ANTI-OPPRESSION/ANTI-BS VOTER EDUCATION GUIDE FOR NEW ORLEANS ELECTIONS OCTOBER 12, 2019


Greetings, friends, and welcome to the collaborative Anti-Oppression/Anti-Bullshit Voting Guide for the New Orleans election on October 12! These guides have been produced lovingly and carefully since 2014 by a group of individuals who wish to confront the existing lack of accountability in the branches of Louisiana government, and in the election process more generally. We did a lot of research and talked with our neighbors, friends, and allies. We agree on the following guidelines to shape our analysis:

  • Promote justice and advancement for people of color, poor people, queer and trans people, immigrants, youth, women, people with disabilities, and people most affected by environmental degradation; prioritize the needs of people most harmed by systemic oppression.
  • Favor the judicial candidates least destructive to the lives of the poor and others caught in the dragnet of our punitive legal system.
  • Be strategic about New Orleanians’ specific needs being adequately addressed on the state and federal levels, especially with regards to environmental, economic, and health care concerns.
  • Reject the influence of post-Katrina opportunism at all levels of government.

We approach this work with a harm reduction ethos—that is, we understand we cannot easily nor quickly move the mountains of inequality, prejudice, bureaucracy, and oppression that keep people down; but we also understand that voting can be part of how we do that. When we say “diversity of tactics,” well, partner, voting is one of them.

If you are registered and don’t care to vote, please find someone who is currently incarcerated, on parole, undocumented, or otherwise disenfranchised from voting, but wants their opinions heard. You can vote for their interests.


GOVERNOR


Ralph Abraham (Republican)
Oscar “Omar” Dantzler (Democrat)
John Bel Edwards (Democrat)
Gary Landrieu (Independent)
Patrick “Live Wire” Landry (Republican)
“Eddie” Rispone (Republican)

What do we do with a race like this? Anti-abortion, pro-cop conservative legislation across the board, regardless of party. This is Louisiana. We suffer. Go vote and then consider making a donation to your local abortion fund, racial justice organization, or immigrant justice organizers in an attempt to absolve you of your sins. Amen.

The darling of white labor dads and literally no one else, John Bel Edwards is the incumbent and forerunner of the gubernatorial election. John puts the Bel in heartbeat bill. Sure, he’s done one or two neat things. He rescinded egregious anti-queer legislation from once-presidential hopeful Bobby Jindal, which is a move that approaches basic human decency. Medicaid expansion, OK, yeah. “Fighting” for a $1,000 pay raise for teachers that makes us gag when we think about it for too long. If you do the math, this equates to about a 50 cent-an-hour raise. Six months of pencils and chalk! Edwards has been endorsed by the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association, stating: “I have tremendous affection for law enforcement in general and sheriffs in particular… I’ve had my door open to the sheriffs all four years and I just think that makes a difference.”

Since this is a primary election, if Edwards manages to get 50% of the vote (he’s currently polling at above 40%) he wins the election outright. Otherwise, it will go to a runoff between the top Democratic and Republican candidates.

Trailing Edwards is Ralph Abraham. His claim to fame during this undignified gubernatorial sprint has been a viral-to-boomers video in which he locks eyes with the camera (and you, the viewer) to do dramatic readings of your uncle’s Facebook feed. “Life begins at conception.” “Facts matter more than feelings.” “President Trump is doing a great job.” And then, the grand finale: “As a doctor, I can assure you, there are only two genders.” Hey, Ralphie, we can agree with you on one issue and one only: our car insurance IS too expensive.

Polling behind Edwards and Abraham, but ahead of the rest of the field, is “Eddie” Rispone. Rispone, a rich businessman, kicked off his campaign with a full-page ad in the Times-Picayune featuring blood-curdling bullet points such as, “I hope you enjoy protesting, because if you’re upset now, just wait ‘til I’m governor.” Rispone gained traction in the race after a brutal attack ad aimed at fellow Republican Abraham, charging Abraham with not being loyal enough to Donald Trump (among other things). Republican talking heads are bemoaning Rispone’s move, saying infighting only serves Edwards in the end.

