Former state senator and current Opelousas Mayor Don Cravins Sr. has thrown his hat in the ring for the state Democratic party’s top leadership position. Cravins is among six candidates seeking the chairmanship of the Democratic state Central committee, along with current chairman and Baton Rouge attorney Chris Whittington, Vacherie attorney Paul Aucoin, former state Rep. William Sumlin of Simsboro, and Shreveport party officials Dr. Steve Kirkland and Larry Ferdinand. The committee, which currently has 165 members from across the state, will be voting to elect its new chairman on March 15. The state chairman directs the party's agenda and helps oversee its staff. Of the candidates, Lafayette Parish party Chair John Bernhardt says the three frontrunners would have to be the incumbent Whittington; Aucoin, who has close ties to U.S. Sen. Mary Landreiu; and Cravins, who emerged last week as a popular alternative. “All three have the ability to run a very viable and successful campaign,” Bernhardt says.
Cravins says he recently decided to seek the position after being encouraged to do so by several members of the state Democratic Party. Cravins had also flirted with the idea of running for chairman in 2004. He says he has heard from people throughout the state who are dispirited by a general lack of leadership from the state party. “The common complaint is basically that the party has lost touch,” Cravins says, adding that Democrats need to be out on the forefront of issues like health care, education and affordable housing. “People are not going to be afraid to say that they’re a Democrat if we work diligently for issues that impact the lives of working people in our state.”"The problem that the party is having right now,” he continues, “regardless of who becomes the chairperson, is that they have a void and people seem to be looking for an alternative to the old establishment leadership. I’m feeling right now kind of like the compromise candidate and getting a pretty good response from throughout the state."