About Karen



Louisiana State Senator and Chairwoman of the Louisiana Democratic Party

Senator Karen Carter Peterson represents New Orleans and parts of Jefferson Parish in the Louisiana State Senate. Senator Peterson is currently Chair of the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee. She is immediate past Chair of the Louisiana Women’s Caucus and the past chair of the Senate Select Committee on Women and Children. She also serves on the Senate Judiciary B, Insurance and Local and Municipal Committees.

In 2012, she won the Chair position of the Louisiana Democratic Party, the first woman in Louisiana history to do so. In 2013, DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz appointed Sen. Peterson to serve as Co-Chair of the Democratic National Committee Credentials Committee. She was also elected, in 2013, to serve as Vice-President of the Association of Democratic Party Chairs.

Over her 14 years of service, Sen. Peterson has been recognized by many organizations and publications for her work. In 2013, New Orleanians voted Peterson the “Best New Orleans Legislator”  in the Gambit’s annual “Best Of New Orleans” Awards. Peterson has also been honored as the Legislator of the Year by the Alliance for Good Government three times, in 20122004 and 2000. In 2004, Sen. Peterson was selected as one of two inaugural recipients of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and the Institute of Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government’s New Frontier Award.  She was also selected to participate in the inaugural class of the Aspen Institute’s -Rodel Fellowship in Public Service. In recent years, she has also been recognized as one of New Orleans City Business’ Women of the Year.

In 2013, the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents named her Legislator of the Year, and the Children’s Defense Fund honored her for her leadership on protecting Louisiana’s children. In 2012, Sen. Peterson was awarded the International Association of Human Rights Agencies President’s award for outstanding service in the advancement of human and civil rights. Peterson was also the recipient of the 2012 Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana’s Justice for Youth Award. During Louisiana’s 200th anniversary of statehood in 2012, Peterson served as a commissioner on the Louisiana Bicentennial Commission. In 2011, the NewDEAL, a leadership group founded by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and Alaska U.S. Senator Mark Begich, recognized Senator Peterson as an emerging pro-growth progressive leader.  She was also presented with the Louisiana Association of Justice Public Service Award in 2011. Peterson also serves as Louisiana State Director for the National Foundation for Women Legislators.

During her time in the Louisiana House of Representatives, Peterson established herself as a powerful, worthy asset to the legislature, serving on the House Appropriations Committee, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, the House Governmental Affairs Committee, and finally, as House Speaker Pro Tempore, the second highest position in the House. While in the House, she was also the first woman to chair the House Insurance Committee.

Peterson is currently Counsel at Dentons, a global law firm. She has been in private practice since 1995. A seasoned generalist, Peterson has represented clients on a variety of matters, including public utility regulatory compliance, litigation, agency rulemaking and appeals, local governmental relations, causality defense, personal injuries, real estate and successions. She has also worked on commercial and financial matters, such as commercial litigation, contracts, public finance and corporate restructuring. Additionally, Peterson advises emerging businesses on a full range of legal matters, including incorporations, strategic development and local regulatory processes.

Peterson is a 1991 graduate of Howard University School of Business, where she received a degree in International Business and Marketing. During college, Peterson worked in the Congressional offices of both United States Senator John Breaux and Congressman Billy Tauzin. She holds a JD from Tulane University Law School, where she was afforded the opportunity to attend both Boston College Law School and the University of Virginia’s Law School as a visiting student.

Peterson has many present and past professional and civic activities on her resume. She has been a board member and volunteer for a wide variety of organizations. Beginning at the age of 18 through the year 2012, she served as a delegate to Democratic National Conventions. She and her husband Dana are members of St. Peter Claver Catholic Church and live in downtown New Orleans.