NOLA: This super PAC for pro-choice women is spending big to help get Karen Carter Peterson elected
By: Tyler Bridges
An outside super PAC dedicated to electing pro-choice Democratic women is expending almost as much money to elect Karen Carter Peterson to Congress as Peterson herself is spending.
According to its filings with the Federal Election Commission through Monday, Washington, D.C.-based EMILYs List has spent $600,000 to elect Peterson, a state senator from New Orleans, to the open 2nd Congressional District seat vacated by Cedric Richmond.
Peterson had raised about $800,000 for the race through Wednesday, according to the FEC reports.
The infusion of funds from EMILYs List means that their combined efforts exceed the spending by state Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans, and outside super PACs supporting him. Political analysts see him as her chief rival.
“You have factions of the Democratic Party at work, especially in the progressive wing,” said Gary Clark, chair of Dillard University’s Social Sciences Department.
Peterson and Carter are both pro-choice, favor an increase in the minimum wage, would have voted to impeach President Trump and broadly support the policies of the Biden administration.
EMILYs List’s thinking in backing Peterson is, “Let’s not just have someone with whom we have a good affinity, but someone who is one of us,” Clark said.
Election day is Saturday in a district where 65% of the voters live in New Orleans and the west bank of Jefferson Parish, while the other 35% live in another eight parishes that stretch along the Mississippi River all the way to Baton Rouge.
Peterson has parlayed her former roles as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee and as former chair of the Louisiana Democratic Party into ties with national Democratic groups.
EMILYs List is featuring Peterson on its website, along with a spot for people to click to donate to her campaign.
“EMILYs List is committed to addressing the challenges Black women face running for office and with every tool at our disposal,” Benjamin Ray, a spokesperson, said in an email. “From early money to campaign support, we are focused on getting results and the fight for a more diverse and equitable government.”
The group’s super PAC, Women Vote!, has spent about $460,000 on television ads and direct mail pieces to promote Peterson. It has spent the remaining $140,000 on direct mail pieces that oppose Carter, who has raised the most money in the campaign.
The American Jobs and Growth PAC has spent $61,000 opposing Peterson, according to the FEC. The PAC has a conservative viewpoint, according to opensecrets.org.
The Blue America PAC Independent Expenditure Committee has spent about $5,000 on radio ads supporting Gary Chambers Jr., a Baton Rouge activist and advocate.
Under federal law, EMILYs List cannot coordinate its spending with Peterson’s campaign. But her campaign – like other campaigns in similar situations, Democrat or Republican – has an easy way around the restriction.
Peterson’s website has a tab entitled “What Voters Need to Know,” and it spells out her campaign’s key issues.
Political campaign insiders say this is meant to provide a roadmap for outside super PACs. The information – known as the “red box” because it’s typically contained within the confines of a red box – also includes photos and video that a super PAC can use.
The FEC reports show that Peterson has raised $88,000 since March 1, including $10,000 from herself. In all, she has raised about $790,000.
Carter has raised $166,000 since March 1, or about $1.07 million overall.
Unions have been big contributors to Carter’s campaign in recent days, while husband and wife Benjamin and Gemi Bordelon – he’s the president and CEO of Bollinger Shipyards – contributed a total of $9,200.
Chambers has collected $7,500 since March 1, for a total of about $415,000. His recent donors include actors Susan Sarandon and Milla Jovovich.
Claston Bernard, a small business owner in Gonzales who has the Louisiana Republican Party endorsement, has raised $20,000 since March 1, or $132,000 overall.