Some La. Democrats call for party chairwoman to resign while others come to her defense

Some Democrats who feel their party has been asleep at the wheel for too long when it comes to finding good candidates that can run an effective campaign.
Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 5:05 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 26, 2023 at 6:20 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - There are some Democrats who feel their party has been asleep at the wheel for too long when it comes to finding good candidates that can run effective campaigns. Some in the party are even calling for a complete reset of party leadership. Louisiana’s Democratic party Chairwoman, Katie Bernhardt, put out an ad earlier this week teasing the idea of a run for governor.

But rather than motivate other Democrats, some in the party saw it as distasteful, including State Rep. Travis Johnson (D), who resigned from his role as Vice Chair of the party. In his letter, he said, “I supported the chair who I thought would fight for the middle class and attract more moderates and rural people back into the party. I believed in her speeches and promises and did not think they would be used as a springboard or acts of self-promotion”.

Devante Lewis is a young Democrat who was recently elected to the Public Service Commission.

“I think we have lost focus of what our initiative should be which is to mobilize voters around the issues that we know are important to Louisianans. Anybody that was even flirting with the idea of running for such a high office owes the party the respect to step aside,” said Lewis (D).

Lewis said the party chair should be focused on recruiting quality candidates, fundraising and mobilizing voters. Even suggesting it might be time to consider hitting the reset button on leadership altogether.

“I think it is counterproductive to have someone in that role doing that when we know they may be looking for people to do it for themselves. And as I’ve stated before we need leaders who are willing to do something and not just be somebody,” Lewis added.

But not everyone is as cynical about the chairwoman. One of the party’s executive committee members, Alecia Breaux, wrote in an email, “Katie Bernhardt was elected chair in a vacuum, when the previous leadership team and decades of neglect left us in shambles. She has brought in millions of dollars in donations. She has worked seven days a week, without taking a salary, and has often paid her own travel expenses. National leaders have called her “the hardest working chair in the USA.”

Others, off the record, say the chairwoman has done good things for the party, such as adding new programs and committees like the La. Democratic Disability Caucus and the Democratic Women’s Caucus and has even reinstituted young Democrat groups across the state. Though Bernhardt did not specifically say she was running for governor, folks cannot seem to figure out what else the new ad could be for.

“I don’t know what else it could be other than a vanity project of self-promotion. And if that’s what it is, I believe she needs to step down as the chair because we cannot have a party where the chair is promoting themselves and not the party,” Lewis continued.

Bernhardt sent an email out to party members saying they will follow up with a leadership call date to listen to any concerns folks have. They will also have an executive committee retreat schedule going into the 2023 elections.

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