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Who Will Serve the Second?

For many residents of the metro area, the race to decide who will succeed Cedric Richmond in Congress might seem like a two-person competition between two prominent New Orleans Democrats, state Sen. Troy Carter and state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson. Still, Baton-Rouge community organizer and activist Gary Chambers could be a dark horse candidate or at least a strong reminder that the second congressional district is more than Orleans and Jefferson parishes. Chambers might best be known for the viral video of him blasting East Baton Rouge Parish School Board member Connie Bernard for ignoring a debate over the confederate name of one of the area schools.

Besides those three, there are actually 12 others in the race, which has attracted a full slate of candidates rounded out by veteran politicians, perennial candidates and political newcomers. In all, 15 are vying to serve as the next representative of a district, which is not only one of the poorest in the state, but in the nation—which Louisiana’s 2nd congressional district contains nearly all of the city of New Orleans and large swaths of both the east and westbanks of Jefferson Parish, then stretches west through the River Parishes, and north to Baton Rouge. The seat has been vacant  since January.

This will be the first time in a decade that the district has had new leadership. To be sure, Louisiana’s second congressional district has also been generally marked by long-term representation. Democrat Hale Boggs served for 25 years until the plane he was in crashed over Alaska in 1972. The office was vacant until 1973, when his widow Lindy Boggs was first elected to finish his term and then reelected eight more times serving until she retired in 1991. William Jefferson, the state’s first African-American in Congress since Reconstruction, Jefferson served nine terms—a total of 18 years—before losing his re-election bid in 2008. After being elected in 2008 and serving one term, Joseph Cao was ousted in bid for re-election by Richmond, who during his time in Congress served as the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, was elected to the seat and re-elected five times, serving 10 years, until he retired in January to serve as an advisor to President Biden. Whoever is elected on March 20 will complete the rest of Richmond’s unexpired term.

With the myriad of issues facing the communities within its boundaries, Louisiana’s second congressional district needs and deserves someone able to hit the ground running, an individual who represents the diversity of the district and who understands the needs and challenges that it faces, and someone who will not be intimidated by their so-called “junior” status among the Louisiana delegation. 

The district is the state’s only predominantly Black congressional district. Home to both the Port of New Orleans and the Port of Baton Rouge, it has the state’s highest unemployment rate, the second lowest median income and the second lowest graduation rate–making issues around jobs, economic development and parity, living wages and quality educational opportunities critical ones on which its next representative must focus.

The New Orleans Tribune has gathered information on the candidates from their responses to our candidate profile form as well as our own research of their platforms to provide our readers with a snapshot of those running to serve in the second congressional district seat.

The election takes place Saturday, March 20. Voters can cast their ballots early daily from Saturday, March 6 through Saturday, March 13, with the exception of Sundays and holidays.

CHELSEA ARDOIN 

A New Orleans Republican, Chelsea Ardoin holds a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University and an MBA from the University of New Orleans—she has worked for small businesses and major corporations in both the healthcare and the energy sectors. 

As apart of her platform, Ardoin has pledged to not support new taxes until debt is addressed, along with increased focus on coastal protection for the Gulf Coast. The candidate supports a ban on so-called partial birth abortions, term limits for members of Congress and broadband expansion to rural communities.

BELDEN “NOONIE MAN” BATISTE 

Grassroots community activist and New Orleans Democrat, Belden “Noonie Man” Batiste, says he is running for the second congressional seat because it is time for a change.

“I’m running for Congress because we can’t keep electing the same people who promise change and deliver nothing. Every day I work in the community and people are suffering,” Batiste says. “People have been losing their jobs, getting evicted from their homes and our young people are crying out for help. We need immediate action and as congressman, I will do everything in my power to bring relief to our people.”

CLASTON BERNARD

Claston Bernard is a Baton Rouge Republican.

The pro-life candidate touts a platform centered on God, family, education and fighting crime.

On family, Bernard says, “We need men in the homes, we need to address high out-of-wedlock births. This is not a slight on our strong single mothers and I will work to help everyone regardless of their situation, however, the evidence is overwhelming that, in this never-ending discussion about privilege, that a two-parent household is the real privilege.”

If elected, he pledges to push for a $3600 tax credit for parents of children ages 6 to 17 to be used on academic or trade-skills after-school programs.

TROY A. CARTER

Promising to be a voice for the people, state Sen. Troy Carter says he has the experience and know-how needed to best serve the district in Congress. A New Orleans Democrat, Carter served for six years as the executive assistant to Mayor Sidney Barthelemy. In 1991, Carter became the first African- American to be elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives from the 102nd District of New Orleans. He served on the Education Committee, Municipal Parochial and Cultural Affairs Committee, and the Transportation & Highway Committee and served as the youngest floor leader representing the City of New Orleans in the state House.

In 1994, he was elected to the New Orleans City Council representing District C – once again, the first African-American to be elected to the position. In 1997, Troy Carter again made history by becoming the first incumbent District C Councilmember in modern history to be re-elected without opposition.

Carter has served in the Louisiana Senate since 2016 and holds seats on several committees.He is also an elected member of the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee and is the Chairman of the Board of the Algiers Development District.

