Abortion has become the main issue in the battle between Royce Duplessis and Mandie Landry for the Senate | Local policy

As New Orleans Democrats, State Representatives Mandie Landry and Royce Duplessis agree on many things, including the firmly held view that women should have the right to an abortion.

And those views have come to the fore in a hotly contested race as the two vie to become the next senator representing Uptown and surrounding neighborhoods.

Landry and Duplessis – whose nearly identical voting results put them among the most progressive members of the Conservative-dominated Legislative Assembly – are contesting a special election on November 8 to fill the seat that Karen Carter Peterson vacated in April . Peterson resigned before pleading guilty in federal court to defrauding campaign contributors.

Beginning with her announcement in May, Landry has centered her campaign on abortion rights, attempting to capitalize on the wrath of the U.S. Supreme Court for ending a woman’s constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy and on the decision of the state legislature to ban the procedure in Louisiana without exceptions. .

Speaking to a group of college students at Tulane on Wednesday night, Landry pointed out that she was the only legislator to have championed abortion rights as a lawyer and detailed her extensive knowledge of abortion law. abortion.

“There are five women in the state senate, and they’re all anti-choice,” Landry said as the nine students nodded knowingly. “They file a lot of terrible bills.”

But Duplessis showed last week that he is not ready to cede the abortion issue to Landry.

He posted an ad online in which his mother told the story of his grandmother – who 125 years ago nearly died attempting an abortion with a clothes hanger. She later killed herself due to her shame, depression and guilt, the ad explained.

In an interview, Duplessis said he and his mother decided to go public with the personal story “because the women who are most affected by this are women who don’t have a platform to tell this story, women like my great-grandmother. The number of people who reached out to me and my mother and thanked us for sharing this story is why we shared it.

When asked if he was trying to undermine Landry on his signature issue, Duplessis replied, “Nobody owns that issue.”

Landry, however, believes politics is behind Duplessis’ decision to air the ad.

“He has to take voters away from me, especially women,” she said in an interview. “Women represent 56% of registered voters in the constituency. He knows I’m popular with women.

A diverse neighborhood

Senate District 5 is racially and economically diverse. It includes the poorer neighborhoods of Central City and Hollygrove, but also the Garden District, the Warehouse District and the Central Business District, as well as Tulane and Loyola universities, LSU and Tulane medical centers and the Port of New Orleans. .

It is also racially mixed, but not politically. It is Louisiana’s most liberal senatorial district, according to Baton Rouge-based demographer John Couvillon.

President Joe Biden won Senate District 5 with 86% of the vote in 2020, his highest percentage in the state. It was also Governor John Bel Edwards’ strongest senatorial district, with 92% of the vote, when he was re-elected in 2019.

State lawmakers created it to make it a majority black district in 2011; Blacks then represented 52% of voters, while 40% were white. But due to demographic changes, blacks now make up only 44% of voters, while 46% are white.

“The racial makeup keeps changing because of gentrification, but the solidly Democratic politics remains,” Couvillon said.

Due to the redistricting, the winner will have to stand for re-election next year with new boundaries. The new neighborhood will have a clear black majority as it will include black neighborhoods on the west side of Jefferson Parish.

The winner of this year’s race will likely vote much like Peterson did. She was the only pro-choice woman in the Senate and was an acerbic critic of Republican policy proposals. But Peterson’s colleagues often felt bruised by his polarizing personality. His successor will have the opportunity to collaborate more effectively with other legislators.

Duplessis and Landry both say they know how to work with Republicans, but Duplessis emphasized this theme, noting that the Republican president has named him vice-chairman of a legislative committee.

“Public service has always been my thing,” Duplessis told a group in Laurence Square on Magazine Street during Wednesday’s Night Out on Crime. “But I’m not a crusader. I just want to get things done. In Baton Rouge, I’m a Democrat surrounded by Republicans. I have to work with them to get things done.

Landry said Duplessis implied she didn’t work well with others in Baton Rouge.

“It’s sexist. It’s not creative,” she said. “It’s pretty typical of what people say about women, and it’s not true. I get along great with my fellow Republicans. They actually supported me more in this race than my own party.

Duplessis is not a member of any of the black “alphabet soup” organizations that have historically spawned many aspiring politicians, but he does have seasoned consultants who help him.

Duplessis boasts having the most endorsements in the race, saying, “People who support me, organizations and individuals, have had the opportunity to watch both of us, in broad daylight. There’s a reason I’m approved. I was more efficient.

Against Landry: “I wouldn’t have been elected if people had found me unlikable or difficult to live with.

Similar voting records

The question of who is more effective echoes the 2021 special election when Peterson and then-state Senator Troy Carter faced off in a New Orleans-rooted congressional district over replace Cedric Richmond, who had resigned to work for the Biden administration. Carter repeatedly said he would work better with Louisiana’s all-Republican congressional delegation than Peterson to serve the district. Voters agreed and sent him to Washington.

In Baton Rouge, Landry is known as a more outspoken supporter of liberal causes than Duplessis, more willing to challenge those she disagrees with during the debate, even if it might cause irritation. She is also slightly less likely to vote with two prominent Conservative groups.

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry reports that Duplessis has voted with the powerful group between 44% and 51% in each of the past three years. Landry voted with LABI between 21% and 38% of the time.

On another scorecard, Duplessis voted 14% of the time with Louisiana Right to Life in 2022, compared to 0% for Landry that year. In 2021, they both landed a voting record of 33% with the group.

Duplessis, 40, has a bachelor’s degree from Xavier and a law degree from Howard. He is a civil litigator who was first elected to the House in 2018 and previously served on the Planning Commission. He also worked as chief of staff to James Carter, then a member of the city council.

Duplessis championed reintegration programs to find jobs and housing for people after they leave prison.

“I support smarter investments in social services to reduce crime,” he said in an interview. “It is easier to invest upstream than downstream.”

Duplessis was comfortable in Laurence Square when he showed up to voters to make his point.

“Hey Spiderman,” he greeted a boy attending the event with his parents.

At an event later that evening, Duplessis made the Association du quartier Delachaise laugh when, referring to a gun control measure he and Landry are sponsoring that was not approved, he said: “Good bills take many years to pass. Bad bills pass overnight.

Landry, 44, has an undergraduate degree from Notre Dame and a law degree from Georgetown, having become familiar with Washington after interning for a few members of Congress, she said. to the young women of Tulane. A civil lawyer like Duplessis, she told women she had no intention of running for office before deciding that no one running for House District 91 in 2019 could do the job better than her. .

She won the seat in the majority-black district with nearly 53% of the vote and continues to revel in her underdog status.

Landry told the women that the good ol’ boys network is staying at the Capitol.

“Among Democrats and Republicans, black and white, it’s very male-driven, very male-driven,” she said as the women nodded knowingly again. “Some of them are a bit traditional. A lot in Louisiana, whatever it is, we’re about 30 years behind on a lot of things.

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