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Louisiana Democrats set to elect next party chair Saturday

Greg Hilburn
Monroe News-Star
Lynda Woolard is campaigning to be the next chair of the Louisiana Democratic Party.

Louisiana's Democratic Party leaders are finally set to elect a new party chair Saturday after Hurricane Laura postponed their last try and major candidates have jumped in and out of the race.

The chair is elected by party leadership, not in a public election. Members of the  Democratic State Central Committee will vote to select the next chair.

Lynda Woolard, a longtime party activist from New Orleans, jumped into the race 10 days ago to prevent Lafayette businesswoman Katie Bernhardt from running unopposed.

Woolard, who had been running for vice chair, entered the race for chair when state Rep. Ted James of New Orleans dropped out to focus on campaigning for the Democratic presidential ticket of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

Woolard said party leaders deserved more than one choice.

Katie Bernhardt

“When the field narrowed to one candidate, I received numerous calls from members of the Democratic State Central Committee and activists across the state encouraging me to step up and run for chair," Woolard said. "With the firm belief that people deserve options and to have their Democratic values represented, I felt called to serve. While I am convinced that the party will unite around Joe Biden on Nov. 3, now is the time for a healthy debate about the future of our state party.”

James had been endorsed by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards for party chair.

Current party Chair Karen Peterson, a state senator from New Orleans, isn't seeking reelection after serving more than eight years in the post.

Woolard has worked within the party infrastructure for years and earned the Organizer of the Decade award from the Louisiana Democratic Party.

Bernhardt, who has been a member of the Democratic State Central Committee and executive committee for four years, has repeatedly said she wants to modernize the party. She has been campaigning for party chair for months.

"I look forward to leading our party to finally write its own story in Louisiana," she has said.

Though the Democrats hold the top spot in state government with Edwards, he is an anomaly as the only statewide elected Democrat and the only Democratic governor in the Deep South. Republicans hold near super majorities in both the state House and Senate.

Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1