Peterson is carrying Obama’s health insurance exchange bill in the state senate, which will likely be one of the more contentious pieces of legislation as this year’s legislative session moves to its end. That’s just a precursor to what we can expect from her as the state’s politics shift from the legislative session to the presidential campaign and Peterson becomes less a state senator and more of a message-maker for the Democrats.
The question is what kind of party she’ll have left to run after that message-making gets going.