Welcome to Louisiana Lefty, a podcast about politics and community in Louisiana, where we make the case that the health of the state requires a strong progressive movement fueled by the critical work of organizing on the ground. Our goal is to democratize information, demystify party politics, and empower you to join the mission. Because victory for Louisiana requires you.
I'm your host, Lynda Woolard. On this episode, I have a conversation with Michael Hobbs, who left the Louisiana political scene a few years back to work on campaigns in Ohio. I felt like we could get a fresh perspective from someone who knows Louisiana well, and who stays very connected here. But who is not beholden to anyone in Louisiana. We also talk a bit about what he's learned from his work outside the state, look at signs showing Democratic investments in the South make a lot of sense, and engage in some mild Louisiana political gossip.
Michael Hobbs! Welcome to Louisiana Lefty.
I am so excited not only to see you, but also to talk about all things politics, and of course, the center of that being you know, Louisiana.
Well, I'm excited for you to be here. I always start the podcast with how I met my guest. And I want to say we must have met in 2014. Does that sound right?
Maybe before that when I was in then-Congressman Richmond's orbit, but I think sometime around that time period seems right.
It feels like Mary Landrieu frequently figures into my connections with Louisiana folks.
Yeah, I tell people all the time, you'd be hard pressed to meet a Louisiana Democrat who hadn't spent time working for a Landrieu in some capacity.
I feel like 2014 was such a pivotal year. Because that election, that Senate race was so traumatic for Louisiana Democrats. It impacted their ability to even consider John Bel in 2015. Of course, he kind of turned that around over the course of the year. But I still think it infects some of our thinking here.
Oh, definitely. I would have to look up the statistic. But I think it was the first time in a number of years that at the federal statewide level, which is only two offices, and at the state constitutional officeholder level that there was not a Democrat that was elected in Louisiana day. Well, that one year from technically from 2015 into 2016. But the rollout that you saw from the Louisiana Democrats really should be a national model for how you dig in, you dig deep, and you just get your ass in there, and you get it together and you push forward. I mean, as I tell people with a source of beaming pride, at one point in time in Louisiana, you had a Democratic governor, you had a Black woman who was the Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court, you had a Black woman who was the first Black woman to chair a state party. And then at the exact same time that that was occurring, you had three Black women who ran the three largest cities in the state, all concurrently. That happened at the same time with the member of congress from New Orleans representing us as the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. And that all happened after what you saw with Mary Landrieu in 2014. So for any state, I don't care if it's Wyoming, I don't care if it's Alabama, any state that's out there, there is a rebound and Louisiana is a model for that.
Just to stay on the Mary Landrieu 2014 race for one more second, before we move on. You mentioned the Russian angle to that story and how they came so hard at her when she was set to become the chair of the Energy Committee.
It was wild to watch at the time. Everyone knows that Mary Landrieu has been a fierce advocate for adoptions. It's admirable to see her advocacy for that. And Putin came out and you know, put her on these weird lists and targeted her. And it was clear that it was based upon her chairing Energy and Natural Resources. And I had said before and I will say it probably till the day they put me in the ground, it was a wild precursor to what we saw in 2016, was the 2014 election with Mary Landrieu. It was a incredible precursor to that.
Was that the same year they were targeting Claire McCaskill?
Yep. And they also targeted, if I'm not mistaken, Kay Hagan in North Carolina. Very bizarre. Not really, though. I see a pattern.
Yeah. Let's back up. Let's back up a little bit. Tell me your political origin story. What first got you interested in politics?
I was a kid. My mother was very politically involved. My father was somewhat politically involved. But he was a Marine so he kind of, you know, really didn't play ball that much. And I was 10 or 11 years old. And I actually had the day off, I believe it might have been MLK day and was the day of the 1992 inauguration for William Jefferson Clinton from Hope, Arkansas. I had the day off from school and I was able to watch it that day. And I was hooked ever since then. I grew up in enamored with politics, got into the Marine Corps, did my time in the Marine Corps, and then started going to school in New Orleans, and got hooked in with Cedric Richmond's apparatus with Ike spears, Blair Boutte, and Cedric Richmond, and was a great run to be able to work on multiple campaigns. And then that's what landed me in with Mary Landrieu in 2014. And then from there, went into the private sector for two years, and then rolled back into politics in 2016 for Hillary's race with Next Gen America, a Super PAC here in Ohio, and have worked on multiple races since then.
