(AP) — Little-known Democratic candidates for governor made their pitches to the Democratic Party’s state governing body Saturday, but they came away without endorsements and with little encouragement that party leaders believe Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal could be defeated.
The Democratic State Central Committee meeting often bordered on somber, even as party officials urged the Democratic faithful to help their candidates and to focus on rebuilding the party after a string of losses and party switches.
“This is not the time for Democrats to weep and wail or tear their shirts and paint their faces with sorrow. This is the time we must stand up and explain our values,” said Democratic Party Chairman Claude “Buddy” Leach, calling the party a better representative for the middle class, multiracial views and college students.
Democrats couldn’t woo a well-funded challenger to Jindal in the Oct. 22 election — or even a full slate of candidates for all seven statewide positions on the ballot. They also lost majorities in both the state House and Senate in the last year for the first time since Reconstruction.
Republican leaders say Louisiana is becoming rock-solid red and Democrats no longer represent the views of a majority of state residents.
“For those of you who question whether the Democratic Party is going to remain: Yes, yes, yes,” Leach told the meeting.
Three Democrats who have never before held elected office spoke to the state central committee, seeking support for their gubernatorial candidacies.
They included: Tara Hollis of Haynesville, a special education teacher who has been campaigning since May and is trying to drum up support with an Internet-based effort; Androniki “Niki Bird” Papazoglakis of Baton Rouge, policy director of a nonprofit organization fighting domestic violence and sexual abuse; and Trey Roberts of Gretna, a history teacher who has called himself a “conservative tea party Democrat.”
A fourth Democratic candidate for governor, lawyer Cary Deaton of Metairie, didn’t attend Saturday.
Leach said the lack of an endorsement for governor wasn’t unusual because there are multiple Democratic candidates in the race.
Party leaders also didn’t give their backing to the sole Democratic candidate for insurance commissioner, Donald Hodge, who spoke to the committee Saturday and who said he wants to make the position appointed, rather than elected. Hodge is hoping to oust Republican incumbent Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon.
Hollis has done the most fundraising of the Democratic candidates for governor, but she has nowhere near the multimillion dollar campaign war chest Jindal has amassed in seeking a second term. Hollis said she would air her first TV ads next week, the same time she’ll have to divulge what her largely online fundraising efforts have yielded.
She urged party leaders not to simply look to the next election cycle and give up on statewide office this fall. “Stand with me and fight,” Hollis said.
Roberts said, “I disagree that it’s a done deal for Jindal.”
Leach said the Louisiana Democratic Party has limited funds to help candidates, though he said the party would run some television ads in the next month urging support for Democrats and opposition to Jindal’s re-election bid.
He asked central committee members to support candidates by helping them raise donations and set up speeches.
But members of the committee acknowledged the gloomy tone of Saturday’s meeting, with several suggesting the party will “come back.”
“Don’t act as though this is some funeral,” said Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans. “This is a rebranding and a new beginning for our party.”