It’s funny how politicians often seem to change their minds when the shoe is on the other foot.
A couple of years ago, state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson of New Orleans, who heads Louisiana’s Democratic Party, questioned whether a candidate who had struggled with an addiction should be elected to public office.
Now that Peterson has admitted her own addiction, which hasn’t prompted her resignation from the Senate, she’s apparently decided that addiction isn’t an automatic barrier to elective office.
In 2017, when former Orleans Parish School Board President Seth Bloom ran for the New Orleans City Council, Peterson questioned his fitness for office since he had battled an addiction to prescription drugs.
“It is important that you have people that can spend full time on this (council job) and not have to focus on recovery in other ways,” Peterson said back then. Bloom narrowly lost the council race.
Last weekend, Peterson admitted her own addiction, which involves gambling. She disclosed her addiction as news broke that she had been issued a misdemeanor summons for entering a Baton Rouge casino. To her credit, in an effort to control her addiction, Peterson had voluntarily signed up for a program in which problem gamblers can essentially ban themselves from casinos, prompting a summons if they’re caught on the premises.
“Despite her previous comments degrading those who have battled addiction, I do believe that public service and recovery can coexist,” Bloom said about Peterson’s disclosure. “I commend the senator for coming forward to shed light on this important issue, and wish her and her family the best in her recovery.”
Left unchecked, any addiction has the potential to compromise a person’s effectiveness in the workplace, and that includes public servants. A key question should be whether the addiction is being treated and is under control. Voters can assess a candidate’s performance on this issue and others, then render their own judgments.
Such addictions shouldn’t be an automatic disqualifier for public office, though. Maybe Peterson is finding that out.