Introducing The CenLamar Podcast: Episode 1: Caroline Fayard

Because we are in the throes of what is- without question- the craziest election season in modern American history, I finally decided to hop onto the bandwagon and launch my very own podcast. There will be no rhyme or reason to the schedule. This won’t be something you should set your clock to. Some weeks, I may record multiple shows. Other weeks, I may go completely missing in action.

Regardless, I think this will be a great way to have a substantive dialogue with people who live and work in Louisiana about current events, politics, and culture. I hope that it is fun, informative, and substantive, and I hope to be able to interact with and promote the voices and the stories of people from all walks of life.

Soon, I hope to get the hang of the technology, because this first episode is a little scratchy.

On my very first episode, I spoke with Caroline Fayard, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate. I’ve decided to support Caroline (and I’ll spell out why in a minute). But for now, here’s episode one (and again, forgive the background static. It’s a software issue. If any of you are audio engineers and want to help a buddy out, I’d be most grateful):

So, in the podcast, I didn’t really get into why, specifically, I decided to support Caroline.

My regular readers probably remember that- at one point- I was publicly begging my former boss, Alexandria Mayor Jacques Roy, to run. But he had only just been re-elected for his third term and unlike John Kennedy, he believed in finishing the job he was elected to do before applying for a different one.

Like Jacques, Caroline represents a new generation of leadership in Louisiana, which is so desperately needed right now. If she is successful, at 38, she would be the youngest woman ever elected to the United States Senate. All told, 116 different people have been elected to the Senate in their thirties; not a single one of them was a woman.

Remember too: Thomas Jefferson was 33 when he wrote the Declaration of Independence; Joe Biden was only 30 when he was first elected, so too was Ted Kennedy (his brother John was elected when he was 35).

And one of Louisiana’s most accomplished and productive Senators of all-time, a man who served the longest uninterrupted term in American history- Russell Long- was 30 years old when 75% of voters in Louisiana first elected him to the United States Senate.

Why does any of this matter? First, the most common criticism- at least that I’ve heard- about Caroline is that she should have set her sights on a lower office. Maybe New Orleans City Council or State Representative. That way, apparently, she would somehow “prove” her worth. To me, there’s an obvious tinge of sexism in this critique.

Caroline is an Ivy League graduate; she finished at the front of her class at one of the top five law schools in the country. She’s worked at one of the most successful financial institutions in the world (and even at the White House). She’s taught law at Loyola in New Orleans, and as a lawyer, she’s worked on some of the biggest environmental damages cases in American history. Last year, she helped her brother launch a new airline company. A friggin airline company.

It is true, of course, that both she and her family are wealthy. But her success and her family’s success weren’t the result of picking the right lucky numbers in the Powerball. They earned it. She’s running against at least five other multimillionaires, including another Democrat who is actually a few years younger than she is. Yet- for some reason- she is the only candidate that has been criticized for privilege. One of her opponents, John Fleming, who is worth in excess of $20 million, once complained that $400,000 a year wasn’t enough for him to put “food on the table.”

The Republicans running for office are not talking about equal pay; they’re not talking about increasing the minimum wage; they are not talking about ensuring that everyone has the ability to access affordable health care. But Caroline is, at every opportunity she gets.

There is another, pragmatic reason why I decided to publicly support Caroline: Of the 24 candidates currently running for the U.S. Senate in Louisiana, only four have ever previously run for statewide office, and only two have ever made it into a run-off: John Kennedy and Caroline Fayard. When she was only 32 years old, more than 540,000 voters supported her for Lt. Governor, more votes than any other Democrat in the current election has ever received.

My support for Caroline should not be interpreted as a rejection of Foster Campbell. I admire Commissioner Campbell; I voted for him when he ran for governor in 2007; throughout his career, time and time again, he has proven himself to be a champion of Louisiana’s working class and our environment. I understand why some of my friends and why Gov. John Bel Edwards are supporting him. Commissioner Campbell has rightfully earned the loyalty of many people, particularly in Northern Louisiana, throughout his forty year career in public office.

But, right now, more than ever, Louisiana deserves and requires a new generation of leadership. Today, we have less clout in Congress than we ever have, and the only way we can restore our standing is by empowering those who represent the future, not by playing musical chairs with the same small cast we’ve had for decades.

It is not reassuring or persuasive to me- and I doubt to most people- that Commissioner Campbell’s campaign surrogates seem to believe that the most compelling argument in his favor is that he received Gov. Edwards’s endorsement. No doubt, his endorsement does carry a lot of weight. But too often, this seems to be their only argument. Despite Commissioner Campbell’s decades of public service, his campaign seems to be banking on the idea that the only way to corral enough voters is by asking that they be loyal to John Bel Edwards; everything else, apparently, is secondary.

This is unfair to the governor; it’s unfair to Commissioner Campbell, and it’s unfair to voters. More than anything else, though, it’s lazy.

And it may sound harsh, but it needs to be said. It is true that the Campbell campaign is proficient at e-mailing a list of supporters that presumably was lent to them by Gov. Edwards’s campaign.

But this is what happens when you click on the “Issues” section of Foster Campbell’s website:

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And here’s Caroline’s:

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She is not phoning in this campaign. She’s applying for a very serious job, and she is taking the job interview very seriously. We deserve that kind of tenacity and professionalism, a leader who will tell us how she stands on the things that matter most, someone who seeks to earn your support by demonstrating a command of the issues.

I will acknowledge that I hesitated to stake out a public position. It would have been easier not to say anything at all and to insulate myself against the criticism among fellow Democrats that I am somehow undermining Gov. Edwards. Trust me, that’s almost certain to happen. To anyone who wants to make that argument, however, I’d simply remind you I publicly supported John Bel Edwards- publicly predicted he’d win- more than two years before the election. As hard as some may try to convince people otherwise, his name is not on the ballot this year.

Right now, Caroline Fayard and Foster Campbell are in a statistical dead-heat for second place. If one of them dropped out tomorrow, the other would be immediately catapulted into first place, which, understandably, is infuriating to many people who would like to see a Democrat in the U.S. Senate. But no one is dropping out.

They are both accomplished and dedicated public servants, and both of them would be an asset for Louisiana in the U.S. Senate. But in this primary, I’m voting for the candidate who, I believe, represents the very best of the new generation of leadership in Louisiana.