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Fundraising shows Democrats split on one Louisiana seat, GOP unity for another

Crowded fields could lead to runoff elections in both districts

Democratic former Rep. Cedric L. Richmond gave $5,000 from his leadership PAC to the campaign of state Sen. Troy Carter, who is vying to succeed Richmond in Louisiana's 2nd District.
Democratic former Rep. Cedric L. Richmond gave $5,000 from his leadership PAC to the campaign of state Sen. Troy Carter, who is vying to succeed Richmond in Louisiana's 2nd District. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

New fundraising reports show two Democratic state legislators with roughly the same financial support in the race to succeed Cedric L. Richmond, while Republican Julia Letlow is the heavy favorite for the seat her husband won shortly before he died of complications related to COVID-19.

The reports comprise fundraising in January and February, the bulk of the brief campaign cycle for March 20 special elections in Louisiana’s 2nd and 5th Districts. 

In the solidly blue 2nd District, state Sens. Troy Carter and Karen Carter Peterson, both Democrats, raised the most of the 15 candidates on the ballot, with Carter pulling in $519,000 to Carter Peterson’s $450,000. 

Democrat Gary Chambers, a progressive publisher and activist who has attracted attention because of his massive social media following, was in third place with $304,000, followed by Republican Claston Bernard, a former Olympic decathlete and author who raised $113,000. 

Candidates of all parties will run on the same ballot, and the winner when voting ends March 20 needs to get more than 50 percent to claim the seat outright. Otherwise, the top two finishers will meet in a runoff on April 24 — which seems likely, given the large fields. 

Carter has campaigned on his endorsement from Richmond, who resigned in January to take a post in President Joe Biden’s administration. Richmond’s leadership PAC, Who Dat PAC, donated $5,000. Vaquero PAC, the leadership PAC of new Democratic National Committee Vice Chairman Filemon Vela, also donated $5,000. 

Carter also received $5,000 from The Collective PAC, which supports Black candidates, along with contributions from trade unions representing electrical contractors, laborers and optometrists. 

The majority of Carter’s disclosed donations for the period — $392,000, or 76 percent  — came from within Louisiana, while Carter Peterson was able to tap her network as a onetime vice chair of the Democratic National Committee who is endorsed by several national groups and running to Carter’s left. Her disclosed in-state donations total $162,000, or 36 percent of her total. But more of her total contributions, $63,000, or 14 percent of all she raised, were in amounts of $200 or less, and therefore she was not required to disclose the donors’ information. Some of them could have been from Louisiana.

Abrams backs Carter Peterson

Carter Peterson’s supporters include Georgia voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams, who endorsed her and contributed $2,800, the maximum amount allowed for individual contributions, and Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the former chairwoman of the DNC. Her leadership PAC, Democrats Win Seats, contributed $2,800. 

Carter Peterson also received $2,900 from EMILY’s List, which supports Democratic women in favor of abortion rights; $5,000 from the Congressional Progressive Caucus; and $5,000 from Democracy for America, a progressive PAC founded by former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean. Elect Democratic Women, a PAC formed by female Democratic members of Congress to boost their ranks, raised $47,000 according to the report. 

Like Carter, Carter Peterson also got $5,000 from The Collective PAC. The contribution was received on Dec. 31 and was included in a year-end report to the FEC filed in January.

Nearly three-quarters of  Chambers’ contributions, more than  $225,000, came from donors giving less than $200. If those donors live in the district, that’s an indication he could have the support to push him into the runoff, when turnout is generally low. 

Heading into the final three weeks of the race, Carter had a slight edge in cash-on-hand, with nearly $292,000, followed by Carter Peterson with $208,000 and Chambers with $115,000. 

GOP backing for Letlow

In the 5th District race, Letlow has campaigned on her continuing the conservative agenda of her husband, Luke Letlow. Her campaign report shows numerous contributions from Republican leaders, including E-PAC, New York Rep. Elise Stefanik’s political action committee dedicated to supporting Republican women. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Missouri Rep. Ann Wagner, a former co-chair of the Republican National Committee, also contributed.

Letlow led the field of 12 candidates with $893,000 raised and $731,000 in cash as of Feb. 28, though some of that can only be spent if there is a runoff. 

Democrat Sandra “Candy” Christophe was the second-highest fundraiser for the period, pulling in $69,856, of which $37,732 came from small-dollar donors. She had $50,000 cash on hand at the end of the reporting period.

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