By Danae Columbus, opinion columnist
In a recent poll of 450 chronic voters in the Second Congressional District, state Sen. Troy Carter has a nine point lead over state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, 28 percent to 19 percent. Polling third at 6 percent was Baton Rouge activist was Baton Rouge activist Gary Chambers Jr.
Small business owner Desiree Ontiveros came in fourth at 2 percent followed by Gonzales Republican challenger Claston Bernard, who also polled at 2 percent. Collectively the 10 remaining candidates — Chelsea Ardoin, Belden Batiste, Harold John, J. Christopher Johnson, Brandon Jolicoeur, Jenette Porter, Lloyd Kelly, Greg Lirette, Mindy McConnell and Sheldon Vincent — polled at a combined 6 percent. District-wide, 38 percent of voters are still undecided. In a heads-up competition between Carter and Carter Peterson the undecided vote dropped to 9 percent.
Paid for by Sen. Carter’s campaign, the poll was taken Feb. 12-14 by Silas Lee using landlines and cell phones. The margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent. A veteran pollster and political strategist with 30 years’ experience, Lee has most recently been working for President Joe Biden. He is the Ernest N. Morial endowed professor of public policy at Xavier University. Lee has also conducted polls for Mayor LaToya Cantrell and is a board member of Forward Together New Orleans, the Mayor’s Fund.
In the cross tabs, Carter led all candidates in every geographic part of the district except in Baton Rouge, where Chambers ran first with 14 percent and Carter Peterson ran second with 12 percent. Carter ran third in Baton Rouge with 7 percent. Across the board, Carter also polled first and Carter Peterson second among males, females, Democrats, Republicans and Independents.
Carter has been endorsed by 15 current and former members of Congress such as House Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina. He is also supported by almost two dozen political organization including the Louisiana Democratic Party.
Carter Peterson issued the following statement about the poll on Monday (March 1): “Our campaign is feeling the momentum on our side as we head into March. Women, young people and progressives are uniting behind us across the Second Congressional District, and we’re feeling that energy on the ground. Our team is knocking every door and making every call we can. During our weekend of action we contacted nearly 43,000 voters. I’m staying focused on fighting for our families and reaching everyone we can before Election Day.”
Reached for comment, Chambers said: “I assure you we are not polling at only 6 percent. I am giving Troy and Karen a run for their money. I am going to be in the runoff with whichever one of them works the hardest.” Chambers says he will report $400,000 total raised from 12,113 donors in this week’s federal campaign finance reports. Chambers is endorsed by sate Rep. Edmond Jordan, former presidential candidate Marianne Williamson as well as several council members in East Baton Rouge and Iberville parishes.
“I am very excited to be where we are in this campaign right now,” Ontiveros said. “With recent endorsements from the Louisiana Democratic Party, the New Orleans Coalition, the Freethought Equality Fund and Fellow Radicals, we are seeing a huge, growing groundswell of grassroots support. We are polling very close to third place, all on hustle – and that’s significant considering that we don’t have any special interests, problematic politicians behind us or a massive built-in social media base.”
An Olympian decathlete and four time national champion for LSU, Bernard has been endorsed by the Louisiana Republican Party as well as the Orleans Parish Republican Executive Committee and the Greater New Orleans Republicans. Bernard is urging voters to support him in an effort to create change. “We cannot keep electing the same people over and over again and expect different results,” Bernard said. A naturalized U.S. citizen of Jamaican-American descent, Bernard supports school vouchers and believes the movement to elect Black conservative congressional candidates is growing.
Interest in this election has been minimal. Consultants believe turnout will be low with only chronic voters participating. Carter and Carter Peterson have been pounding away at each other via television for more than a month. Because of COVID restrictions, there have been few public appearances.
Phone banks have been important and canvassing is increased. Candidates have also relied on Zoom and social media to raise money and get their message out. Another round of federal campaign finance reports will be released later this week. Early voting begins Saturday (March 6) and continues through March 13. The primary election will be held March 20.
Danae Columbus, who has had a 30-year career in politics and public relations, offers her opinions on Thursdays. Her career includes stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board and former clients such as District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.