We could get all glib about the fact we saw it coming, but so could anybody who was paying attention. We knew that if Louisiana Democrat Party chair Katie Bernhardt got into the Louisiana governor’s race Gary Chambers would go after her.
Our theory is Chambers would run against Bernhardt, thus doing to her what he did to her candidate in last year’s Senate race, Luke Mixon. Chambers ran, raised a million and a half dollars, which was about what Mixon raised, and then outpolled him 18 percent to 13 percent after Bernhardt engineered a triple endorsement of Chambers, Mixon and minor candidate Syrita Steib in the race.
Black voters are 60 percent of the registered Democrats in Louisiana, and about a third of the voters statewide. Chambers brought home most, though not all, of the black vote last year. It’s fair to expect he could do that again.
And Chambers responded to Bernhardt’s Hey-Watch-Me-Shoot-A-Gun-Like-Lauren-Boebert-You-Guys pre-campaign video with one of his own…
It’s a little different than our expectation, obviously, in that Chambers isn’t threatening to run. Instead he’s lining up behind Shawn Wilson, the Secretary of Transportation. But Wilson hasn’t said he’s going to run yet, and it’s not a sure thing that he will.
We think Wilson will run, and if he does he’s going to have John Bel Edwards’ machine behind him. As well as, obviously, Gary Chambers. And that would almost assuredly put him in the runoff, assumedly with Jeff Landry unless some very, very good moderate Republican candidate can find a way to squeak past Landry and his giant fundraising advantage and conservative base.
But if Wilson doesn’t enter the race, Chambers is making it pretty clear that he isn’t lining up behind Katie Bernhardt. That could mean Chambers runs for governor – and we might have the all-time most fun gubernatorial election in the history of Louisiana with Jeff Landry and Gary Chambers in a runoff throwing ideological bombs from Oil City to Port Fourchon. Or it could mean Chambers helps to recruit and then supports some other black progressive candidate.
Either way, this is an indication that Katie Bernhardt is pretty much a non-starter. She doesn’t have a whole lot of white leftist support, either, you know. For example, New Orleans lefty blogger Peter Adrastos Athas laid into her this morning about that campaign video…
You’ve seen the ad. Now, Katie Bernhardt wants to run for Governor. There’s a crowded GOP field and Democrats best shot is to unite behind one contender and force a run-off. Bernhardt is not the right person to unite the party. She’s a divider, not a uniter.
Bernhardt hopes to fail upward. Her tenure as state chair has been uninspiring at best. Her rival for party chair described Bernhardt’s abilities as follows:
“The job of the Democratic Party chair is to build infrastructure, recruit candidates and raise money. I have not seen that happen in the last three years,” said Lynda Woolard, a party activist in New Orleans who lost the 2020 chair race to Bernhardt. “She doesn’t have the experience or the skill set to run the state.”
One argument I’ve heard advanced for Bernhardt is that she has business experience and will run state government like a business. How can anyone make that argument with a straight face after the Trump presidency nationally and the Nagin mayoralty locally. Oy, just oy.
I have nothing personal against Katie Bernhardt. I do object, however, to a wealthy woman running for the highest office in the state without previous governmental experience. Being a bad party chair is not a strong argument to be the next Governor. Why not run for lege or Lafayette city council first? I guess lower office is beneath her. And that is why Katie Bernhardt is malaka of the week.
The biggest takeaway here is that Bernhardt won’t chase any other Democrats out of the race. She won’t chase Hillar Moore out, and she won’t chase Gary Smith out, and she won’t chase out Wilson or some other black Democrat Chambers chooses to back (which could include Chambers, as we’ve noted). Her prospective candidacy might end up so splitting up the Democrat vote that two Republicans make the runoff.
And depending on who the two Republicans are, maybe that’s the plan. Lots of old-school Blue Dog Democrat types will tell you their best chance of having influence and power is to line up behind some moderate RINO who’ll let them be part of a coalition which freezes conservatives out. That’s largely the case in the current Louisiana legislature, so we know it’s a viable model.
We’re not sold on Katie Bernhardt having the political savvy to engineer such a result. We’re definitely not sold on her as a serious gubernatorial candidate. In that, we find ourselves in uncomfortable agreement with Athas and Chambers.