Is that how you ended up in Ohio was with Next Gen?
It is. That's how I ended up here in Ohio. They had a very large apparatus right here in Ohio for Next Gen for the 2016 cycle.
And then what other kinds of races have you worked on up there?
I managed a couple of Congressionals, and also managed a targeted prosecutors race in Cincinnati, and most recently helped lead out the effort, like Groundhog's Day with Bill Murray, it just won't end, for redistricting in the state of Ohio. And we've put a lot of wins up on the board. And of course, we're waiting to see what the federal courts do with that.
I do want to ask you about that in a little bit. Do you still consider yourself an organizer?
Always, always, always. I'm rusty, I will admit. But always.
And you do stay very connected to Louisiana, even though you're up there. I know that I get the occasional text from you, like, "Hey, I need you to mail me up some of those John Bel Edwards Mardi Gras beads" or something like that. But let's talk about your work in Ohio for a minute. What made you decide to take your career path outside of Louisiana?
So at the time I was looking for a job, but also, I needed a break from politics. Back to that conversation you and I had a little bit about 2014, it stung. It stung real hard. And I needed some time away to kind of like, you know, feel that through and make sure that this is something that I indeed wanted to do. Time in the private sector really solidified that for me that this is something that I want to do. And it gives you, I believe, a different perspective on a multitude of things and a different skill set that you bring back to the table. And also gave me time to grow, gave me time to mature, and then rolling back into politics, you just look at things differently. When I got the job with Next Gen here in Ohio, then I saw opportunities that just kept unfolding for myself. And you know, I'm very happy with that. And Ohio will always hold a very near and dear place in my heart. I have no strong family connection here. But it is something that allowed me to grow and develop my career. And I'm very thankful for that.
For those who might be interested in a similar career path, was it easier for you to move forward by moving out of state to do political work?
Actually, the funniest thing about this is I think it would have been about the same pretty much wherever I was at. But a point for me personally is, and talking a little bit more about that growth and maturity, it was actually getting sober. I am about two and a half years in on sobriety. And that's when those proverbial lights started coming on. And I realized fairly quickly then that, you know, "Yeah, wow, there's things that are moving in the right direction. And this is looking really good." And for me personally, that was a huge turning point. I'm not sure for others what that would be. But I think that there are plenty opportunities no matter where you're at, and you just have to be willing to get out there and kind of scratch and claw your way through to do that. And also for those who are looking for avenues and approaches, one of the things that I have learned is, you know, it's kind of like the game of chutes and ladders, I had to go down a little bit to come back up in politics at the staffing level. So you're not always going to be plugged in as a campaign manager, as a senior adviser, calling the shots. Sometimes you got to go down to go back up. One of the great analogies that I've heard before, from a dear friend and mentor of mine is that it's a little bit like college and professional coaching, at sports, where all of a sudden, this person is the head coach here one day, and next day, they are the offensive coordinator here, the running back coach here, they're coaching at a really small school, and then they build themselves back up. So it's very similar. So for those who are looking for that opportunity or avenue to work in politics, you know, you definitely have to be pretty nimble and agile to do that.
What did you learn from leaving Louisiana to work in Ohio?
Well, there are two very different dynamics. Outside of the love, William Tecumseh Sherman and Joe Burrow, the states are vastly different. One of the things that is unique, and one of the things that I find myself constantly having to remind myself and others here in Ohio, is my family comes from small towns. We come from places like Leland, Mississippi, and Opelousas, Louisiana, and Albany, Georgia. That's where we come from. And I'm oftentimes reminded of the fact that due to the great migration, a lot of people in Ohio might, especially Black people, they know where they came from, but they're 1... 2... 3 generations now removed from that, and a lot of white people in Ohio, they don't understand the dynamic of Black people being from rural America. That's not something that registers with them. So my slight conservative bent, sometimes it's slightly off putting, when I remind them, and friends who understand the American South oftentimes remind them, they say, "Oh, no, that's very normal. In the Deep South Hobbs is very much in line with a lot of other Black people in Louisiana, or Mississippi, because the majority of them don't live in major cities like they do in a place like Ohio." So that was one of the things that I definitely had to learn and that dynamic in terms of race is looking at it from that perspective. Something else that I'll say that was very fascinating, and I had to learn that's a big difference is - and of course, it's just my opinion, and I might ruffle some feathers with this - but in the South oftentimes it is race, gender, economics, and the industrial Midwest, I have found it to be economics, gender, and race, from the thought and theory of Democrats from moving messaging forward, when moving campaigns forward. And a large part of that is based upon the heavy hand that labor plays inside of the Democratic apparatus in the American North versus the heavy hand that trial lawyers play in the American South side of the Democratic party apparatus. But one of the things that I oftentimes point to is, and this is definitely a clap back or some shades that I throw oftentimes in Ohio when people dig the deep south for being backwards and hillbillies, I oftentimes remind them that we have no problem electing women to high office, and in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana, they seem to struggle with democratically elected women, or electing women to Governor or US senate. It's something that hasn't happened yet.
