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‘Unapologetically progressive’: Karen Carter Peterson fights to become first Black woman Louisiana sends to Congress

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“When women aren’t at the table and sitting, we’re usually on the menu,” Peterson, 51, told CNN in an interview. “I don’t like that we’ve never served an African American woman from Louisiana in our Congressional delegation. That has to end.”

Peterson is one of 15 successful candidates to succeed Richmond in the 2nd Congressional District, a solid blue seat that represents an area that stretches from the interior of Baton Rouge to the banks of the New Orleans River and meanders to through the parishes of the river. Richmond, who was easily re-elected in November, was approved by President Joe Biden to join the White House as a senior adviser and director of the Office of Public Engagement. Early voting began on March 6 in the special election and the last day to vote is Saturday. If no candidate wins a majority, the first two voters advance to the second phase next month.

Peterson faces stiff competition from state Sen. Troy Carter, who has the support of Richmond and is his rival in the closet in fundraising, and activist Gary Chambers. Peterson and Carter have clashed for this seat before; both ran in his favor, but lost in 2006.

Peterson’s campaign comes when the political power of black women has reached its peak, Kamala Harris becomes the first black and South Asian vice president, and as black women try to use their collective power to enforce state legislation, governments and seats of Congress with their own. .

This growing apparatus of organizing and fundraising supported by black women has stood behind Peterson, with a litany of key supports, including the influential quartet of experienced black women political operatives: Donna Brazile, Minyon Moore, Leah Daughtry and Yolanda Caraway

Black women’s groups like Higher Heights for America PAC and voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams have also been behind Peterson.

“I am very careful with endorsements and I have friends who love me and I have to make different decisions, but Karen has been in the trenches with me for over a decade. She has fought with me for more. She has believed in the power of our people and put their money and their heart where their mouth is, ”Abrams said in a video sharing his support for Peterson.

“She’s one more example of the multiple pipelines that groups like the tallest, blackest women’s organizers have been designing over the last decade or two,” Glynda Carr, president and CEO of Higher Heights, said in an interview. Carr described Harris’ trajectory as a “pipeline plan,” which would “speed up our work,” adding that this would be Peterson’s own rise.

Peterson also garnered support from Our Revolution, a group backed by Bernie Sanders, and Emily’s List, the political action committee that supports women who advocate for abortion rights.

“Here is a woman who has been serving her state legislature in the deep south, without progressive apologies and who has also broken the former in her own right,” Carr said.

A rival for the 2nd Louisiana

One of Peterson’s main opponents, Carter, has broken down his own barriers and has the support of Democrats in Washington, including Richmond himself.

A longtime Democratic politician, Carter is a face known to area voters. He was the first African-American elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1991. He was then elected to the New Orleans City Council in 1994. And in 2015 he was elected the first African-American senator for District 7 of the state of Louisiana. Louisiana, according to his biography. It should be noted that Carter has been endorsed by Richmond, who took office in 2011, as well as the whip of most of the house, Jim Clyburn, representatives of Hakeem Jeffries, Joyce Beatty – the president of the Black Caucus of Congress – and Ro Khanna, a reflection. of Washington’s influence on the solidly democratic seat.

Carter frequently announces Richmond’s endorsement. His name first appears on the sign-up page of Carter’s campaign website, his face has appeared on mail advertisers, and Richmond even trimmed a Carter ad posted in mid-January on his Facebook (ad has now been removed).

Khanna told CNN that her support for Carter was the result of an organic working relationship with Richmond.

“Cedric came to me when he was leaving and told me, look, you’ll really like this guy Troy, and he, I think, will work with you to take advantage of the work we’ve been doing in building bridges,” Khanna said. CNN. “I talked to him and he impressed me. He talked about his willingness to build with the Progressive Caucus.”

Clyburn also told CNN that he first met Carter during his work as a congressional liaison for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and when Carter asked for his endorsement recently, he was forced to. Clyburn said no one but Carter asked for his support.

According to his policies, Carter supports raising the minimum wage, abortion rights and Medicare for all, his campaign says, but not the Green New Deal, a de facto progressive tornado test.

In campaign materials, he called for the support of local Republicans and, in an interview with CNN, stressed the importance of working through the aisle.

“In this business, relationships are important. Having the ability to work with people, having the ability to get along, having the ability to build alliances along, above or beyond the imaginary line of Republicans and Democrats, but being able to cross those corridors is imaginary, “Carter said.

Peterson’s allies say Richmond’s presence is widespread in the district.

“I would say he has a strong influence, not in terms of physically, but simply because he puts his support,” state Rep. Candace Newell said. “And other people attach the names.”

Carter frames Richmond’s support as an immense advantage.

“It’s more than just a friendship, it’s based on a record of success,” Carter told CNN. He said Richmond’s approval sends the message, “Here’s someone I’m telling you, as the president’s senior adviser, I’m very comfortable working. So you’ll have access to the White House, the president, resources, maybe above what a freshman might have. “

According to statements from the Federal Electoral Commission filed on March 1, Carter’s campaign committee altered Peterson’s by tens of thousands of dollars.

The White House did not respond to any comments.

Chambers, another key candidate in the race, did not respond to any request for comment.

“I’m not afraid to stay on the court”

The first time Peterson saw her name on the ballot, she was 18 and running to run for presidential candidate Jesse Jackson at the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta. Eleven years later, he defeated seven opponents to win a state House seat in a second round. The second black woman to hold the seat has been in the legislature for the past 21 years and in her current seat since January 2010. She later became the first woman to chair the Louisiana Democratic Party and vice president of civic engagement and voter. participation of the Democratic National Committee.

Peterson, born and raised in New Orleans, said her father raised her and her sisters to be “independent thinkers.” This prompted her to eventually attend her law school in her hometown of Tulane University with the aim of helping people, after earning her bachelor’s degree from Howard University, the famous “Mecca “of historically black universities and colleges.

“Basically, that’s why I ran for office,” he said. “I’m not afraid to stay on the cutting edge, shake things up when I need to shake them up and get things done.”

As a deep Southern Democrat, Peterson promotes his progressive laurels. She has approved Medicare for Everyone and the Green New Deal, and hopes to join the Progressive Caucus if elected. Of his most cherished achievements, he announced his efforts to expand Medicaid in 2016.

Peterson drew national attention and the retreat of Republicans in 2013, after opposition to Obamacare in his state was reduced to racism. And not alien to the confrontation, Peterson has rejected his own party leadership during his tenure, calling on Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards for his anti-abortion stance.

Peterson supporters, like Newell, acknowledged the high control black women have when they run or hold office. Peterson, he said, is no different.

“His ability to keep standing and fighting,” Newell said. “I’m taking notes. Because as a woman and as a black woman, they’ll be attacked a little harder than the men they work with.”

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