Sep 062018
 
Dr. Tammy Savoie will challenging incumbent Steve Scalise for Congress seat

Dr. Tammy Savoie, a psychologist and retired Air Force lieutenant colonel challenging incumbent Steve Scalise for Congress, speaks at a Democratic fundraiser in the Warehouse District on July 24. (Sabree Hill, UptownMessenger.com)

Danae Columbus

Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

With a stunning victory Tuesday night against 22-year Congresssman Mike Capuano, Boston City Council member Ayanna Pressley is the latest candidate to upend the traditional political party system in America. An avowed progressive who was endorsed by the Democratic Party structure, Capuano is the fourth House incumbent to be defeated by a fresh face who was able to connect with voters in a very real way. An African-American female, Pressley is a former aide to Rep. Joseph Kennedy and Sen. John Kerry who has worked her way up by keen networking and strong performances.

Although not a political upstart like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who knocked out long time Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley, Pressley convinced voters that it was her time to serve and will be the first African-American member of Congress from Massachusetts. Pressley, Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Conor Lamb – also a Democratic star in this cycle – have all pledged to forgo corporate PAC money, which up until now has always help re-elect established members of Congress.

Republicans also have a minority candidate who mirrors Ocasio-Cortez’s millennial female profile – 33-year old Elizabeth Heng who is running in California’s reliably blue 16th Congressional District against an established male politician, incumbent Democrat Jim Costa. A 33-year old Cambodian-American, Heng is trying to buck the tradition of electing white men to Congress. Currently 86% of Houses Republicans are male. White men only represent 41% of House Democrats and that percentage is falling, according to Politico.

Louisiana voters have to admire congressional challengers like Tammy Savoie, Jim Francis, Lee Ann Dugas, Andi Saizan and Mimi Methvin. These long-shot contenders are running uphill contests against strong Republican incumbents Steve Scalise, Garrett Graves and Clay Higgins, all of whom are expected to win re-election, according to odds makers. The Cook Political Report says that the “Blue Wave” which could lead to a Democratic congressional take-over does not extend to these three districts. Even so, these candidates – like so many others around the country – are waging full throttle campaigns to distinguish themselves with a bolder, more transformational message about progressive politics in the Trump era. Without significant PAC contributions, they are raising money from small donors, coordinating phone banks, sign locations, and canvass crews in a predominately grass-roots effort to leave no stone unturned.

Pressley vows to abolish ICE and push an impeachment process against President Trump now. Savoie says that House Whip Steve Scalise has “turned his back” on Louisiana voters and pledges to extract Louisiana from every list where the state is currently ranked last. Dugas, Savoie and Francis appeared before an overflow crowd at the IWO endorsement meeting last night at the Zulu hall.

Back in California, Costa – who as of the last reporting deadline has raised more than three times what Heng has been able to amass –is preparing to connect her to President Donald Trump perceived shortcomings. Democrats now see a clearer path to “flip” the 23 House seats needed to win back a majority. As indictments and convictions of Trump supporters for various violations increase, Democrats are delivering a strong message that the Republicans running Washington are part of a culture of corruption and using the government for their own advancement. If leadership shifts, expect Democrats to ramp up a series of hearings, subpoenas and investigations into every corner of President Trump’s administration, according to the New York Times.

Despite President Trump’s often divisive rhetoric and low job-approval ratings, Republicans hold a 14-point edge on how American’s view the current economy, a major indicator of voter satisfaction. In congressional districts where America’s economic boom is uneven, at-risk Republicans are feeling some pressure. The gap between consumer confidence and presidential job approval ratings has never been so pronounced.

President Trump is making his best effort to shape the midterm battle, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis. He keenly understands that a president’s endorsement at the right moment can still decide an election. At this time, Louisiana’s incumbents have not signaled their need for additional support from the President. That could change if any of the Democratic challengers are able to catch the “Blue Wave.” Meanwhile, President Trump is expected to campaign in Texas for Senator Ted Cruz who is in a very tight race against Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke.

Republicans like Newt Gingrich argue that Democrats have “no compelling message” other than that “they hate Trump.” Yet minorities and college educated suburban women are shifting their support. Also efforts to register new voters have enjoyed success. Also, Republican elected officials who spent their years criticizing President Obama could come up short in terms of the level of accomplishments their voters would expect in a re-election bid.

Midterm elections are almost always referendums on the president, regardless of the opposing party’s message. President Trump remains a wild care with an uncanny ability to energize a rock-solid core of voters. His passion will still be evident in November.

STEP UP LOUISIANA PLANS COMMUNITY BLOCK PARTY SEPTEMBER 12

Step Up Louisiana, a grass roots community organization committed to building political power to fight for education and economic justice, will hold a Community Block Party on September 12 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Duncan Plaza. Join them for a serious discussion on equal pay and other issues.

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, City Councilwoman-elect Helena Moreno, Foster Campbell, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.

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