Do you have any plans to come back to Louisiana someday?
Definitely. Not just for Jazz Fest or Mardi Gras. Actually to come back and move and live. I definitely have plans to hard move back to the South fairly soon. But we'll see how that pans out. But yeah, definitely moving back is most certainly in the horizon for me.
And have you kept connections to the folks who we're working with here?
Oh, yeah, most certainly. I stay, I wouldn't say engaged, but I stay abreast of the political activity that moves around the state and especially in the major metros. You know the ever growing saga out of New Orleans City Hall has been just fascinating to me. Just you know, every day it is something else. It's just, you know, you just watch this and you just go, "Oh, this is just wild."
We can talk about that a little later. I'll come back around to it. I did want to talk, before we got away from Ohio, about a couple other things. I've advocated for a more sophisticated view of how we engage in politics here in Louisiana. And I argue that because we rely so much on federal protections and investments that some years we need to look at the bigger picture when we're deciding where to put our time and money in our energy. This is one of those years. And I'm not saying there aren't important local elections. I'm not saying that we don't always need a good Democrat running and that we shouldn't support them. But I think it's particularly really critical for Louisiana this year that we keep the House, and that we get two more Democrats elected to the Senate. I've been criticized for saying that. That's fine. But it's unlikely - and most folks who have studied the data agree - it's unlikely this year for the partisan makeup of Louisiana's federal seats to change. You have a Senate candidate in Ohio that I have said I think is an excellent candidate, who's running a great race, who has a weak opponent. And so I just thought, I'd like to see what your thoughts on Tim Ryan are.
Tim is a great guy and Tim fits Ohio like a glove. And I mean, that's where he is hard from. And Tim has made all the right moves throughout his career in public office. He has an amazing family and an amazing personal narrative. I think that he is consistently, at least in my opinion, out of the top tier national candidates, he's probably the most underrated and undervalued national candidate we have. He is still within the margin of error inside of JD Vance. And JD was supposed to be this big hulking machine that came in with national money from all these huge interests, and the Netflix deal, and the great book and all of these things. And of course, a lot of people don't know this about JD, but JD's wife twice now has been the senior clerk for Chief Justice John Roberts.
No, I did not know that.
Yep. And that's the depth of where JD and his wife are. So my question is this, and it has been for a while, I have no idea how national connections on coastal elites and how being a Chief Justice, a senior clerk and all of that, and being a private equity guy really pertains to everyday Ohioans. And I think they've learned very quickly that it does not. JD has been missing in action. He hasn't been campaigning. I think they realized that he's an incredibly weak candidate. He's feckless. He's ineffective. And I think they recognize a litany of issues that are there, whether you look at some of his wife's work with the Chief Justice's chambers - and I think that speaks for itself, in volumes - or you look at JD's portfolio himself. I think that this is a really, really bad recipe for what people in Ohio want. And I think Tim is showcasing and proving that every single day. I think Tim's consistent message about jobs, about helping out everyday people in Ohio, about bringing jobs back to Ohio, a manufacturing hub, I think it's important. I think he genuinely means it, especially growing up in Youngstown, where he grew up at, I think that's important to him. And I think it's near and dear to his heart. So I am a huge fan and a big supporter. And I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if we see some excitement in Ohio on election night from that Senate race.
Well, I hope so. He's really made up a lot of ground there in a race that I think was Republican plus eight on The Cook Political Report.
