Gaines Wins Demo State Party Chair as Part of Blue Reboot

Photo source: Facebook

Former State Representative Randal Gaines is preparing to settle into his new offices in Baton Rouge as head of Louisiana’s Democratic Party only because he aligned himself with the Blue Reboot reform movement. Created to bring new leadership to Louisiana’s Democratic Party, Blue Reboot played a decisive role in the recent Democratic elections for parish-level and state central committees. Though Blue Reboot only officially worked on Democratic State Central Committee (DSCC) races, many of their candidates, including Blue Reboot Co-Founder Drew Prestridge, also ran for the parish-level committees which gave them broader reach.  

Blue Reboot was the brainchild of Prestridge and former state party volunteer/staffer Lynda Woolard who along with almost every other engaged Democrat in Louisiana was displeased with the outcome of the 2023 statewide elections. The overall number of Democrats in Louisiana has been declining for several years as has the party’s ability to raise funds and win races at the parish, regional, state and federal level.

Since Woolard and Prestridge previously worked for the state party and over the years built a network of grassroots Democratic leaders, they were uniquely positioned to identify potential candidates to run and align dozens of them with Blue Reboot. Though after the spring elections, Blue Reboot did not automatically control a majority of the 210 seats on the DSCC, they were able to sell their message about change to a majority of state committee members.  

It would be naïve to say that state party chair Katie Bernhardt was unaware of the party’s major problems, most of which she at least tried to tackle (unsuccessfully) during her four year term. Despite her underwhelming performance Bernhardt was not ready to throw in the towel. 

Gaines, a former three-term legislator who had represented St. Charles and St. James parishes, was looking for a new challenge. He had served as Louisiana’s male liaison to the Democratic National Committee and was ready to commit on a full-time basis to rebuilding the state’s party at the grassroots level. Although Gaines had the support of many legislators around the state including Aimee Freeman, Joe Bouie and Matt Willard from New Orleans, he needed a bigger block of votes to assure victory – votes that only Blue Reboot could provide.  

Both Bernhardt and Gaines had been cautiously optimistic counting and re-counting their votes in advance on the Saturday, April 13 election for new state officers. It appeared that neither had a clear majority. Those who were present at the meeting said it was contentious, disjointed, and poorly organized.   

Public Service Commissioner Davante Lewis – whom the state party did not support when he ran against incumbent Lambert Boissiere III – made a quick motion to nominate Gaines. Bernhardt’s supporters must not have been paying close attention. The nominations were closed without Bernhardt being nominated. Sensing a chance for a quick and easy victory, Blue Reboot supporters voted down a Bernhardt supporter’s motion to re-open the floor to nominations. Gaines’s first battle – but not his last – was won without a fight. 

Seeing the writing on the wall, several other incumbents quickly withdrew their names or were defeated. Former Congressional candidate Katie Darling is now the party’s first vice chair. Former State Treasurer candidate Dustin Granger will serve as party treasurer. Davante Lewis could replace Gaines as the male liaison to the Democratic National Committee. There are several runoff elections for parliamentarian, clerk, and female liaison to the Democratic National Committee. Although Gaines is Black, almost every newly elected member of his leadership team is White. 

Former Governor John Bel Edwards and City Council President Helena Moreno are two of the many elected officials who have publicly praised Gaines since his election. Gaines has his work cut out for him as he tries – according to his campaign platform – to “build grass roots capacity and resources to engage voters, develop leaders, and win elections at all levels.” Gaines will be relying on friends he made during his 12 years in Baton Rouge to meet these goals. 

Yet, Governor Jeff Landry could hold a strong grip over Louisiana’s Democrats for the next eight years. With the large number of Louisiana’s big business leaders now associated with Landry, it may be difficult for Gaines to raise the funds necessary to immediately elect new Democrats.

Another issue is voter registration and voter turnout. Gaines’ first test might be how many new registrants he is able to secure and if he can increase voter turnout for the November 2024 presidential election. Because Louisiana has become such a red state, the national party will not be inundating state party leaders with unending cash. 

Louisiana’s Democrats could be stuck in a ditch for the next eight years. Hopefully Gaines will find a way out.

Help Keep Big Easy Magazine Alive

Hey guys!

Covid-19 is challenging the way we conduct business. As small businesses suffer economic losses, they aren’t able to spend money advertising.

Please donate today to help us sustain local independent journalism and allow us to continue to offer subscription-free coverage of progressive issues.

Thank you,
Scott Ploof
Big Easy Magazine

Share this Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *