“His endorsement obviously means a great deal,” Carter, 57, said in an interview as he campaigned near Baton Rouge last week. “The relationship we have is a huge benefit to Louisiana.”
Richmond did not clear the field, however, and Carter has been locked in a battle with fellow state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson and 13 other candidates, most of them Democrats. Carter Peterson, 51, ran the state Democratic Party for years, and has run as a more reliably liberal advocate than Carter, emphasizing her support for a Green New Deal — a break from Richmond, who had strong ties to the oil and gas industries.
“This district needs a progressive Democrat that’s not going to flip-flop on issues like the Green New Deal,” Peterson said in an interview near her New Orleans home, touting her support from groups like the Sierra Club. “People who are concerned with environmental injustice and racism need somebody that they can trust, who’s going to fight with them on the front lines.”
If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two finishers will head to an April 24 runoff. The same is true in the 5th Congressional District, where Republican candidate Julia Letlow is running to “pick up that torch” after her late husband, Luke, won the seat last year then died soon after of covid-19 complications.
Carter and Carter Peterson, who are not related, have each raised around $500,000, allowing them to dominate the airwaves. Polling has found them well ahead of rivals that include Baton Rouge activist Gary Chambers and former Louisiana State University track star Claston Bernard. Chambers and Bernard are running as political outsiders, offering a change from the longtime leadership in a district with pockets of deep poverty and pollution.
But the two state senators have dominated the race, with Carter running his first negative ad this week, targeting Carter Peterson’s education record. Chambers, who gained viral fame after confronting a school board over whether Robert E. Lee’s name should remain on a school, raised more than $300,000; Bernard, the best-known Republican in the race, raised a bit more than $100,000. Both are angling for a place in the runoff, aware of their underdog status.
“Everyone wants access to the White House and the resources that come with that,” Chambers told The Washington Post this week. “No one wants to get overly involved against Cedric.”
In the 5th district special election, Letlow is heavily favored to win, and could secure 50 percent of the vote outright, negating the need for a runoff. She announced her bid two weeks after the death of her husband and has raised nearly $700,000 — 10 times more than Democrat Sandra “Candy” Christophe, her closest rival.
Most ambitious local Republicans passed on the race, and the party establishment from former president Donald Trump to House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) got behind Letlow, who’s run as a results-focused rural conservative and who has not previously sought elected office.
“Some people are more focused on agriculture, some people want infrastructure,” Letlow told a local news station earlier this month. “We just want opportunity for our children.”
Going into Saturday, there were five vacancies in the 435-member House — two in formerly Republican-held seats and three in seats once held by Democrats in a chamber only narrowly controlled by the party.
New Mexico will elect a replacement for Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on June 1, while northeast Ohio voters will nominate candidates to replace newly-confirmed Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia L. Fudge on Aug. 3, with a special election to follow in November. On May 1, voters in north Texas will vote on a replacement for the late Rep. Ron Wright, a Republican whose widow is seeking his old seat.
Voting in Louisiana ends at 8 p.m. local time. At the end of early voting last week, 36,382 ballots had been cast in the 2nd Congressional District, mostly by Democrats; 39,430 ballots had been cast in the 5th Congressional District, mostly by Republicans.
Tyler Pager contributed to this report.