Right. And let me add this point of clarity. I never attack or go after, and I think it's in poor taste to do so in campaigns, a spouse or a child. I think that's incredibly poor taste. However, the opening commercial that JD had was with his wife, direct to camera. And in this regard, I genuinely believe that there is a direct line of benefit that you have from having your wife be the senior clerk or the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
I mean, that's important data for voters to have, let's be honest. Long term, however, you're preparing a pitch about Democrats investing more in the South.
Most certainly, I think it's incredibly important that Democrats invest in the South. It is America's Black Belt. I think everyone knows that is the absolute base of the Democratic Party. And I think that we are remiss if we're not putting serious resources behind that. I think everyone can look at exactly what happened with John Bel Edwards' election. I think everyone can look at exactly what happened with Doug Jones in Alabama. I think everyone can look at exactly what happened with Beto in 2018 inside of Texas. And I think once we seriously start investing and looking at Black and Brown voters, whether those are new Americans in a place like Texas or throughout the American South, or whether those are our traditional Black base of the Democratic Party, I think that investment most certainly needs to be made. And I think the numbers are there for that. And also something else that's very important that I don't think gets near the amount of play that it should: a dollar goes a hell of a lot further in Mississippi than it would in terms of organizing, and also in terms of multimedia buying, whether that's digital ads, whether it's on TV, radio, mail, than it does in a lot of other places.
Well, I'm all about that. And I think we do need to build the infrastructure and the investments in the South. I think that is, like I said - well, this year, I'm saying we've got to keep the House and flip two more seats in the Senate - long term, it is to everybody's benefit for us to make these huge investments in the South. You've been looking at data in Ohio and Mississippi that you said was very similar in the numbers.
You look at the past top six statewide races in Mississippi and in Ohio, the results are almost identical. And Mississippi hasn't gotten two nickels to rub together since probably I'm guessing Jimmy Carter ran in '76. So I mean, that's the last time we carried for President. So I have no idea how you can look at that and not say, "Maybe we should start looking at some kind of reinvestment here." My father's born and raised in Mississippi, my families from Mississippi and states that carry a stigma like Mississippi does. I don't see why we wouldn't invest in Mississippi, especially when you look at the governor that we have in that state right now. And you look at what's happening inside of that state right now. It's an unmitigated disaster.
It's a disaster. And it's oppressive, an oppression on the folks there.
This is not a issue of race and this is not an issue of gender, which are Americans two original sins. But this is an issue of basic human dignity and decency. And the current governor of Mississippi has failed at every single junction to do that.
And if we're not investing - I can bring it back to Louisiana in this point - in candidate development, training campaign staff, creating an infrastructure... I talk a lot on the podcast about the infrastructure that's being built right now in Louisiana is being done by community groups who are nonpartisan, that community groups are doing the groundwork. I wrote a huge article - I've mentioned this multiple times on the podcast, too - after the 2019 governor's race, crediting the community groups with a lot of the ground game work they did. And I think that's wonderful that they're making those investments. That's what's flipped Georgia. To be honest, Stacey Abrams and New Georgia Project and Fair Fight, that's not the Democratic Party. That's community groups that have done that work. But it also needs to come from the Democratic Party, there needs to be a strong Democratic Party, putting together those partisan efforts as well.
Definitely. The underground work that Stacey Abrams has produced in Georgia, that body of work is remarkable and it speaks for itself. You consistently see this in a state like South Carolina, which is emerging. Cycle after cycle now they're going into battle. Constant organizing is occurring inside of South Carolina that they used to not see.
You mentioned that about Beto, too. I mean, he's had an organization that he's kept on the ground for years now.
If in 2014, or even 2010, had you said to Lynda Woolard or Mike Hobbs when we were standing in New Orleans, that Texas would be an emerging state, you and I would have laughed them out of the room. And look at Beto now. He's within the margin of error consistently against an atrocious governor, and he almost beat Ted Cruz. And they have an incredible bench inside of Texas. So I think there needs to be more serious conversations about where we're investing our money as a party, and what that looks like, and not just at the federal level or for governor, but for state house for local elections that are inside of the margins, to your point about building candidates and building out apparatuses that can really do the work that needs to be done.
Well, part of this equation, Mike, does have to be gerrymandering, right? And that's the work you've been doing lately. Can you tell me a little bit more about what you're doing there?
