State GOP chairman calls for resignation of Dem. chairwoman
3rd June 2013 · 0 Comments
By Christopher Tidmore
Between the chairmen of the Louisiana Republican and Democratic Parties, the relationship throughout recent decades has been one of personal friendship, strange as that might sound. Usually, each Chair held their fire from attacking the other, and in fact, often cooperated on issues of common interest, such as party ID regulations.
That has changed over the past year. Increasingly personal attacks between the two chairmen culminated last week in GOP Chair Roger Villere’s call for Dem. Chair Karen Carter Peterson to resign. The demand to vacate her party leadership position came after Peterson—also a State Senator—invoked race as she railed against Obamacare critics.
“I have talked to so many members both in the House and the Senate, and you know what? You ready? You ready? What it comes down to? It’s not about how many federal dollars we can receive, it’s not about that. You ready? It’s about race,” she said. “I know nobody wants to talk about that. It’s about the race of this African-American president.”
Carter Peterson’s reasoning, that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich offered a “similar” overhaul in the past, and the white Republican earned none of the vitriol that Obama received led her to conclude that the criticism this time “comes down to the race of the president of the United States which causes people to disconnect and step away from the substance of the bill.”
Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal told Baton Rouge TV station WBRZ that it’s “wrong to call people racists” simply over opposition to the health law. That led Peterson to release a statement Thursday afternoon clarifying her remarks while also defending them.
“I think we should judge a policy by its content, not the person proposing it,” her press release read. “To be clear, I didn’t call any person ‘racist.’ Rather, I was simply relaying the truth about conversations I’ve had with my colleagues and the factors they considered on the expansion of Medicaid.
“While others are using this as an opportunity to take my comments out of context in order to distract from the true issue, I think it’s critical that we focus on the substance of the policy because it’s the right thing to do for Louisiana.”
Like Jindal, at first, the LAGOP leadership called upon Peterson to apologize for the comments. After her clarification, however, later Thursday night, the Party released this reply. “Nearly two days after saying the people of Louisiana are racist for opposing Obama-care, State Senator Karen Carter Peterson finally released a statement on her comments, but instead of apologizing she has chosen to double down on her remarks. Below is a statement from Republican Party of Louisiana Chairman Roger Villere calling on Senator Peterson to resign as chair of the Louisiana Democratic Party.”
“‘It’s shocking that State Senator Peterson has doubled down on her comment that Louisianians who oppose Obamacare are racist. In addition to not apologizing for calling some Louisianians racist, she has now specifically said her colleagues in the Senate are being racist. In light of this recent statement, the Republican Party of Louisiana calls on State Senator Karen Carter Peterson to resign as chair of the Louisiana Democratic Party. Louisianans deserve the right to oppose the policies of President Obama without being slandered as a racist by the state Democra-tic Party chair.’”
Harsh words rendered by a Republican Party Chairman who had made it a point never to directly criticize his Democratic Party counterpart during his near decade as his GOP leader. Of course, Carter Peterson’s predecessor as Louisiana Democratic Chairman Buddy Leach had been a good friend of Villere’s, and upon her election, the LAGOP Chair did try to reach out to Peterson.
As he explained in an interview with The Louisiana Weekly more than a year ago, “Since the new [LA] Democratic Chairwoman has been elected, there has been no communication.”
Carter Peterson replied in an interview with this newspaper that between fundraising efforts and organization reforms, she has had other priorities than meeting with the LAGOP head. “My relationship with Mr. Villere is very limited, primarily because so much of my life and experience is tied to the Legislature and Mr. Villere has not been a member there. I look forward to the opportunity to get to know him better — if the purists in his party will allow that to happen.”
“I’ve always believed there are issues of great importance to our whole state that both parties can support. My experience tells me that the vast majority of Louisiana voters don’t care about party or ideology; they want their government and its leaders to make government work in ways that contribute to the betterment of their lives.”
“And, as you say, I’ve demonstrated a willingness to work with anyone willing to tackle important issues and challenges in that kind of pragmatic way. Those issues are out there, but it takes two to tango, as they say. My concern is that Republicans are increasingly under the sway of an ideological wing of their party that views any effort to work with Democrats as a sort of sin against party purity. I believe our challenges are too great to restrict our options to cookie-cutter solutions of any ilk or ism.”
“I remain ready to take on challenges like coastal restoration hand-in-hand with all Louisianians, regardless of party or political persuasion. That’s how we can be most effective as a state, and I’m ready with out-stretched hand to work together to make our state a better place. The hand is extended, but it takes two hands to make a handshake.”
A few months later, Villere sent out a press release highly critical of Mary Landrieu hosting Joe Biden in Louisiana. Calling the Vice President “Obama’s point man for Gun Control,” the LAGOP Chair wrote, “Senator Landrieu’s plan to hold an event in Louisiana featuring ‘gun-grabbin’ Joe Biden is a slap in the face to every Louisiana citizen who believes in the U.S. Constitution. I call on Senator Landrieu to cancel this event and to inform Mr. Biden that he is not welcome in Louisiana, where we still support the rule of law.”
“Senator Landrieu has already violated her oath of office to support the Constitution by casting the deciding vote for Obamacare and stealing money from Medicare recipients to do so,” he said. “Now is Mary Landrieu’s chance to stand up for the people of Louisiana and the Second Amendment, instead of slapping us again by hosting Biden at this very sensitive time in our nation’s history.”
Villere aggressively deriding Louisiana’s Democratic U.S. Senator is no more new than Carter Peterson’s many castigations of David Vitter. However, neither she nor the LAGOP Chair had ever targeted one another. In fact, no party chair had attacked his or her counterpart in the Pelican State in decades—if ever.
The La. Democratic Chair-woman decided to change that habit. In a response press release entitled Villere’s “Dishonest, Disrespectful Attack,” she wrote, “This ridiculous and dishonest attack comes not 24 hours after our country and our Congress came together to host the inauguration of President Obama and Vice President Biden for their second term. Louisiana has hosted Presidents and Vice Presidents of the United States of both parties and has always made them feel welcomed regardless of people’s views on different subjects of importance. It would be a sad day for such a respected and distinguished person as Vice President Joe Biden to feel unwelcome in our state, particularly after all this Administration has done to help the people of Louisiana.”
“After just leaving our nation’s capitol to witness real, meaningful coming together of both political parties to honor our form of government, it is sad that the Louisiana GOP Chair would be this inhospitable and completely wrong on so many points… and we wonder why things don’t get done in Washington.”
At that point, relations declined drastically, and personal attacks between the Chairmen became more regular events, culminating in Villere’s call for Carter Peterson’s resignation on this past Thursday.
This article originally published in the June 3, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.