Louisiana special election results 2021, Troy Carter and Karen Carter Peterson

Two New Orleans state senators are in the running for a seat in the United States House of Representatives.
For the seat vacated by Cedric L. Richmond, Troy Carter and Karen Carter Peterson will face off in an April runoff.

In a special election held Saturday to replace former Representative Cedric L. Richmond, who is now a senior advisor to Vice President Joe Biden, two Democratic state senators from New Orleans earned the most votes.

Troy Carter and Karen Carter Peterson (not related) will face off in a runoff on April 24 to decide who will fill a predominantly Democratic seat in a Black-majority district that extends from New Orleans to Baton Rouge along the Mississippi River.

In a 15-person area, Mr. Carter received 36 percent of the vote in a notably low turnout, while Ms. Peterson received 23 percent. Gary Chambers, a Baton Rouge protester, came in third place, narrowly losing out on Ms. Peterson due to good support in white liberal precincts.

Julia Letlow, a Republican, received over 50% of the vote in a special Louisiana congressional election in the northern part of the state, avoiding a runoff and capturing a seat that had been occupied by her husband, Luke, until he died of Covid-19 in December.

Ms. Letlow is one of two widows vying for House seats left vacant by lawmakers who died of the virus this year. Susan Wright is running for governor of Texas in a special election later this year to replace her late husband, Ron Wright.

Karen Carter Peterson, left, and Troy Carter
Senators from various states. Karen Carter Peterson, left, and Troy Carter will face off in a runoff to succeed Cedric L. Richmond, who is now a senior advisor to Vice President Joe Biden.

However, the first competitive congressional election of the Biden age is taking place in South Louisiana.

Mr. Carter and Ms. Peterson are both seasoned politicians with origins in New Orleans' opposing and fractious Black political groups. Both have run for this seat previously, with Mr. Carter running in 2006 and Mr. Carter running again in 2008.

However, when Mr. Richmond resigned after a decade in Congress to work for Mr. Biden, it provided Mr. Carter and Ms. Peterson with a new opportunity to realize a long-held ambition.

The election rapidly devolved into a proxy war, as it does in many New Orleans elections. Mr. Richmond immediately endorsed Mr. Carter after another local ally opted not to run, in the hopes of blocking his opponent, Ms. Peterson.

Mr. Carter has tried to capitalize on Mr. Richmond's support because of his patron's influence and clout in the West Wing. Mr. Carter said, "I will have the ear of the guy who has the ear of the president of the United States of America."

Ms. Peterson has attempted to run to the left in response, positioning herself as an anti-establishment Democrat while boasting her position as a former state party chair and multiple national endorsements.

She has ignored Mr. Carter's business card, claiming that she has her own connections in the Biden administration and that she "does not need the ear of the ear of the toe of the thumb of another."

Given the strength and background of their rivalry, as well as New Orleans' sometimes turbulent politics, the runoff may be a nail-biter.

Two of Louisiana's most powerful Democratic officeholders have yet to speak out, but if they do, it could have a significant impact. New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell shocked some by not supporting Ms. Peterson, an ally, before the first round of voting. Gov. John Bel Edwards, who has clashed with Ms. Peterson in the past and is commonly considered to be in Mr. Carter's corner, is also on the sidelines.

Who shows up to vote next month is probably the most critical aspect. Early voting was low before Saturday's all-party primary, with just around 6% of registered voters casting ballots, and turnout was even lower on election day.

According to local leaders, the combination of a tumultuous 2020 election, a pandemic that is only now showing signs of abating, and a young, low-key president has left the electorate apathetic. “Grandpa Joe has really deflated the balloon, and there isn't the fever about politics anymore,” Political strategist Andrew Tuozzolo said of Mr. Biden.

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