So we have a large robust group of different organizations that have been fully dedicated to ensuring that we have fair and equitable maps for statehouse, state senate, and congress inside of Ohio. And closing in on two years of this work, it has been incredibly challenging, incredibly rewarding, and it is something that is desperately needed to be done. And this kind of focus hopefully is happening all over the country. I know multiple states where I talk to peers who have done this and led this work out. And it is, to your point earlier about organizing, it's a lot of the rudimentary things you've learned in organizing as a young organizer that you still bring to the table every single day, working with coalition's, bringing people with different sets of beliefs and standards and understanding of things together every day to the table, and making sure that our common goal to ensure that we have fair and equitable maps is achieved. And we were able to win repeatedly in front of the state Supreme Court, which is in Republican control. Now, of course, when this case went to the federal courts, there was a different outcome on that. And that was a little disappointing. But we had two Trump appointees and one Clinton appointee. But we know for a fact we're legally right here. And we're going to keep fighting this fight every single day, because this is what the citizens of Ohio and the citizens around this country deserve. Folks, they're not winning, because they're good. They're winning, because they're cheating on these districts. And they're cheating because they know they're not good. If they could win straight up, they would go win straight up.
So your work has revolved largely around courts, or what's the organizing piece?
So one of the organizing pieces is that we have different groups, 501(c)(3)s and (c)(4) groups that have had a very large buy in for this kind of work. So for example, Eric Holder's group All On the Line, you name it, they have had a collective buy in, different women's and reproductive health groups, different organizations that center on environmental causes and environmental justice, racial justice and reconciliation groups, and trying to keep all those groups together, and one common coalition to move forward to get redistricting done. And also a lot of work inside of the state legislature with, you know, different state reps and state senators, and make sure that everybody's staying together and the coalition is staying together, and activists and active participants inside the Democratic Party, you name it, we've all come together to kind of make this happen. And this is closing in on two years of doing this kind of work. And again, it's very rewarding. But in terms of gerrymandering, yeah, again, I keep coming back to this point, they're cheating because they know their ideas suck.
That's right. So and I don't want to belabor it, but I take it this as a two pronged thing. You're trying to get the legislature to pass legislation about gerrymandering, and when that fails, you take it to the court?
So in Ohio it's actually done slightly differently. They have a redistricting commission that is made up of various statewide elected officials. And then you have the two top Democrats and Republicans from the House and the Senate also sit on said commission, and the Commission votes. The commission has Republican control. The commission refused on multiple attempts in 2021 to pass a constitutional map. That went to the state Supreme Court. The state Supreme Court took the maps from that commission and struck those down. Now, that was for the State House and the State Senate. Federal offices, the congressional maps, are voted directly from the floor of the House in Ohio, which is also in Republican control. They voted for unconstitutional congressional maps, too. That went in front of the state Supreme Court, and that got struck down. So those cases went in front of a federal court and the federal court sided with the Republicans. But of course, lawyers being lawyers, they're still mixing it up. The interesting thing here, and people should be mindful of this, is these maps have to go back to the state legislature for a revote. So I'll be very interested to see how Republicans handle this moving forward.
Okay, well, we've had similar stories here. I'm sure you've followed along with that over the last couple years.
Oh, very much so, with the PSC districts and the state legislative districts. And anyone who can look at the results from John Bel Edwards' reelection campaign and tell me that Louisiana does not deserve a second majority minority district in the Public Service Commission and the halls of Congress and the state supreme court, f you tell me that I have a bridge in Wuhan, China to sell you. I know you're lying to me.
And there were some very compelling arguments made by young people and the community groups here. It's remarkable how they're just sticking to their guns on that. Like you said, they're wanting to choose their voters, rather than the voters choose them, as the phrase goes. Let's shift focus for a bit here. How do you think the Democrats are doing in the messaging battle this year? I feel like there's been some improvement at a national level. What are your thoughts there?
I think, initially, Joe Biden - President Biden, my apology - he's everyone's favorite uncle, so I just want to call him Uncle Joe, and hug him and Dr. Jill. (And she's a doctor.) But he started off a little a little clunky, a little discombobulated on the front end. I wasn't quite sure where they're gonna land a plane. I think a lot of people had a little apprehension, big supporters, like you and me. At least for myself, I had some apprehension on the front end going, "Oh, boy, where are they gonna land this plane at?" It wasn't as bad as Dunkirk, but it wasn't looking great. But you know, they brought it in and, you know, turned that corner, and they have been producing outstanding policy that has resulted in outstanding politics, and they should be commended for that. And messaging has gotten a lot better. Also, let's not forget the stain and stamp that Donald Trump has left on what's left of the actual Republican Party, and the fact that with the Trump bump, they have atrocious candidates that they're running all over the place. And one of those things is looking at JD Vance. One of those is looking at the nut job they have an Arizona -- I can't remember the nut job's name. And a side note, if you are as a veteran, and as someone who has watched multiple friends suffer from traumatic brain injury, if you are a supporter of people who suffer from traumatic brain injury, you should be livid at the Republican Party for hoisting up Herschel Walker in Georgia.
