“What separates me from my opponent is that we need a bold and courageous leader in Washington,” Carter Peterson said Thursday at a debate sponsored by WWL-TV in New Orleans. Carter responded by calling her criticisms “sad” and accusing her of unfairly attacking his record.
It was a bitter end to a battle for the state’s only safely Democratic seat, drawn by Republicans to link majority-Black Baton Rouge to majority-Black New Orleans. Carter won 36 percent of the vote in the March 20 all-party primary, to 23 percent for Carter Peterson and just 17 percent for every Republican candidate combined. Carter, who represents a district near New Orleans, ran strongest in suburban precincts just outside the city, and pitched himself as a liberal who could work with Republicans.
“I’ve seen bad legislation pass because people like the author, and I’ve seen good legislation fail because they don’t they don’t like the author,” Carter said in an interview during the primary, noting that he’d known House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) for decades. “I’m a proud Democrat and I wear it on my sleeve, but also recognize that we have to work together.”
Carter Peterson, who ran for an old version of the seat 15 years ago, has campaigned to Carter’s left, as a “bold” Democrat who will back the party’s furthest-reaching liberal legislation. On Thursday, she announced an endorsement from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who has worked to elect the most left-leaning Democrats possible in safe blue districts. Before that, Carter Peterson won the endorsement of Gary Chambers, a liberal activist who nearly beat her for a spot in the runoff, winning many of New Orleans’ most left-leaning precincts in the primary.
Carter’s campaign has touted his bipartisan support, including an endorsement from the former Republican leader of the state Senate, which could help win votes with Republican voters who have no candidate of their own in the runoff. He’s also gotten donations from active Republican politicians, like Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser; Carter Peterson has used that support against him, Some of her direct mail to Democrats pictures Carter next to former president Donald Trump, with the message: “Troy Carter & his Trump supporters. Not for Us!”
Carter has emphasized areas where he and Carter Peterson differ, such as the Green New Deal; she supports it, while he warns that a too-fast move from fossil fuels would hurt the district’s economy. He has also accused his opponent of opportunism, transforming from a Democratic insider who backed Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid, into a would-be liberal outsider.
Thursday’s debate, with the candidates appearing remotely from their homes, saw Carter Peterson accuse Carter of taking the wrong side of social justice issues, while Carter accused her of smearing him.
“My opponent supported stop-and-frisk policies when he was on the city council,” Carter Peterson said.
“In all of my opponent’s fliers, she suggests that I stand with police and against people,” Carter responded. I’m a father of two Black sons, and to suggest that I am not supportive of getting rogue police officers off the street?”
Both candidates have long political ties in the district, with New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell backing Carter Peterson and liberal city district attorney Jason R. Williams backing Carter. Carter Peterson has also won support from Emily’s List, which has jumped at the chance to try to elect Louisiana’s first Black female member of Congress; its super PAC Women Vote has spent $1 million on ads that say Carter “can’t be trusted to defend women’s health care,” based on three votes he cast in favor of antiabortion legislation, two of which Carter Peterson had not been present for. Carter Peterson’s absences from sessions in Baton Rouge were the focus of more independent spending attacking her.
While Richmond has endorsed Carter — and Carter’s access to the White House is a crucial part of his message — President Biden has stayed out of the race. Nearly 95,000 votes were cast in the primary, and turnout was slower in the runoff early vote period than during that stretch of the primary.
Carter raised $1.1 million as of the campaign’s final FEC report, to a bit more than $800,000 for Carter Peterson. Barring a close result or complications with the vote count, the winner on Saturday will be seated quickly, giving Democrats 219 House seats, and a bit more room for error on tight votes.
Five other House seats are vacant or soon to be vacant, including two won by Republicans last year and three won by Democrats. Texas’s 6th Congressional District, which leans Republican, will hold a primary on May 1; New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, which votes solidly Democratic, will be filled by a June 1 special election. The other seats won’t be filled until later this year, with two races yet to be scheduled.