We want to show admiration and support for Oscar “Omar” Dantzler speaking out against a Tangipahoa school board member posting a picture of a noose on social media. We’re also firmly in his corner in referring to Gov. Edwards’ $1,000-a-year teacher pay raise as “a slap in the face.” On Gov. Edwards’ heartbeat bill, he suggests that it’s too stringent of a measure, and that he would’ve provided exceptions for rape and the life of the mother. Not nearly enough, Dantzler. And we have to point out that Dantzler’s made part of his living as a bail bondsman and former policeman.

Rounding out the race are Patrick “Live Wire” Landry and Gary Landrieu. The tagline on the latter’s website reads: “Build the wall. Support police. End sanctuary. Save the coast.” That’s enough to disqualify him, not just from this gubernatorial race but also walking around in public. Part of the Landrieu dynasty including Moon, Mitch, and Mary, Gary has defended his right to use the n-word on radio. As for Landry, there appears to be almost nothing about him on the internet, save for a few quips about his nickname, which, admittedly, is a pretty good one.

SUMMARY: There’s no good choice here, unfortunately. Each candidate has demonstrated, uniquely, their unfitness for the position, and an inability to stand for the rights of all Louisiana citizens. No matter who winds up getting the proverbial throne, be prepared to organize and fight.


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR

Willie Jones (Democrat)
William “Billy” Nungesser (Republican)

The responsibilities of the role of Lieutenant Governor are to foster and promote tourism industries in our beloved state and to stand at attention, ready to assume the governorship if anything should befall the Top Dog.

It’s a rare and sad day when one can side with the FBI on anything, but perhaps the sole thing you could break bread with the feds over is the extended corruption parade marshaled by our sweet boy Billy. William “Billy” Harold Nungesser: incumbent Lt. Grifter in Chief, the bane of Plaquemines Parish and everything that touches it. The man who proudly enshrined his ankles in Trump socks—featuring fringy tufts of hair—for a meeting with Donnyboy himself. Plaquemines Parish’s premier crook with a storied warpath of corruption in the aftermath of both Hurricane Katrina and the BP Oil Spill.

Endorsed by the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association, Nungesser’s big tourism plans for his continued role as Lt. Gov. include “promot[ing] staycations.” Shortly after being elected Lt. Gov. last time around, the man accidentally (?) architected a failed $1 billion tourism contract with the Iraqi government. Despite having $8,400 added to his salary for him to drive his personal vehicle for work, Nungesser has openly had state police troopers shuttle him around “everywhere.”  $19,000 in travel expenses for 2018—the man has turned the office into his endless staycation.

Republican incumbent Nungesser is opposed solely by New Orleans Democrat and independent claims adjuster Willie Jones. Previously, Jones had unsuccessful runs for Louisiana House of Representatives in 2011 and 2015. He sits on Orleans Parish District E Democratic Executive Committee, is a former member of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, and is endorsed by the Louisiana Democratic Party. There’s not much of substance to point to in Jones’ campaign—vague references to promoting the seafood industry and tax incentives for the film industry. He centers a need for tourism outside the main spheres of New Orleans, Lafayette, Baton Rouge, as well as diversity in the role of Lt. Gov. Most importantly, his name is not Nungesser.

SUMMARY: In a choice between Billy Nungesser and anyone, we choose anyone. Vote Willie.


SECRETARY OF STATE

Kyle Ardoin (Republican)
“Gwen” Collins-Greenup (Democrat)
Thomas J. Kennedy, III (Republican)
Amanda “Jennings” Smith (Republican)

One of the primary roles of the Secretary of State is overseeing state elections. In a move that would likely get cut from a Hollywood script for heavy-handedness, threadbare plausibility, or just plain lazy writing, incumbent Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin announced back in April that thousands of new voting machines would not be replaced in time for the fall election, in which Ardoin would be running to keep his job. The replacement machines were held up after a bid-rigging controversy that went down under Ardoin’s tenure. Instead of bringing Louisiana up to modern election standards, Ardoin’s office will now spend $2 million to rent temporary machines for this election.