Fair point. And a lot of it, too, we talked a little bit on the video we recorded for Facebook and YouTube before we started the podcast recording about the juxtaposition of the Democratic message, which I think has become stronger, with the extremist messages that the Republicans just continue to put out there. It's stark, it's very stark.
Yeah. It's night and day. I have no idea how you could possibly justify any behavior from January 6.
True enough, and you mentioned the military. I asked our mutual friend and former coworker Kirstin Alvanitakis what she would have me ask you today, and she mentioned two things. The first one was she wanted me to ask you about the importance of organizing vets and military families.
I think that is crucial. I think one of the things that a lot of people don't know - and let's dial in on this a little bit - if you've noticed the past couple of years, there has been this new push to yell and scream from the really bad actors in the Senate, about the "woke military." Now the military that I grew up with and the military that you grew up with, Lynda, if you said that these were a bunch of leftists, again, to that point, you would have been laughed out of the room. You'd go, "What the hell are they talking about?" This is United States military. This is a time honored tradition as one of the most conservative apparatuses we have in our country. If I'm not mistaken, Lynda, your dad's a veteran. You'd go, "These guys aren't these leftists that are hanging out in crazy land."
The reason why this has been a newfound thing that magically has appeared in this country, people forget this, we're well past 10 years of the strike down of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and queer people all over this country can serve openly. Transgender people can serve openly in the military. And one of the most telling things, women now can serve in virtually any role in our nation's military. And we are now hitting 50% of those who are active service members are people of color. And it has been that way for the past few years. That number keeps creeping up ever so slightly. And all of those things mixed together, now all of a sudden, all these horrible actors in the US Senate, want to talk about the "woke military." I see a pattern here of where that kind of conversation is coming from. Now, for Democrats, if I'm looking at those numbers, if they're almost 50% people of color in the United States military, who are 18 to 25... If I'm looking at those numbers and seeing we have a very high percentage now of openly queer people who are serving in our nation's military, we have a higher percentage of women who are serving in our nation's military, I'm seeing a lot of growth and opportunity to go in there and actively engage with those voters and talk with those voters about about some of the things that we want to do and where we stand at and what we believe in and getting them to vote.
Okay, supporting the military and the troops and veterans should be more than just a bumper sticker. It should be...
Yeah, actually doing it.
Yeah. The other thing Kirstin wanted me to ask you about was the importance of self care as an organizer.
Self Care as an organizer is incredibly important. Always have fun, our permanent rockstar in the state of Louisiana and the godmother of Louisiana Democrats, Donna, Brazil, in her book I believed she quoted - I'm going to butcher the hell out of this - she asked the campaign, "Are the kids having fun? Are they going out at night? Are they hooking up with each other? Are they doing all the things that all the kids go out and do?" But self care is important beyond that. It's re-centering yourself, focusing, taking a break, pushing off for a few hours, and maybe even a day or two to kind of, you know, make sure that you're good, you're set. And I can't stress this enough, especially for those who are in this space or looking to develop and grow in this space, you're going to meet people who are going to be with you as friends for the rest of your natural life. And always checking in with them, making sure that they're good, making sure that things are going well in your lives and making sure that everyone around you is doing good, is absolutely crucial and important. And that's also a part of self care. Whether that's darting off to get a pedicure and a manicure or whether that's, I don't know, going to hit golf balls or taking a nap. You know, all those things are incredibly important as an organizer. I can't evangelize self care enough.
I'm a huge power napper, Mike. I'm trying to perfect the art of the nap. You mentioned Donna Brazil and having fun. I want to say one of my mentors, Felicia Khan, the way she got me engaged in her work and the organizations she was involved in was by this talk she gave once where she was talking about - and I heard her say this multiple times - the first time I heard her say it she said, you know, we're Democrats, we have fun. We get work done, but we have fun. We're the fun party. That was something that interested me.
