Richmond himself won a previous version of the 2nd District, which at the time only included portions of the city of New Orleans and suburban Jefferson Parish, in 2010 after coming up short two years before. In 2008, then-state Rep. Richmond was one of six Democrats who decided to challenge indicted Democratic Rep. Bill Jefferson, who earned his place in political infamy after he was filmed allegedly taking $100,000 in marked cash from a government informant, $90,000 of which was later discovered in his freezer.
Louisiana temporarily abandoned its all-party primary for congressional races in 2008 and 2010 and switched to a partisan primary and runoff, a development that proved to have unexpected implications. The first round of the Democratic primary was originally set for early September, but the state postponed the contest for a month when Hurricane Gustav threatened the Gulf Coast at the end of August. An unusual arrangement was implemented where any primary runoffs would take place on Election Day in November, with the general election for those races occurring in December.
Jefferson ultimately took first place in the October primary with 25%, while former TV anchor Helena Moreno edged out Richmond 20-17 for second place. The following month, Jefferson won the Democratic nod by defeating Moreno 57-43 as Barack Obama was carrying the seat 74-25. Politicos universally expected that Jefferson, for all his legal problems, would have no trouble in the December general against Republican Joseph Cao in this heavily Democratic constituency, but low turnout helped propel Cao to a shocking 50-47 upset; Jefferson was convicted the next year.
Republicans were enthusiastic about their pickup after a very tough cycle, with Minority Leader John Boehner memorably putting out a memo afterwards proclaiming, “The future is Cao,” but it was immediately clear that the new congressman would be incredibly vulnerable in 2010. Richmond quickly entered the race and emerged as the favorite of prominent state and national Democrats, and he won the primary outright by beating fellow state Rep. Juan LaFonta 60-21.
Cao put up an aggressive fight in the general election and earned some endorsements from local Democrats, including LaFonta, but he was always the underdog in this very blue seat. Richmond also aired a TV commercial starring Obama, who otherwise kept his distance from Democrats in competitive races at a time when his national poll numbers were poor. Richmond unseated Cao 65-33, which gave Democrats one of their three House pickups during the GOP wave year.
In Congress, Richmond quickly became close to two senior Democratic members, South Carolina’s Jim Clyburn and Mississippi’s Bennie Thompson, and he continued the cross-party friendship with neighboring GOP Rep. Steve Scalise that began when they both served in the state legislature. Richmond would also lead the Congressional Black Caucus from 2017 to 2019, and he was an early supporter of Biden’s presidential campaign. Perhaps most famously, though, Richmond was unquestionably the best player from either party in the annual Congressional Baseball Game, and Democrats dominated almost every game featuring the former Morehouse College pitcher.
Richmond’s subsequent campaigns, however, would be far less eventful than his time on the diamond. Richmond earned his only notable opponent for reelection in 2016 when East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden, who had been Team Blue’s nominee for lieutenant governor the previous year, decided to take him on. Holden raised very little money, though, and didn’t offer a compelling reason for why voters should fire the incumbent. Richmond ended up winning 70-20, and he did even better in East Baton Rouge Parish.
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