Democratic rival “Gwen” Collins-Greenup ran against Ardoin last time around, in a far more crowded field, and ultimately forced a run-off. Ardoin beat her pretty handily, but now Collins-Greenup is back for round two with the backing of the Louisiana Democratic party. Collins-Greenup’ platform is based on protecting voting rights and the integrity of our elections, empowering small businesses, and getting more people out to vote. Her resume is filled out with work in the private, nonprofit, and government spheres.

Collins-Greenup has questioned Ardoin’s dedication to voter security. In recent years, the integrity of computerized voting machines without a paper trail to substantiate the results has come into question around the country. This concern was the impetus for the attempted overhaul on Louisiana voting machines, but the alleged foul play in the contracting of the project led to a delay. Ardoin and his office have been directly implicated in this controversy. Ardoin was also implicated in the sexual misconduct scandal perpetrated by his old boss, former Secretary of State Tom Schedler, whose resignation in the wake of the scandal was how Ardoin got the job in the first place.

We’ve got two more Republicans rounding out the remainder of the field, Thomas J. Kennedy, III and Amanda “Jennings” Smith. Kennedy also ran for Secretary of State in the last election, and his website describes him as a “New Orleans construction businessman” (presumably because he doesn’t want to say “real estate developer”) and aggressively proud Boy Scout Scoutmaster. His primary policy point is “strengthening laws so only U.S. citizens can vote.” As for Smith, a quick Google search reveals multiple pro-Confederate Facebook posts and images. Not on her private page mind you—on her campaign page.

SUMMARY: Gwen Collins-Greenup


ATTORNEY GENERAL

“Ike” Jackson, Jr. (Democrat)
“Jeff” Landry (Republican)

Democratic challenger “Ike” Jackson, Jr. will fight an uphill battle when he takes on incumbent “Jeff” Landry for the position of Attorney General. Not only is Landry widely popular among many conservative voters, he sports the largest campaign fund outside of the gubernatorial candidates to boot, with a reported $2.2 million in his reelection account.

For the record, Jackson reported $509 in his own election account. Unlike Landry, apparently it never occurred to Jackson to host a $5,000-a-head fundraiser in the form of an alligator hunt, the likes of which would be attended by Fox News Correspondent Kimberly Guilfoyle and her boo Donnie Jr. If nothing else, we owe Landry a salute for the sequence of headlines tasked with rendering a spectacle as grandiose as this.

Some of the cornerstones of Landry’s platform are protecting Louisiana citizens’ health care, ending sexual violence, and taking on the opioid crisis. However, in practice, Landry was part of a group of attorney generals across the country who filed a lawsuit aimed at dismantling the Affordable Care Act, stripping millions of people of their health care coverage. On the sexual violence front, Landry refused to investigate the Catholic Church in Louisiana for sexual misconduct. This came in the wake of a sweeping report out of Pennsylvania detailing sexual abuse by priests and subsequent coverup on the part of the church. In response, many other attorney generals across the country—particularly those in states with large Catholic populations, like Louisiana—opened their own local investigations. Landry, a Catholic, abstained, claiming he doesn’t have the authority to investigate the church, but also that he’s afraid an investigation may “smear” the name of the church.

As for opioids and drug-use, Landry’s plan hinges on a multi-pronged attack. First, implementing a drug take-back program. Despite similar programs in other states, there is no data to suggest these programs are effective at reducing drug use. Second: he built a website. Because if you plaster the phrase “end the opioid epidemic” on a webpage enough times it must put something out into the air, right? 

It looked like Landry would run for reelection uncontested, until the final hour for candidate registration, when Ike Jackson, Jr. signed up. The Plaquemines-born candidate has since received the endorsement of the Democratic party. He also previously served as Assistant Attorney General, so he’s plenty qualified and familiar with the office and its daily operation. Ike wants to protect health care, particularly for Louisiana citizens with pre-existing conditions, and confront corruption in the attorney general’s office. He’s also expressed an intention to join other Democratic attorney generals in combating the climate crisis.

