Gary Chambers is running for the 2nd congressional district in New Orleans, La. Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. (Photo by Max Becherer,, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

Troy Carter is headed to Washington on May 11 to represent the 2nd Congressional District after being elected with 55% of the vote on April 24.

Carter sailed to victory by winning 67% of Jefferson Parish, a margin of 5,500 votes, and 52% of Orleans Parish, a margin of 2,500 votes.

But there was one discordant vote for Carter in a race in which both candidates were Democratic state senators from New Orleans: Karen Carter Peterson carried East Baton Rouge Parish with 65% of the vote, a margin of 2,500 votes.

Peterson dominated Carter even though he had the endorsement of Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, state Sen. Cleo Fields and state Sen. Regina Barrow – three of the Capitol City’s most prominent Democrats.

So, what happened?

“The voters voted against the political establishment of East Baton Rouge,” said Gary Chambers Jr., the Baton Rouge-based social justice advocate who finished third in the primary overall and then endorsed Peterson. He trailed her by 2 percentage points in the primary in East Baton Rouge Parish.

A Democrat, Chambers believes that his efforts contributed to her strong showing there in the runoff.

“The political elites think their name is enough,” said Chambers. “We get out into the community and touch people. Baton Rouge wants more tenacity out of its leadership than the typical that’s-just-the-way-things-are politician.”

Asked why Peterson didn’t carry Orleans Parish with his support, Chambers replied, “That’s more a reflection on Karen and less on me.”

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Peterson, he added, has work to do to repair relationships in New Orleans that have been damaged over the years.

“She’s aware and is willing to work on those things,” Chambers said.

His candidacy was powered by his strong social media presence. An Instagram post of Chambers with Peterson on Monday night has garnered an astounding 42,000 views. But then again, he has 326,000 followers on Instagram, 88,000 on Twitter and 50,000 on Facebook.

So, what’s ahead for Chambers?

On Thursday, he announced he is creating “Bigger Than Me,” which he described as “a national organization dedicated to civic engagement and education of the progressive agenda and the need to elect progressives in the Deep South.”

After finishing third in the congressional campaign, and after seeing the success of progressive candidates in Georgia, “Chambers resolved to elevate the voices of the disenfranchised communities in the South by recruiting and promoting local progressive candidates.”

In an interview, Chambers, 35, said he is likely to run for office again in Louisiana, perhaps against U.S. Sen. John Kennedy when he runs for re-election next year or for one of the statewide posts in 2023. Republicans hold all of those positions except the governor’s office. Gov. John Bel Edwards is term-limited in 2023. No obvious Democratic candidate has emerged.

“The state is more progressive and Democratic than the people think,” Chambers said. “I don’t think we’ve given people someone who will motivate them to get up and vote.”

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