Voters Return to the Ballot for Louisiana Special Election

Cameron English Data News Weekly Contributor

Louisiana voters in the Second and Fifth Congressional District will be electing new representation on March 20th. The current vacancies in the state’s delegation in Washington came as U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond assumed his new role in 2020 as a senior advisor to President Joe Biden as Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Richmond was the only Black person and Democrat in the Louisiana Congressional delegation. Eight Democrats, four Republicans, one Libertarian and two Independent candidates are running to replace Richmond.

Additionally, the untimely death of Luke Letlow at the age of 41 to COVID-19 complications, days before he was to be sworn in to represent Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District set off another special election for federal office in the state in 2021. Letlow served as Chief of Staff for former U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham and would have represented parishes like Franklin, Washington, and portions of East Feliciana, St. Helena, St. Landry, and Tangipahoa parishes as part of his district. There are a total of twelve candidates running for Letlow’s seat, including Letlow’s wife Julia Letlow.

Voters say they are ready to return to the polls again during a Pandemic if it means that the issues, they care about will be acted on by elected officials.

“We know what is best for us, and the only way we can make that shake is if we vote and put our people in office,” said Jeremiah James, a Gentilly resident, and a local activist.

“Nothing about us without us,” James added. “We are not letting people in office or whatever to make decisions about us and our youth without our input and decisions in general because the decisions that are made impact us directly whether it is a good impact or not.”

Some voters had hoped that Richmond’s seat could have been easily filled by Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, allowing for more time for a campaign to select the best replacement.

“I am not voting in the special election because I believe the Governor should fill the vacancy,” said Teddo November, a Westbank resident and a producer. In some states, the governor would have the power to fill a vacancy left by a representative. In those cases, the governor would appoint people they see as qualified. The state’s election laws require a special election instead.

Residents said they are paying attention to the wide slate of candidates to determine what issues they will champion most in Congress. Diedra Wickem said she plans to vote for Troy Carter in Louisiana’s second district race and other Democrats in local races. She has been reviewing their platforms to see what “the candidates stand for and why they are running,” she said. “The only news [I care] about is what happens in the White House, really,” Wickem said.

Many of the same concerns affecting voters in the 2021 presidential elections still remain at the top of the list in the Louisiana special elections.

“Issues that matter most to me are healthcare, vaccinations, our economic response to COVID-19, racial justice, student debt relief, and safely reopening schools,” said Donnell Bailey, a New Orleans resident, and a young professional.

The quality of education has been impacted significantly over the 12 months of the Pandemic and many students hope that and end to the Pandemic will improve their learning and the economy when they graduate.

“My top issues have to be vaccine administration, COVID relief, reproductive justice, and criminal justice reform,” said Cabria Ridgnal, a Gentilly resident who attends Dillard University.

It is important for young people to shape policy and get involved in politics said Justin Hartley, a Tulane University student who shared Ridgnal’s concerns.

“My top issues this election cycle are electing a Congressperson who will fight for Medicare for all, progressive climate change policy, such as a Green New Deal, and active protections for abortion access in Louisiana,” Hatley said. “I am also interested in seeing the first Black woman elected to serve in a congressional role in Louisiana,” said Hartley, who noted Louisiana residents have never had a Black woman from either party represent them in Congress.

Louisiana State Sen. Karen Cater Peterson is the sole Black woman running in the Louisiana second district race. Candy Christophe, a social worker, is the only Black woman and Democrat running for the Louisiana’s fifth district race.

The early voting period for the special election ended on Saturday, March 13th. Polling locations open for election day voting on March 20th at 6:00 am and close at 8:00 pm. The March 20th election is primary, and if a run-off is called, it would take place on April 26th.

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