The first time I met Felicia in Mary Landry's headquarters, when she told me her age, I refuse to believe it.
She did more in a day than I do today. It was very fascinating. So is there any Louisiana political gossip you want to talk about?
I could spend the entirety of the Oprah Winfrey time she was on TV with a talk show going through New Orleans City Hall. It is the gift that keeps on giving. One day I hear that LaToya is trying to do a buyout for the mayor to get her a job. One day I hear that this is a huge Republican effort to remove her from City Hall. One day I hear that these are Democrats that want to remove her from City Hall. One day I hear that cops are in cahoots to do some weird thing. I'm just like perpetually fascinated by all the things I hear from Louisiana political gossip. I'd be very interested to see who runs for Governor next year.
We've already got a couple takers on the Republican side.
I'll be very interested to see if we hold the Senate. I'm still convinced that Republican or Democrat control of the Senate will push Bill Cassidy one way or the other into running for governor of Louisiana. I think if Republicans take the Senate, Bill Cassidy will stay in the Senate. I think if Republicans, God willing, do not take the Senate, I think Bill Cassidy comes home and runs for governor.
OK. And against Nungesser and Landry, who I guess have already declared, what are his odds?
Well, I think he'd be hopeful to tumble roll into the runoff and drag a Landry or said named Democrat into the run off with him.
Who do you think from the Democratic side might even be capable of mounting a reasonable campaign?
Oh, man, you know, I don't think Jacques Roy will jump in, as much as I would like to see someone like that take a serious look at it. I think he'd be an amazing candidate to look at. I'm always a big fan of Adrian Perkins, but he has his own race right now that he needs to push through, his own mayoral reelect. And I think Adrian is a rising star inside the Democratic Party. I would love for Helena Moreno to take a look at it. I think she'd be an outstanding candidate. I believe I read a article that she was taking a look at it. Maybe I'm making that up in my head. Maybe that's wishful thinking. But off the top of my head, those would be the three. Ted James is inside of the administration. So I don't know if he'd take a serious look at it with his current role with Small Business. And Chris Tyson, maybe, you know. That's just some names.
You mentioned at the beginning of the podcast - you actually texted me about this back in 2017 - about that moment where there were three Black women holding the mayorships of the three largest cities in Louisiana. Today we're down to two.
Sharon and LaToya...
You mentioned the recall effort against LaToya Cantrell. I'd love to get an outsider's view on the recall. I haven't really talked about it a lot, because I have a lot of thoughts about recalls in general. I just find them irritating. That's honestly my take on it is, she just won her reelection campaign. You could have run somewhat against her last year if you had issue with her, like a viable candidate who mounted a real campaign with real money and organizing, etc. And there will be yet another mayoral election only a couple years down the road. Why aren't you just preparing for that? And on top of that, we actually have real elections happening now like the PSC race and some of the other races across the state, some special elections, etc, that I'd really much rather see people investing their time and money into. Those are my issues with recalls in general. I just wanted to get an outsider's view, if you're willing to share it.
Oh, definitely. So yeah, let's put it on the table right now. I think Mayor Cantrell has had some misfires. And I think even the most ardent of supporters would have to acknowledge that. There have been some some misfires inside of the office. And maybe it's not necessarily misfires inside the office, but the way things are handled in the court of public opinion could have probably been handled a lot better. And I think that's a fair critique for any elected official, any operative like myself, yourself. I think oftentimes, you're trying to improve and evolve as that in that space. Do those things rise to a recall? I don't quite think people realize that once you get into the business of constantly pushing and peddling recalls, you start to look like California, and no one wants to look like those assholes in California. I mean, we had Arnold because of a recall. Gavin literally just had a recall, where they blew $50, $60 million on these kinds of things. These are very expensive propositions. And what's good for the goose here is not good for the gander. This is a slippery slope. And I don't think people want to start doing these kinds of things on repeat. I'm not there, but she is a Black woman in America in a city that, depending on who's doing the counting, was the largest port of entry for slaves in our nation. So I don't know how you can't have that conversation about race and gender not being a part of this.
I worry that this has become such fodder for Tucker Carlson, that he's put a lot of minutes behind this issue. And I think in the larger context, he's looking at just trying to ding up progressive elected officials in urban areas and Black women in particular.
