Karen Carter Peterson, Troy Carter (copy)

Democrats Karen Carter Peterson and Troy Carter will face each other in the April 24 runoff to decide the 2nd congressional district contest. 

A direct mail attack piece sent just before the March 20 congressional primary contained several head-scratching details that has left the campaign of state Sen. Troy Carter criticizing the prominent national women’s organization behind it.

“This is an unfortunate example of how out of touch the Washington, D.C.-based PAC supporting Karen Carter Peterson is with the people of Louisiana,” Victoria Short Coulon, Carter’s campaign manager, said in an email.

The super PAC of EMILY’s List, which aims to elect pro-abortion rights female Democrats, designed the unflattering mailer to pull voters from Carter by saying he had gone on a mid-1990s junket to Los Angeles on the taxpayer’s dime, with other city officials, as a member of the New Orleans City Council.

“The award for partying with taxpayer money goes to…TROY CARTER,” read the mailer against the silhouette of an Oscar.

EMILY’s List is supporting Peterson, who finished second in the primary to Carter. The two Democratic state senators from New Orleans are squaring off in the April 24 runoff to represent a New Orleans-centric congressional district that extends to Baton Rouge.

The mailer contained six photos of Carter.

None had anything to do with his trip to Los Angeles, EMILY’s List acknowledges, saying in an email that they came from Carter’s Facebook campaign page.

In one photo, Carter is pictured with New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell and the mayor’s 13-year-old daughter.

Cantrell hasn’t endorsed either candidate but has been an ally of Peterson’s.

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In another photo, Carter is pictured with New Orleans Civil District Court Judge Kern Reese. In an interview, Reese noted that the judicial canon of ethics does not allow him to participate in politics and said he hadn’t approved usage of his image in the mailer. “I’m disappointed and upset,” said Reese, who added that the photo was taken at a 2020 Mardi Gras ball.

“Voters recognize the individuals in those photos, and that many of them were taken at Mardi Gras events - not an Oscars ceremony in the 1990s,” said Coulon. “Further, the attack is dishonest and misleading. Sen. Troy Carter went on a trip to Los Angeles with Mayor Marc Morial and his fellow Councilmembers to help begin what we now know as a successful Hollywood South.”

Coulon said the cost to taxpayers was $26,000 – not the $200,000 mentioned in the mailer. Her figure came from a 1993 Times-Picayune article, which said the group had attended an Academy Awards viewing party at the House of Blues in Los Angeles with a New Orleans theme.

The EMILY’s List mailer cited three Times-Picayune articles as its sources, one from 1993 and two from 1995.

But none of those articles had anything to do with the Los Angeles trip.

Coulon noted that Carter favors abortion rights, as does Peterson.

Benjamin Ray, an EMILY’S List spokesperson, was asked why a pro-abortion rights group would attack Carter for a trip from 25 years ago that had nothing to do with abortion.

"We support Democratic pro-choice women for elected office and use a wide range of issues and methods to do so," he said in an email.

Advocate Librarian Manager Judy Jumonville contributed research for this article.

Email Will Sentell at wsentell@theadvocate.com.