Louisiana Democrats collect $1.1 million in 2013

After almost a decade of election losses, officials defecting, and voter rolls declining, the Louisiana Democratic Party announced some good news Monday.

The party raised $1.1 million in 2013, triple the amounts raised in 2005 and 2009, which are comparable non-election years, said Karen Carter Peterson, the party’s chairwoman, to the Press Club of Baton Rouge. The party collected about $400,000 in each of those years.

Peterson criticized Gov. Bobby Jindal and his policies, focusing particularly on cuts to funding for higher education, privatization of the LSU hospitals and the litigation challenging the constitutionality of a couple of initiatives.

“He’s the biggest recruiter for the Louisiana Democratic Party,” Peterson said. “His failed policies are the biggest momentum-getter on our side.”

After the meeting, Peterson also gave credit to the party’s reinvigorated email system and grass-roots efforts. Most of the contributions were from individuals, she said.

The party’s top fundraising event — the annual Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner — brought in $167,000, according to a report by Sean Bruno, the party’s treasurer. The event at the New Orleans Hilton Riverside, which included a speech by one-time Republican Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, cost $99,000.

In 2005, Democrats held six of the seven state offices elected statewide and controlled both chambers of the Louisiana Legislature.

About 56 percent, or 1.48 million, of the 2.65 million voters in the state registered as Democrats while 642,896 were registered Republicans.

In 2014, all seven statewide officeholders are Republican and the GOP holds majorities in the Louisiana House and state Senate. About 47.6 percent, or 1.38 million, of the 2.9 million voters are registered as Democrats while 808,438 are registered Republicans.

Jindal won re-election in October 2011 with 66 percent of the vote in a field that included a Democrat schoolteacher running for her first public office. She came in second place. Democrats did not field candidates in the races for lieutenant governor and secretary of state.

Peterson said that when she took over as the head of the party in April 2012, the Louisiana Democratic Party had three full-time employees, 15,000 email addresses and about $25,000 in the bank.

The party invested in a technical platform that handles and tracks emails more efficiently and now employs 13.

The Louisiana Republican Party lists nine staffers on its website. The party could not immediately say how much it had raised in 2013.

But Ryan Cross, the GOP’s spokesman, said in a prepared statement that “Sen. Peterson focused on attacking Republicans instead of offering a vision for how they are going to save a party in decline.”

Local members of the Louisiana Republican Party and affiliated groups were among the 35 or so in attendance as well as two protesters holding signs opposing Landrieu’s re-election.

Peterson, who is also a state senator from New Orleans, also told reporters that during the legislative session, Democrats would focus on passing a minimum wage for Louisiana and setting the amount higher than the $7.25 per hour set in federal law.

President Barack Obama is pushing legislation in Congress that would increase the minimum wage to $10.10.

In Louisiana, state Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, filed legislation Monday that would establish a $10 an hour minimum wage in Louisiana effective Jan. 1. Senate Bill 46 will be considered when the 2014 Legislative session opens March 10.

Acknowledging it would be an uphill fight, Peterson said Democrats in the Legislature also will again try to force the Jindal administration to accept federal funds for expanding Medicaid rolls.

She said tens of thousands of Louisiana residents make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, the government-paid insurance for low-income people, but too little to afford insurance sold on the private market.

Jindal has refused the funds for expansion, arguing that eventually state taxpayers would have to pay more for the Medicaid program.