Leaders of the state’s two major political parties say they believe their respective groups have strong futures in Louisiana, though the picture for Republicans appears rosier than that for the state’s Democrats right now.
Louisiana Republican Party Executive Director Jason Doré and state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, spoke to the Baton Rouge Press Club on Monday — just days ahead of a contentious U.S. Senate runoff between Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu and Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy.
Not surprisingly, both Doré and Peterson predicted wins for their respective candidates in Saturday’s runoff.
“The people of Louisiana are ready for change, and they’re ready to retire Mary Landrieu,” Doré said.
Peterson said she expects a “close race,” with Landrieu pulling off the win.
“It’s no secret that Mary Landrieu is facing a tough re-election,” she said. “She’s been there before.”
Peterson and Doré are leading the parties at a time when Louisiana has largely completed its shift from favoring Democratic leadership to being a Republican stronghold.
Today, Landrieu is the only statewide elected Democrat, and polls show her trailing Cassidy.
“Just a decade ago, the conventional wisdom was that Republicans can’t win statewide,” Doré said.
Peterson shot back by targeting Cassidy’s record, as well as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and U.S. Sen. David Vitter.
“The Louisiana Democratic Party is very strong,” she said. “We’re proud to have Democrats who represent Louisiana values on the ballot.”
The two party leaders didn’t necessarily agree on what those values are.
“I’m talking about character, ethics, principles, morals. That’s Louisiana values,” Peterson said. “I don’t think Bill Cassidy, Bobby Jindal or David Vitter represent Louisiana values. It’s evidenced by their actions.” She took Jindal to task for not expanding Medicaid in Louisiana under the federal Affordable Care Act, as well as budget cuts his administration has made and Republicans’ stand against raising the minimum wage.
Doré said Louisianians side with the GOP’s position on abortion rights, gun rights and same-sex marriage.
“Clearly, the Louisiana Republican Party is stronger than it’s ever been,” he said.
One thing that both agreed on: The rise of wealthy political action committees isn’t a threat to the future of state parties.
“It has certainly made fundraising more of a challenge,” Doré said.
But he noted that state parties are the only groups that can coordinate with campaigns and the only ones on the ground year-round.
“It’s something a super PAC can’t come in and just buy,” he said. “It takes a long time to do.”
Peterson said parties are important to grass-roots engagement and organizing.
“We’re not going anywhere,” she said. “I don’t need folks from Washington coming in and telling us how to do things.”