Two Louisiana state senators will go head-to-head in a runoff election Saturday that will determine who will succeed a White House adviser in the U.S. House.
State Sens. Karen Carter Peterson and Troy Carter, both Democrats, will compete for the 2nd Congressional District seat left vacant by Cedric Richmond, whom President Biden tapped to serve as the White House’s director of public engagement.
The majority-Black district includes most of New Orleans.
Carter and Peterson were the top two finishers in a crowded open primary last month. In that contest, Carter received about 36% of the vote, while Peterson finished second with 23% of ballots cast, narrowly edging out Baton Rouge activist Gary Chambers Jr. for a spot in Saturday’s runoff.
Both candidates have previously made unsuccessful bids to represent the 2nd District.
Carter won an endorsement from Richmond earlier this year, just before the former congressman left his position for the Biden administration. Carter, a former New Orleans City Council member, has also received the backing of Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., and other notable members of Congress.
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“In my last act as your congressman, I am proud to support Sen. Troy Carter for Congress,” Richmond said in a video. “As a Democratic leader in the Senate, Troy has led the fight for working families in Louisiana and pushed an agenda for women and young people.”
Peterson’s supporters include Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia House minority leader and 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Georgia, and LaToya Cantrell, the mayor of New Orleans.
“In Congress, [Peterson] will serve as a champion for justice, Covid relief, voting rights and more,” Abrams wrote on Twitter.
Peterson, a former state party chair, would be the first Black woman to represent Louisiana in Congress.
A victory for either candidate means that Democrats will increase their narrow majority in the U.S. House, which currently has 218 Democrats and 212 Republicans. Richmond’s former seat is one of five current vacancies.
From one point of view, the violence on Jan. 6 was an explosive, terrifying sign that polarization and partisan rancor have gone from causing gridlock to killing people.
But from another, it wasn’t that surprising — rather, it was logical culmination of the openly divisive and racialized politics of the Trump era, on top of decades-long growth in partisan anger.
In our most recent NPR Politics Podcast book club installment we talked with Lilliana Mason, associate professor of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland, about her book on America’s political animosity, Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity.
She explained the complex forces at work in that anger — from human nature to racialized politics to who we see at the grocery store — and why growing polarization may in fact be a sign of progress.
The conversation is edited for clarity and length.
DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN: One of the big points of your book is about how we have increasingly lost what you call “crosscutting identities” — that our political parties have become very much internally alike. (For example, the identities of being white evangelical, non-college-educated and in a rural area all overlap in huge ways and are heavily associated with Republicans, while being urban, college-educated and non-religious are now heavily Democratic identities.) How did that happen? And how much has it changed?
LILLIANA MASON: In this period after the Civil Rights Act, when people were deciding which party to be in, we had a lot of people who might be Democrats or Republicans. But they might run into people who were in the other party in the grocery store or at church or in their bowling leagues or, you know, neighborhood clubs. And so it was a lot easier to humanize and understand people in the other party as, you know, basically, well-intentioned human beings.
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