During his five years in the state Senate, Troy Carter has repeatedly pushed major Democratic initiatives that have failed in the Republican-controlled chamber.
Carter has also sponsored a number of small-bore measures that won approval from his colleagues and made an impact on people’s lives.
Along the way, he has earned a reputation as someone who can work well with others, a trait he says is important to pass legislation that will help people.
“Legislative politics is not a single-player sport,” Carter said, a Democrat from Algiers. “It’s not ping-pong. You have to get votes, you have to work with others, you have to build relationships. It’s something I’m very proud of that I’ve been able to do.”
Carter is running against Karen Carter Peterson, also a Democratic state senator from New Orleans, in the April 24 runoff to determine who will replace Cedric Richmond in the U.S. House in a Black-majority district that’s centered in New Orleans and the west bank of Jefferson Parish but extends up the Mississippi River to north Baton Rouge.
Notably, Carter has the endorsement of all eight Black state senators who are not running in the race.
Carter, 57, says he is running on his record in the congressional campaign.
After becoming a senator in 2016, Carter regularly voted with Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, on the temporary sales tax measures to plug the massive budget deficit that Edwards inherited from Gov. Bobby Jindal. In 2018, Carter was one of the 33 senators who voted to replace a temporary 1-cent sales tax increase with a 0.45-cent sales tax that will be on the books until mid-2025.
“I certainly don’t like sales taxes,” Carter said. “The alternative is far worse – making the cuts for people who can least afford it.”
Carter has regularly voted against conservative measures that have sought to restrict abortion and expand gun rights, and he rejects the conservative philosophy that government ought to be run like a business.
“A business person wakes up every day thinking about how to turn a profit,” Carter said. “People in government should be waking up every day about how to deliver a service, whether it is police, fire, education, health care or infrastructure. If government was run like a business, people who are underserved will continue to be underserved.”
Carter has passed legislation that provides immunity for anyone who breaks into a car to try to save a child or pet that has been inadvertently left inside and seems in distress. Another piece of legislation that became law prohibits anyone from tethering a dog or cat in advance of a hurricane.
A third piece of legislation allows people who are developmentally disabled to have an identifying mark on their driver’s license to help police know that they may behave differently than expected during a traffic stop.
A fourth measure requires health insurers to cover reconstructive surgery for patients at high risk of breast cancer who have prophylactic mastectomies. He attributes his successes to his personality, and suggests that Peterson lacks the right temperament for Congress.
“You can’t kick rocks and throw stones and get angry and run off mad when you don’t get your way,” Carter said. “You have to be able to work with people. Sometimes we’ll all have disagreements. That’s OK. Sometimes things will even get heated. That’s OK. But it should never get so personal that you can’t work together the next day. It should never get so personal that we cast stones that are irreparable. Relationships mean something. I’ve seen bad bills pass because they liked the author. I’ve seen good bills fail because they don’t like the author. In a legislative body, you have to be able to work with people.”
Two issues have been a priority for Carter as a state senator. One has been raising the state’s minimum wage above the $7.25 per hour rate. The other has been strengthening anti-discrimination laws against gays and lesbians.
Carter has sponsored legislation each year to raise the state minimum wage. In most cases, he sought a modest increase.
Carter remembered that he appeared on WWL-AM one day, and a caller wanted to know why he was seeking to raise the rate to just $9 per hour.
“I said, ‘Have you been to the Legislature lately? It’s going to be a dogfight just to get to this.’”
Carter has never won the dogfight. His best showing was winning 17 votes in the 39-member Senate in 2018.
As a congressional candidate, Carter is now advocating for a $15 per hour federal minimum wage.
“Clearly we want people to have a living wage,” he said in one campaign forum, adding, “$7.25 is a starvation wage.”
Carter has regularly sought to pass legislation to strengthen the rights of the LGBQT community without success.
“It didn’t impact me directly,” said Carter, who is married with two sons from his first marriage. “Some said, ‘Why are you doing that?’ My comment then and now as an African-American man is that I know what it’s like to be discriminated against. No one should discriminate against you for who you are.”
One knock on Carter’s legislative record is that he missed 17% of the votes during his first term. Only six senators, including Peterson, were absent more than him over that time.
If elected to Congress, Carter said he would support higher funding for early childhood education, support forgiving student loans for up to $50,000, work with local EPA officials to reduce emissions from petrochemical plants along so-called Cancer Alley, support President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion plan to boost spending on infrastructure and support the president’s plan to reverse the 2017 corporate tax cuts enacted by President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans.