New Orleans lawyer and entrepreneur Caroline Fayard said her real-life experiences negotiating settlements from the 2010 BP oil spill and building a new charter airline have given her the skills necessary to break down barriers in Congress as Louisiana’s next U.S. senator.
Fayard is the underdog Democrat in the crowded race to fill U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s seat this November. Vitter, a Republican, announced last November, after losing the gubernatorial race, he wouldn’t seek re-election.
At the Baton Rouge Press Club on Monday, Fayard touted her efforts to negotiate deals with BP that have already paid out $8 billion to those affected by the oil spill, which is said to be the worst in U.S. history.
She compared her four years of negotiations to operating at odds over contentious issues with other members of Congress.
“In reaching the settlement, you never get 100 percent of everything that what you want, but often a good compromise is almost always better than a bad win,” she said.
She noted that it’s important to build working relationships — even with those people with whom she disagrees.
“We had to become respectful adversaries with each other,” she said. “We had to sit across the table from our opponents and disagree, but not be disrespectful.”
Fayard and her brother also launched the New Orleans-based GLO charter plane service in 2015, which offers daily, nonstop round trips to Shreveport; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Memphis, Tennessee.
She said the motivation behind the business was borne out of making business trips to Shreveport more accessible. She noted that a drive from New Orleans to Shreveport is 51/2 hours, and a typical flight requires a layover in Atlanta or Houston.
“GLO is an example of quality economic development. It’s a dream that has actually become a reality,” she said. “It took cutting through massive red tape and bureaucracy, upsetting the status quo, dealing with regulations, dealing with people who say they want you to succeed but don’t want to put any muscle behind the endeavor.”
Fayard is facing off against fellow Democrat Foster Campbell, a member of the Public Service Commission that regulates utilities. Campbell, a former state senator, was encouraged to get in the race by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards. Republicans in the race include U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, of Lafayette; State Treasurer John Kennedy; U.S. Rep. John Fleming, of Minden; and retired Col. Rob Maness.
The election is scheduled for Nov. 8, with a Dec. 3 runoff, if no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote in November. The runoff, if needed, will be held between the two candidates who get the most votes in the first round, regardless of party.
Fayard, who ran for lieutenant governor in 2010, acknowledged her underdog status in the race given her lower name recognition and the state’s right-leaning voter tendencies. But this time last year, she said, Vitter was expected to be a “shoe-in as the next governor and that didn’t happen” because he was bested by Edwards, the lesser-known Democratic rival.
“There’s a real anti-establishment and anti-status quo movement,” she said. “People really want straight talk and folks who will get things done.”
But despite positioning herself as the top negotiating, anti-establishment candidate — which may ring bells with those supporting Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump — Fayard said she’s firmly in the Hillary Clinton camp when it comes to national politics. Her family members have been well-known donors to the Clintons and hosted a recent fundraiser for her presidential bid.
She said some of the top issues she wants to take on are pay equality for women, paid medical leave for families and changing the way students take on debt to pay for college.
“People shouldn’t be penalized for getting an education,” she said, adding that she thinks Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ plan to offer free college to students is unrealistic. “It can’t be free. There’s no way to cap the costs.”
Follow Rebekah Allen on Twitter, @rebekahallen.
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