SUMMARY: It’s admittedly hard to vote for a glorified cop, but if we gotta choose, the choice is clear: NOT LANDRY.


TREASURER

Derrick Edwards (Democrat)
Teresa Kenny (No Party)
John M. Schroder (Republican)

For the position of the state’s chief financial officer, in a very on-brand-for-2019 spread, we have an under-qualified incumbent Republican, a Democrat with fairly decent (albeit centrist) values, and a cool underdog with democratic socialist vibes (though she hasn’t publicly identified with demsoc that we know of).

John M. Schroder, the incumbent candidate, won just two years ago in a special election. He has no specific accounting background but rather is a businessman and House Appropriations Committee member. The Democratic candidate, Derrick Edwards is a lawyer and disability advocate, stemming from an injury that resulted in his becoming paralyzed from the neck down. Edwards tried to unseat Schroder in 2017 and lost by around 11%. He also ran for Senate in 2016, but didn’t break 3% in the primary. His Senate campaign gives insight into his values: tax cuts for small businesses, improving infrastructure, expanding ACA, increasing Pell grants, and decreasing student loan interest. Of course, as treasurer, Edwards’ ability to enact those policy goals is a bit more limited than it would have been as Senator.

Unaffiliated Teresa Kenny is an accountant for small businesses and nonprofits in Greater New Orleans. Kenny already holds the title of treasurer for Krewe de Lune. The reason we generalized her politics as demsoc isn’t just because she has campaigned with Ag Com candidate and DSA member Marguerite Green—Kenny’s positions and language also reflect those values. Her platform foregrounds financial equality, which she says is vital because “being historically marginalized creates a disadvantage when interacting with systems of power.” Love to see a systemic analysis of power!

SUMMARY: Vote against Schroder. Edwards has labor endorsements and seems like a good person. He has what (ideally) would be considered center/right positions for a Democrat, but since we live under increasingly authoritarian regimes with no legitimate opposition party, he’s pretty left for a Democrat in Louisiana. Sure, Kenny is a longshot, but… if you’re going to vote at all, why wouldn’t you vote for an implicitly demsoc woman with a tattoo of America’s geographic features, who is pictured with her Mardi Gras krewe adorned in rainbows and fishnet, with a person whose shirt says “PUSSY NOT WAR”?


COMMISSIONER OF AGRICULTURE AND FORESTRY

Marguerite Green (Democrat)
“Charlie” Greer (Democrat)
Michael G. “Mike” Strain (Republican)
Peter Williams (Democrat)
Bradley Zaunbrecher (Republican)

If you read the interview with Marguerite “Margee” Green in ANTIGRAVITY’s September issue, you already know the Executive Director of Sprout Nola is a longtime gardener/farmer, food justice advocate, sustainability enthusiast, environmentalist, and Democratic Socialists of America member. She is in favor of weed legalization (not as cool as decriminalization but you don’t get to use the tax revenue/job creation argument if you hold the actual correct position, we get it). Also, for your information, she says she doesn’t get stoned. Green has specific policies grounded in science and reality to address climate crisis, a strong grassroots campaign, and is smart as hell.

Mike Strain is the incumbent Republican who has held this office since 2007. How do you think things have gone here since then? The nicest thing we can say about Strain is that he is a veterinarian. Strain endorsed Mitt Romney and Rick Perry and is a Trump defender. When he was a representative in the State House, he did a bunch of anti-choice votes (against rape/incest exception, in favor of increasing requirements of making pregnant people listen to the electric pulses their clump of cells emit, to try to manipulate them into doubting their own judgment). To his credit he did vote against the smoking ban, so he does support bodily autonomy but only for really important stuff like being able to smoke inside. He also voted against a bill to help displaced voters vote while displaced. He’s made budget cuts and acknowledged the existence of climate change, and if that’s where the bar is, we’re fucked, duh.

