Assuming that there are no breathtaking developments between now and Jan. 6, a discussion of which we will leave to another post, Cedric Richmond, who currently represents Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District, will be leaving that seat for a post inside the Joe Biden administration. The former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus is set to become a senior advisor and the head of the Office of Public Engagement, in which it’s said that he will be in charge of outreach to conservatives.
The comic irony of that is also a discussion we’ll leave to another post. But Richmond’s departure from Congress creates an opening that would be filled in a special election, likely next spring, which already has candidates coming out of the woodwork.
Who’s in? Well, state senator Karen Carter Peterson, who ran for the seat against “Dollar Bill” Jefferson back in 2006 amid Jefferson’s cash-in-the-freezer scandal and subsequent legal troubles and was beaten 57-43 by Jefferson in the runoff, has said she’s in. So is state senator Troy Carter, who ran for that seat in 2006 (Carter got 12 percent in the primary) and 2008 (he got 8 percent).
And so is Gary Chambers, fresh off a campaign for state senate last year which saw him get torn to shreds by Regina Barrow by a 74-26 margin. Chambers has the race-hustling hoaxster Shaun King, a white man pretending to be black, raising money for him nationally.
But only 12 percent of the 2nd District by population is in East Baton Rouge Parish. Some 45 percent of it is in Orleans Parish, another 24 percent is in Jefferson Parish, mostly on the West Bank of the Mississippi, and the rest, about 20 percent or so, is in the River Parishes as the district snakes its way from Orleans to North Baton Rouge.
Which means that if you’re a Baton Rouge candidate in the 2nd District, you probably have to be acceptable to the white voters in the district and use them as your base. Gary Chambers, who has made his career as an attention-seeker and Black Lives Matter activist, is utterly and completely incapable of doing that. But he can certainly use this campaign as a mechanism to fleece stupid leftists across the country into filling his campaign coffers with swag he can use for all kinds of purposes.
Who wins this seat? Well, it’s going to depend on who else gets in.
A Baton Rouge-based candidate with a shot at winning would be Cleo Fields, who actually was a congressman in the 1990’s when Louisiana had an 8th congressional district. Back then Fields represented something that looked like a Rorschach test which snaked up into the Mississippi Delta and in several other directions from its center in North Baton Rouge, but Fields lost the seat when Louisiana lost CD-8 in congressional redistricting. Fields isn’t exactly palatable to white voters but he’s known as “transactional,” meaning that his vote can be had at the right price on occasion, and that means he could sell himself as the least bad option.
But the word is that Fields is leaning away from running. So is Jimmy Harris, a state representative from New Orleans who’s fairly well liked around the Louisiana House for his reasonable approach to policy.
New Orleans city councilwoman Helena Moreno, who spent time in the state legislature and was a newscaster for a local TV station in a previous life, is perhaps the strongest possibility to win among the not-yet-in candidates. Moreno married well and has a humongous war chest to draw from should she jump into the race, and she’s the kind of candidate national money would flow toward. She’s a Mexican native who was raised in Texas, which doesn’t really play in New Orleans but might among the 39 percent of the district which is white, and those dollars could get her into the runoff against Peterson – and from there, who knows?
Peterson is the de-facto incumbent, since she’s the former chair of the Louisiana Democrat Party and has the highest political stature of the group. But when the race turns nasty, and it most certainly will, Peterson is also the one with the most to lose in a mudslinging contest. At some point, somewhere, the Louisiana State Police files on her getting thrown out of L’Auberge Casino in Baton Rouge are likely to come out, and when they do it could be the kind of personal embarrassment that kills a campaign – not so much because Peterson’s gambling addiction is disqualifying, but because her propensity for going bonkers when challenged might just create a Captain Queeg moment she can’t recover from.
Somebody like Troy Carter, who would likely get Richmond’s endorsement (if he were to give it, which is questionable given the political risks involved in playing in that race), could probably beat Peterson. Moreno possibly could. Fields possibly could.
Chambers might not even be able to beat a Republican in a runoff in that district. So far there isn’t one in the race. Others who might run but wouldn’t appear to have much of a shot at winning are a pair of New Orleans-area state representatives in Kyle Green and Randall Gaines, and former St. John the Baptist Parish President Natalie Robottom, who was an unmitigated disaster in that job.
If it comes down to a Peterson/Carter/Moreno contest, from a conservative standpoint there is little reason to even bother with the race. Taking LABI’s legislative scorecard ratings as a metric, in the 2016-19 legislative term Carter scored a 19 percent. Peterson scored a 15 percent. Peterson’s four previous terms saw her moving steadily leftward, from 33 percent to 38 percent to 23 percent to 20 percent. Carter was a city councilman in New Orleans before winning election to the state senate in 2015.
As for Moreno, she’s more or less the exact same lockstep leftist Peterson and Carter are (and that Richmond has been), with some slight exceptions; her LABI scores for the last three years she was in the Louisiana House were 59 percent in 2017, 20 percent in 2016 and 33 percent in 2015. The lifetime legislative score of 42 percent doesn’t look terrible, but nobody ever thought Moreno’s “good” votes were done for any reason other than to appear moderate without actually affecting anything. She’ll act as though she’s the centrist in the race in an effort to get the white vote in the primary, but in a runoff with Peterson or Carter you can bet your bottom dollar she will sound like AOC’s rubber ducky; decide for yourself which one is closer to the truth should she end up in Congress.
You are getting a leftist congresscritter from the 2nd District no matter which one of these people manages to out-mudsling the others, and this will be a mudslinging contest. Make no mistake about that. None of them have anything to offer in terms of policy ideas anyone cares about, none of them have much to offer in terms of personal accomplishments beyond politics (Troy Carter is an adjunct political science professor at Xavier; Peterson is married to a political scientist and is a DNC bigwig in the footsteps of Donna Brazile, Moreno is a pretty face who was on TV). They’ve got nothing to offer other than attacking each other like crabs in a bucket.
So, assuming Biden takes office on Jan. 20 and there is one, enjoy the show. Just don’t expect to be inspired or gain improved governance, because it ain’t coming.