Viewpoint: Inclement weather and apathy inhibit early voting
By Danae Columbus, opinion columnist
Although state Sens. Troy Carter and Karen Carter Peterson have continued to campaign almost around the clock, days of heavy rainfall coupled with a general lack of interest has led to exceedingly low early voting numbers in the Second Congressional District race to replace Cedric Richmond, now a high-ranking aide to President Joe Biden.
Early voting ends Saturday (April 17). In Orleans Parish so far, voting is down more than 50% from the March primary election. By Thursday, with just two days of early voting remaining, only 6,909 Orleans Parish residents had cast their votes including 6,062 Democrats, 288 Republicans and 559 Independents.
With no Republican in the runoff, some pundits believe that Republican voters will decide which Democrat is elected. In a volley of direct mail, Carter Peterson’s camp attacked Carter recently for being aligned with supporters of former President Trump. Carter’s camp reminded voters that Carter Peterson’s political organization, BOLD, once former Gov. Bobby Jindal.
“The Second Congressional District race is not inspiring a lot of people,” said Ed Chervenak, UNO political scientist. “It seems like the campaigns are being defined by attack ads rather than by any inspiring ads.”
Chervenak said that is likely due in part to the volume of third-party money from political action committees that has been spent on the race. “They can’t coordinate with campaigns, so the messages they present are crafted independently,” he explained.
Chervenak describes Carter Peterson as being supported by “more national actors than locals” and that Carter is better connected within the district. “It always helps to have Cedric Richmond’s endorsement,” said Chervenak. Richmond endorsed Carter early in the campaign.
Chervenak believes that third-place-finisher Gary Chambers’ endorsement of Carter Peterson could help her with White progressive voters in Orleans Parish. Chambers has been campaigning hard for Carter Peterson in New Orleans during the past few weeks and is now introducing her to voters in Baton Rouge. Chervenak also said the Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s endorsement of Carter Peterson “can’t hurt, but will only help if she wins the election.”
“It’s just a gut feeling, but it seems like Carter has the momentum,” said Chervenak. He predicts a chronic-voter-only low turnout of 10% to 15%. Almost 20% of the district’s voters went to the polls in March.
Federal campaign finance reports released earlier this week showed that Carter has raised more funds than Carter Peterson and has more cash-on-hand going the final weeks. Carter Peterson raised $336,000 from March l through April 4. Carter raised $601,000 during the same period.
Her latest major donors include several members of the Rhodes Funeral Homes family as well as Paul Rainwater, James Allen, Daniel Silverman, Sandra and Russ Herman, Maury Herman, Larry Oney, Jacqueline Vines, attorney James Williams, Cecilia Robert, Joe Bruno, Sandy and Stephen Rosenthal, and Carter Peterson’s husband Dana Peterson.
Carter’s latest major donors include Bollinger Shipyard President Benjamin Bordelon, John Kirkendoll, Michael Ginart, John Breaux, Blake Jones, Jason Waguespack, Cesar Burgos, Phillip Cossich, Dino Chouest, Keely Thibodeaux, John Cummings, Sarah Bergeron Junius, Dominick Impastato, Gary Solomon, Scott Stansbury, Robert Watters, Timothy Bonura and Brian Trascher.
Early voting locations include City Hall, the Voting Machine Warehouse, the Algiers Court House and the Lake Vista Community Center. Hours of operation are from 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. Election Day is Saturday, April 24.
Danae Columbus, who has had a 30-year career in politics and public relations, offers her opinions on Thursdays. Her career includes stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board and former clients such as District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, City Councilman Jared Brossett, City Councilwoman at-large Helena Moreno, Foster Campbell, former Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former City Councilwomen Stacy Head and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell. She is a member of the Democratic Parish Executive Committee. Columbus can be reached at email@example.com.