Viewpoint: Candidates line up to lead the state Democratic Party out of its doldrums

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LaKeisha Jefferson, candidate for Civil District Court judge; Dianne Alexander, candidate for First City Court judge

Qualifying for the March 2024 elections got off to a quick start yesterday at the Clerk’s Office, Criminal District Court.  Two attorneys, Dianne Alexander and LaKeisha Jefferson, signed up for open seats in First City Court and Civil District Court respectively.

Ronald Coleman

In addition 71 other contenders — including a number of fresh faces of the more progressive persuasion — qualified for Democratic and Republican parish and state committees. Ronald Coleman, president of the local NAACP, was first in line to qualify for re-election to the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee.

Yesterday’s turnout was higher than four years ago, when only 48 candidates qualified on the first day followed by 49 the second day and 114 the third and final day for the state political committees.

With the poor showing in the fall elections, the Louisiana Democratic Party is clearly at a crossroads. Term-limited state Rep. Randall Gaines of LaPlace has announced he is willing to lead the party going forward. Many younger activists would probably prefer PSC Commissioner Davante Lewis. Still others would prefer outgoing PSC Commissioner Foster Campbell, who has a greater capacity to raise money and is better known statewide. Whoever leads Louisiana’s Democrats going forward has their work cut out for them to make the party more viable.

Several Democratic elected officials made their appearances to qualify for the Democratic State Central Committee, including District D Councilmember Eugene Green; state Sen. Gary Carter; School Board members Carlos Zervigon, Olin Parker and Ethan Ashley; Constable Ed Shorty, Clerk of First City Court Donna Glapion; and state Reps. Delisha Boyd, Matt Willard, Candace Newell, Aimee Freeman and Shaun Mena. State Rep. Jason Hughes qualified by proxy.

Arnie Fielkow

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was the number of new candidates who qualified because they want to revitalize the state Democratic Party. Former City Council President Arnie Fielkow has embraced that philosophy along with Uptown resident Pamela Steeg, a long-time supporter of social justice issues. Three candidates wore T-shirts emblazoned with the V.O.T.E. organization’s logo. All in all, the vast majority of state Democratic Party seats have a new candidate who has not been active in previous elections.

Louis Gurvich

On the Republican front, state party chair Louis Gurvich and parish party chair Adrian Bruneau led a group of 16 others, including Uptown resident Kermit Roux III along with French Quarter residents Juliet Laughlin, Stephen Swain, and Celia and Jeffrey Collins.

The parish executive committees endorse local candidates and strengthen the party infrastructure within their communities. The state central committees are the governing bodies of the parties in the state. They work directly with the national party to recruit and endorse candidates, increase registered voters for the party, build overall awareness and raise campaign funds.

The members of the state central committee elect the party leadership, who in turn hire and staff and dole out whatever contracts are available. Lots of money can flow through a state party, either from Washington or funds raised within the state.

When a state party has trouble raising money locally and funds dry up from national party, it becomes difficult to elect their endorsed candidates. The Louisiana Democratic Party failed to elect any of their statewide endorsed candidates in 2023 and, in fact, did not support a progressive, Davante Lewis, who won the race for a seat on the Public Service Commission and now is vying to be state party chair.

It goes without saying because Louisiana Republicans endorsed Jeff Landry early they were able to maximize how the state and national party could help their chosen candidate.

Qualifying continues through Friday (Dec. 15) at 4:30 p.m.


District E Councilmember Oliver Thomas is hosting a holiday social gathering to thank friends and supporters tonight (Dec. 14) from 6 until 9 p.m. at LeRoux’s on the Lake, 9736 Hayne Blvd. Thomas is a potential 2024 mayoral candidate.


Congressman Troy Carter is asking supporters to join him Friday for Xmas on the River at the Jax Brewery in the Riverview Room on the fouth level. Attendees are encouraged to bring a new unwrapped toy that can be given out at Carter’s toy giveaway for families from across the district on Saturday (Dec. 16).


Shaun Mena

House District 23 Rep. Shaun Mena announced this week that he plans to focus on improving public safety and bringing more economic development to the district. Mena was recently elected to represent the newly created district that includes Hollygrove, Gert Town, Mid-City, Bayou St. John and Gentilly.

Mena has been preparing for his new position by studying the core issues and meeting with advocates from around the state who represent a variety of interests at the Capitol. “I look forward to working with them to move District 23 and by extension the state of Louisiana forward,” Mena said.

He is also working to reduce his campaign debt. “Though I still carry campaign debt, the debt of gratitude that I owe to the constituents of District 23 for electing me is the debt that I will never be able to repay,” Mena said.

Danae Columbus

Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

Opinion columnist Danae Columbus has had a 30-year career in politics and public relations. Her career includes stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board and former clients such as former District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, former City Councilman Jared Brossett, City Councilwoman at-large Helena Moreno, Foster Campbell, former Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former City Councilwomen Stacy Head and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell. She is a member of the Democratic Parish Executive Committee. Columbus can be reached at

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