Except for John Bel Edwards, Louisiana has not elected a Democrat to a statewide office for nearly a quarter century. And a look at this year’s crop is an indication of why. Examining the campaigns of Lindsey Cheek and Dustin Granger exposes the sheer ineffectiveness and exasperating ignorance. But more troubling is the general ineptitude of the candidates to mount serious campaigns. And until the statewide Democratic Party develops a comprehensive candidate recruitment strategy, the state will likely have no elected Democrats in statewide seats.
Cheek is running for Attorney General. An AI generated explanation states, “ The attorney general is the chief legal officer of Louisiana and is responsible for providing official legal opinions to state agencies, officers, and legislators. The attorney general may also advise local political subdivisions and their offices .
The incumbent is granted the authority to intervene in “any civil action or proceeding,” to “assist in the prosecution of any criminal case,” and to represent the state in any civil or criminal action.
Cheek’s campaign has raised nearly $400,000. And you might be surprised to find out that Cheek’s campaign has spent nearly every penny. Oh, you never heard of Lindsey Cheek, and much less knew she was running for Attorney General for the state of Louisiana. Well, most people are just like you across Louisiana. She is polling around 14%. And she is the only Democrat in the race. But she spent nearly all of her money on consultants from DC. No advertising with WBOK, or The Louisiana Weekly or Tribune. She completely ignored Data News Weekly and Think504.com.
Another Democrat running for an important statewide office is Dustin Granger. Granger is running for Treasurer. AI says “The Louisiana State Treasurer is the chief financial officer of the government of Louisiana. The treasurer is responsible for the custody, investment, and disbursement of the public funds of the state, except as otherwise provided by the Louisiana Constitution .” Haven’t heard of him either? Same story but a little worse. Granger spent over $5000 on internet advertising. Yet in a zoom meeting with the local Black Owned Media Coalition, Granger expected free advertising. After some discussion, the meeting ended.
Not shocking anybody, any Democrat running for office in this state needs big turnout from his/her party. New Orleans is still the biggest and most active voting bloc for Democrats. Yet these candidates from different parts of the state do not invest in the people with direct access to those voters. Many just expect that voters will vote for the (D) behind their name. But New Orleans voters need to know that these candidates are taking them for granted. If not, they certainly do not value the businesses that provide access to the voters. This taking voters and black businesses for granted in New Orleans is unacceptable.
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Part of the reason Democrats can no longer get elected statewide is that they undervalue the access that black owned media provides. They not only don’t spend money with New Orleans based media companies, but they also insultingly expect free services. Yet when they spend hundreds of thousands with out-of-town consultants and media companies and don’t get the results that they want then they sulk. They spin the narrative of low turnout from voter apathy. Like the voting public is the problem. The candidates and their apathetic attitude about African American voters in New Orleans and the media companies that serve them is the real problem.
Democratic candidates have an attitude problem about New Orleans. They just want them to get their votes on election day. But they are unwilling to invest the time and resources it takes to motivate voters to vote for them. So, in a Republican state with large swaths of Democratic strongholds, candidates must spend limited campaign resources wisely. Spending 80% of your budget with strategists from DC means nobody in New Orleans knows who you are. Or expecting free advertising from local businesses while you spend liberally on internet advertising that you can’t track means nobody knows who you are. Neither way is a path to political victory in Louisiana.
The Democratic candidates have so much to learn and must do better.