Karen Carter Peterson, Troy Carter

Karen Carter Peterson (left) and Troy Carter (right)

Karen Carter Peterson is attacking Troy Carter for not renouncing support from an outside Republican group backing him in the congressional race between them.

Peterson and Carter are both Democratic state senators from New Orleans, but Peterson is running to the left of Carter to represent a district that includes New Orleans, the west bank of Jefferson Parish, the River Parishes, and north Baton Rouge.

It’s largely been forgotten, but there was a time when Peterson worked closely with a Republican, then-state Rep. Jim Tucker. In fact, she helped make Tucker the first Republican House speaker in Louisiana since Reconstruction.

In return, she became the first Black female speaker pro tem, the No. 2 position in the House.

This story begins following the 2007 elections when Bobby Jindal, a Republican, was elected as governor, and Republicans continued to gain seats on Democrats in the House.

After the elections, the breakdown was 53 Democrats, 50 Republicans and two independents.

Then-state Rep. Don Cazayoux, a third-term Democrat from New Roads, had consolidated most Democrats behind him to try to become the next speaker.

But Tucker, a developer from Algiers, believed he could pry off enough Democrats to win the nod. House members would choose their next speaker when they first convened in January 2008. Jindal had pledged not to back a candidate until someone had lined up a majority.

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Tucker had played a key role in molding the House Republican minority into a viable opposition force in recent sessions. Now a third-termer, Tucker cut a deal with Peterson. Tucker went to her because he knew Peterson’s father, Ken Carter, a politically active attorney and constituent of Tucker’s, and because he and Peterson were members of the Orleans Parish legislative delegation.

Peterson did her part and delivered the support of several members of the Legislative Black Caucus who agreed to cross party lines and back Tucker.

Jindal then offered his support, and Cazayoux withdrew.

With Tucker’s backing, the House elected Peterson as speaker pro tem.

Tucker served as speaker for four years. During that time, party switches left Republicans with a majority in the House that they haven’t relinquished.

Tucker narrowly lost a 2011 election to be secretary of state, was nearly chosen as LABI’s president and CEO in 2013 and since 2015 has served as the CEO of Commcare Corporation, which owns 11 nursing homes and hospices.

Peterson served as speaker pro tem until 2010 when she won an open state Senate seat, a position she continues to hold.

Advocate library manager Judy Jumonville contributed to this article.

Email Tyler Bridges at tbridges@theadvocate.com.