KAREN CARTER PETERSON

Karen Carter Peterson is a Democratic member of the Louisiana State Senate, having represented the 5th district since 2010. She is also the former Chair of the Louisiana Democratic Party. Peterson is the first woman to serve in this role.  In 2017, Karen Carter Peterson was elected for a four-year term as the Vice Chair of Civic Engagement and Voter Participation at the Democratic National Committee, focused on protecting voting rights and expanding voter participation. 

As Congresswoman, Peterson’s priorities are to pass climate change, criminal justice and  gun reform legislation and advocate for comprehensive and immediate COVID-19 relief for all. 

GARY CHAMBERS, JR.

A Baton Rouge Democrat, Gary Chambers, Jr., is an entrepreneur, publisher, and co-founder of the urban media platform, The Rouge Collection. He is also a well-known social justice advocate and community organizer whose efforts focus on advancing the lives of residents of the most disenfranchised communities in Baton Rouge through systemic change. His work has contributed to changes in police policies, healthcare access for citizens of North Baton Rouge, an increase in minority-owned businesses acquiring contracts with the city-parish government, and the retention of the Baton Rouge Zoo in North Baton Rouge as a primary economic driver.

Chambers’s believes his candidacy can bring the type of change that reaches working-class people in tangible ways. If elected, his efforts will target quality-of-life issues with a focus on economic, environmental and criminal justice.

HAROLD JOHN

Despite repeated attempts, The New Orleans Tribune could not reach Harold John, a Democrat from Independence, La., for information. Nor could we locate a sufficient source of information to provide a snapshot of this candidate.

J. CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON

J. Christopher Johnson is an activist and grassroots organizer who wants to help bring change to lives of the residents of Louisiana’s Second Congressional District. If elected, he will be the youngest person to serve in the United States House of Representatives. He is graduate of Dillard University, a private Historically Black University in New Orleans. 

The founder of Mobilizing Millennials, a non-profit organization that promotes social equity and economic mobility, Johnson serves on advisory boards for the Tulane School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics and the School of Public Health. He is also a fellow with the New Orleans Youth Alliance and a board member of CK Life Education and Pathways, which is a non-profit organization based out of New York that provides resources for the trans community. 

BRANDON JOLICOEUR

Despite repeated attempts, The New Orleans Tribune was unsuccessful in contacting Brandon Jolicoeur, A New Orleans resident with no party affiliation, for information. Nor could we locate a sufficient source of information to provide a snapshot of this candidate.

LLOYD M. KELLY

Despite repeated attempts, The New Orleans Tribune was unsuccessful in contacting Lloyd M. Kelly, a New Orleans Democrat, for information. Nor  could we locate a sufficient source of information to provide a snapshot of this candidate.

“GREG” LIRETTE

A resident of Jefferson Parish, Republican Greg Lirette is a military veteran who began a career in information technology 25 years ago. 

He promises to make reviving the economy and growing jobs a top priority.  He says he will use his real-life experience to bring high tech jobs to the area, help workers to increase technology skills and upgrade technology for the area. 

Lirette is a lifetime member of the NRA and a NRA Certified instructor and describes himself as a supporter and defender of all Constitutional Rights.

MINDY MCCONNELL

Libertarian Mindy McConnell is a native New Orleanian who works as a public school principal in Central City. She has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Northwestern State University and holds teacher certifications in special education and English. 

With no ties to the two major political parties, McConnell says she will pioneer a shift in congressional representation by proposing legislation and voting on matters that benefit the people without concern for partisan politics.

DESIREE ONTIVEROS

Desiree Ontiveros sits on the City of New Orleans’ Cultural Economy Committee. Her platform includes a commitment to education for all. She is also a board member at Plessy Community School. She is an active member of New Orleans Coalition and IWO’s advocacy committee. Ontiveros contributes to organizations such as IPNO, NOCCA, Friend’s of City Park, House of Tulip, Trampled Rose Ranch Animal Rescue and Operation Restoration. 

She says she is running for Congress because  over the past four years, she has “watched the clock roll back on economic opportunity for millions of Americans.” While leaders failed to manage the COVID-19 pandemic and its disastrous effects on economic stability, access to healthcare, and unemployment rates, she  decided she couldn’t sit on the sidelines any longer.

JENETTE M. PORTER

If elected, political newcomer and businesswoman Jenette M. Porter’s says she will work on issues surrounding criminal justice reform and issues of police brutality in the Black community.

A Jefferson Parish Democrat, Porter is a local businesswoman, operating Jenette Porter LLC., since 2014, which is a promotional products company that offers a variety of custom novelties, postcards and gifts. She is a member of the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce.

She received a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Southeastern Louisiana University and also holds a certificate as a human resources consultant. Porter is active with the local NAACP, where she serves on the recruiting committee. 

SHELDON C. VINCENT, SR.

Navy veteran and Jefferson Parish Republican, Sheldon C. Vincent, says he is running to have an impact on the district.

If elected Vincent says he will advocate for legislation that “requires the participation of both parents of children who receive government assistance.” “I believe that this change will in affect put a police officermin these homes called dad,” he says.

Vincent earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of New Orleans