Dec 212017

State Senator Troy Carter talks with Councilman-elect Joe Giarrusso and Clerk of Second City Court Darren Lombard at Wednesday’s meeting of local Democrats. (photo by Danae Columbus)

Danae Columbus

Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

When the local Democratic Parish Executive Committee and friends met last night to celebrate the holiday season, they just didn’t talk about which candidates would be qualifying for the spring elections, but how the Democratic Party nationally is rebuilding from the grass roots.

While President Donald Trump’s now almost one-year-old revolution has won a notable victory in this week’s tax revamp — which will benefit businesses but “turbocharge inequality,” according to the New York Times — a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll shows that voters increasingly want Democrats to control Congress after the 2018 elections.

Democratic pollster Fred Yang says a double-digit lead by voters who favor electing more Democrats helps explain last week’s Democratic success in Alabama’s U.S. Senate race and in Virginia’s November gubernatorial election. Though Roy Moore was clearly a flawed candidate, according to State Senator Troy Carter, winner Doug Jones built a coalition that merged a strong turnout by African-American voters with growing support in the suburbs where Trump’s policies originally targeted to the “forgotten Americans” have become less popular. Carter believes Jones’ win was not a fluke.

America’s voter mix continues to evolve. According to 2016 census figures supplied by Gulf Coast Resources, Caucasian voters now comprise 61 percent of total voters; Latino voters make up 18 percent; African-American voters represent 13 percent; and Asian voters comprise 6 percent. Female voters of all races continue to be in the majority.

In Louisiana, 30 percent of voters are African-American. Outside of other Southern states like Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas, high numbers of African-American voters only exist in inner cities where tourism drives a need for unskilled workers who hold low-paying jobs.

“What Jones did in Alabama can be duplicated,” said Carter. “I believe in personal politics – the ability of a candidate to reach out to people individually and earn their support.”

Likewise, incoming City Councilman Joe Giarrusso III said his recent victory was built on a strong message and his ability to connect with the voters. “The winning combination is having a good candidate, a good message and the ability to turn out voters,” said Giarrusso.

Darren Lombard said that voters expect candidates to be real, friendly and credible. While some voters do select a candidate based on charisma, that choice changes if candidates more clearly define the important issues in each race.

Around the country and in Louisiana, new attention is being paid to suburban women in geographic areas where Republicans have always done well, according to the New York Times. The National Federation of Democratic Women also held an organizational meeting in Pineville last weekend with a goal of building more vibrant parish-based operations.

Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell developed a message that was attractive to millennial voters. It led to her victory. For Democrats to win more elections at the parish, state or federal level, they must capture those same millennials as well as other voters who agree with Bernie Sanders’ philosophies.

“The Democratic Party is beginning to realize we cannot afford to take any segment of our constituency for granted and that our political agenda must be the right agenda,” said Carter. He also favors a more judicious approach to investigating claims of sexual harassment rather than jumping to quick conclusions. “All politics is local,” said Lombard, who likes to work quietly behind the scenes. “Any good politician who builds from the bottom up always succeeds.”


Among the surprises at last night’s gathering of Democrats was the fiery but unscheduled speech made by Caroline Fayard – formerly a candidate for U.S. Senate and Lt. Governor – about the election of Doug Jones to the U.S. Senate and what it means to the future of Democrats, especially in the South. Fayard, like several other New Orleanians, campaigned for Jones in Alabama earlier this month.

After hearing her rousing words, some attendees debated what Fayard might be running for next. The daughter of Calvin Fayard, a monied Edwin Edwards-era Democratic political heavyweight, Fayard supporters say her failure to win the U.S. Senate race was based in large part by the lack of state party support. Fayard also might believe she can re-energize the state party and make it attractive to the all-important millennial voters.

Karen Carter Peterson has not always been the most popular state party chair. She spared with Governor John Bel Edwards during the election, though she has since mended that relationship. The old-money/power faction that controlled Louisiana Democratic politics for decades could easily get behind Fayard in an attempt to topple Carter Peterson. Fayard has solid name recognition around the state. But Carter Peterson is a tenacious fighter who has become a vice chair of the national party. She won’t go quietly into the night.

Danae Columbus, who has had a 30-year career in politics and public relations, offers her opinions on Thursdays. Her career includes stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board and former clients such as District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, City Council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, Foster Campbell, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell. Her current clients include District B City Council candidate Seth Bloom and At-Large City Council candidate Helena Moreno.

  2 Responses to “Danae Columbus: Trump still in charge, but New Orleans Democrats look for national comeback”

  1. Fayard? Not going to happen. Even the airline is a failure.

  2. Last paragraph: “Karen Carter Peterson has not always been the most popular state party chair. She spared with Governor John Bel Edwards during the election, though she has since mended that relationship.” Don’t you mean “sparred”?

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