Oh, definitely. I said this to a friend a few days ago, we were talking about this the recall effort, and I said one of the things that I'd be fascinated to see is, I see the photos on social media of, you know, all these nameless white people standing in line to sign the petition - at least on the front end I did - and I would love to see if there are organizers in Gentilly, to the East, and who is signing those petitions in the absolute Black base of the city. Are they going door to door in Central City? Are they going door to door in Hollygrove? Are they going door to door in the hard nut of the Black community in Orleans Parish? Are they in the black neighborhoods in Algiers? Are they standing outside of a grocery store, waiting for someone who's coming in to make groceries outside of the Winn Dixie, the Walmart, whatever? Are Black people signing up?
Yeah, you sent me the polling that came out where she had lost some support in the Black community. But to your point, losing support and signing a recall petition are two different things.
Very, very different things. And I'd be very interested to see what that level of support is. Because at some point in time, you would have to have, by math alone, an obscene amount of Black people to sign the damn petition to get it done. What's the magic number? 50,000 plus?
Yeah, some something like that.
I mean, in the city of New Orleans, one of the Blackest cities in the country, it can't be exclusively white people who sign that petition. So at some point they're gonna have to find a fairly large number of Black people to sign it. And I'm very interested to see whether they do that.
The other point I'll make about this, like I said, I haven't really talked about this, and I have such ambivalence about the whole thing. Mostly, I take issue with recalls.
They're very expensive and undemocratic, is my personal opinion about him.
I just find it interesting, and therefore I'm inherently suspicious, that I agree with you that there are missteps that have been made from this mayor. Her numbers before her reelection were like 70% support. Right? So for that to have deteriorated, something has to have happened. But I live here. There are problems in this city. I cannot say they all come from one person. Right? Like I can't say that there's one elected official that's creating the problems of the city. I can't even say one administration, or like one term, like a lot of these problems are decades in the making.
I'm not saying this centers on America's two original sins of race and gender. But you cannot have a conversation about the first Black woman and first woman that is the mayor of the city that is in the heart of the Confederacy, and which was depending on who's doing the counting, the largest port of entry for slaves in this country, and have that not be a part of the conversation. Can't do that.
All right. I'm gonna ask you the last three questions I ask a version of every episode. Mike, what's the biggest obstacle for Democrats in Louisiana?
To connect with white voters and to consistently mobilize black voters.
Say more about that.
So I think we need to do a better job at consistently mobilizing and keeping Black voters in Louisiana engaged and consistently pushing them out into the polls. Hence why I think there should be a greater push and a wholesale reinvestment in the American South. Because I think there are a lot of offices that can be won by doing that. I also think that by keeping white voters engaged, especially white rural voters. And I say rural, there's a difference between a place like Ohio and Louisiana, because a large swath of Jefferson Parish is rural, you know, as you and I know, clean down to the damn islands in Jefferson Parish, is technically Jefferson Parish. So, I think that it is important to keep people consistently engaged and go to places that we typically don't like to go to as Democrats, and go there repeatedly and talk to those people.
We've talked a lot about that on the podcast, because my thinking is, when we don't engage them, we open the door to allowing people like, I mentioned Tucker Carlson, but folks like him to demonize Democrats. And if you're not talking to them, they don't see you as their neighbor and just another human being. Right? And I think that's important. I'll add to that, Democrats share a lot of their values and when we're not engaging with them, they're not realizing that. What's our biggest opportunity as Democrats in Louisiana?
One of the biggest opportunities that I definitely think you'll start to see in Louisiana, especially if the energy, energy as in oil, holds, is inside of Cajun country. I think you're seeing a lot more tolerance as older Cajuns are getting older, retiring, moving, dying. And I think that those younger generations that are coming in aren't as rigid with a lot of their religious affiliations and to the status quo and the altar of the Republican Party. I think there can be some ground made up there.
Mike, who's your favorite superhero?
Favorite superhero would have to be George and Margaret Hobbs, but outside of my parents, I would probably have to go with... Oh, man this is going to stir the pot. I wasn't a big fan of the most recent iteration of Batman. But the Christian Bale Batman really spoke to my heart. So yeah, definitely probably Batman.
That's fair, but I like your first answer the best. Mike, thank you so much for spending time with me today. It's great to communicate with you always, but I've loved this extended visit.
Thank you for having me.
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