Activist Gary Chambers vies for 2nd Congressional District seat

Photo+of+Gary+Chambers

Courtesy of Chambers for Congress

Photo of Gary Chambers

Sophie Brams, Staff Reporter

“The people called me to this fight.” 

This is why Gary Chambers says he is running for Congress. 

The Baton Rouge activist and co-founder of the Rouge Collection announced his bid for representative of Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District, the seat previously held by Cedric Richmond. 

Chambers has long been a voice for change in the Baton Rouge area, but gained national attention back in 2020 when a clip of him calling out an East Baton Rouge Parish School Board member, Connie Bernard, for online shopping during a meeting about the renaming of Robert E. Lee High School went viral on social media. 

When Chambers announced his candidacy on Jan. 4, he insisted his team would not release a full platform of ideas until he got out into the community and spoke with the voters. 

“I think that the role of an elected official is to serve the people and if your goal is to serve the people, you should find out what the people want before you decide to go serve them,” Chambers told The Hullabaloo.

Despite not yet releasing a full platform, Chambers maintains a progressive agenda, supporting policies like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All, and says there are some issues on which he will not waiver. This includes a woman’s right to choose, fighting mass incarceration and moving away from oil and gas.

“There’s room for compromise on most things, but if you start in the middle, you end up further along with the other side, but if you start further to the left, then you can end up at a place of compromise that gives some form of equity to the people that we serve,” Chambers said.

One obstacle Chambers faces is the way the 2nd Congressional District is drawn. Only 11% of voters reside in East Baton Rouge Parish, where Chambers is from. Historically, it has been difficult for a candidate outside of Orleans Parish to gain enough of the vote to be competitive. In 2016, Richmond was able to pull off a landslide victory against sitting Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden, including securing 75% of the vote in East Baton Rouge Parish. 

But Chambers plans to combat that challenge by visiting cities and towns all over the district and adds there just hasn’t been a viable challenger to Richmond before. 

“We haven’t given the voters of Orleans an option that they can believe in for them to support,” Chambers said.

Another challenge Chambers faces is that he’s a political outsider and his two opponents, Troy Carter and Karen Carter Peterson, are career politicians. Chambers believes, however, this is actually an advantage. 

“If we vote the way we’ve always voted, we’re going to get what we always got,” he said. “I’m a different option and I believe we can win.” 

If elected, Chambers would be among the youngest members of Congress, and his message to young voters is clear: 

“Are we going to wait for them to give us the ability to lead or are we going to step up and lead?”

The special election for Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District will take place on March 20.