The other candidates are retired Department of Agriculture and Forestry employee Charlie Greer, who unsuccessfully ran against Strain in the last election and spends more time taking shots at Strain than articulating strong policy positions. Peter Williams is a tree farmer and hemp enthusiast who only supports medical marijuana. Bradley Zaunbrecher is a crawfish farmer who by his own account isn’t running to win.

SUMMARY: Margee Green all the way.


COMMISSIONER OF INSURANCE

James J. “Jim” Donelon (Republican)
“Tim” Temple (Republican)

The role of Commissioner of Insurance oversees title insurance industries and things pertaining to life and health insurance and many things marine statewide. In Louisiana, this position has historically seen more than a few insurance commissioners go straight to federal prison after their tenure.

Incumbent James “Jim” Donelon hails from Metairie, where all good Republican war criminals go to raise a family. He’s endorsed by Steve Scalise. Tim Temple is challenging Donelon on escalating auto insurance rates. It’s hard to tell the difference between these guys. We’re swinging our support to the challenger, because Donelon’s had it for a while and it’s good to take turns.

SUMMARY: Doesn’t matter, everyone’s a crook. Vote Temple just to take something away from one rich white man and give it to another. Cheers.


1ST SUPREME COURT DISTRICT

“Will” Crain (Republican)
Richard Ducote (Republican)
Hans Liljeberg (Republican)
Scott Schlegel (Republican)

The 1st District includes mostly Jefferson Parish and pieces of St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, St. Helena, Washington, and Orleans (the rest of Orleans is in the 7th). This seat, which could be a swing vote on oil industry vs. coastline matters, became vacant after Justice Greg Guidry was appointed by President Trump onto the United States District Court.

Since 2012 “Will” Crain, who holds the cash lead in this race (partially thanks to the business lobby), has been a judge of the First Circuit Court of Appeal. He has endorsements ranging from the Police Association of New Orleans and the St. Tammany Parish Republican Executive Committee to the United Teachers of New Orleans and the AFL-CIO. His rulings, like his endorsements, are mixed—Crain has ruled against issuing medical marijuana licenses, and also against property seizure by police. District Judge Scott Schlegel has the endorsement of the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, and local media sees him as Crain’s real competition.

This summer, candidate and attorney Richard Ducote filed a lawsuit arguing that a state statute allowing secrecy in judicial investigations is unconstitutional. The secrecy law allows judges to hide things that voters are entitled to know about—things like the outcome of investigations against them, and apology letters to people associated with cases they hear (that specifically was the catalyst for this suit—if you’re curious, look into Justice Jeff Hughes). We agree: the public should have access to public records. Ducote is a pretty spicy figure: his practice is in family law, which is often messy and heartbreaking. He specializes in defending survivors of intimate partner violence, and depending on who you ask, he’s either passionate or prone to grandstanding.

Tulane professor and Appellate Judge Hans Liljeberg is backed by John Carmouche, a lawyer associated with various coastal protection and environmental efforts—the oil industry absolutely hates him. Liljeberg, who has the most judicial experience on the ticket, has also been accused of racial bias, but investigated himself and—you’ll never guess—decided he wasn’t. (He’s a white, male, Republican judge, like every other candidate on the ticket, and given how power operates in social relations, it’s safe to assume all four men are “racially biased.”) The biggest strike against Liljeberg is his membership in the Federalist Society, a conservative libertarian organization that favors overturning Roe v. Wade and also the deregulation of basically everything that stands in the way of power and wealth consolidation.

SUMMARY: Ducote is a champion of transparency in government and an advocate for survivors of intimate partner violence. He appears to be the least harmful choice.


BESE DISTRICT 1

Marion Bonura (Independent)
James “Jim” Garvey (Republican)
Lee Price-Barrios (Republican)

James “Jim” Garvey is the incumbent candidate for Board Of Elementary and Secondary Education District 1, which includes all of St. Tammany Parish, as well as sections of Orleans and Jefferson parishes. In terms of one’s record speaking for itself, Garvey is a Republican who has held his position for 11 years. Garvey has presided over the privatization of the school system in a state that is ranked 48th for education. His education-as-business stance fits his background, which is of course in business/accounting/law rather than teaching. Like BESE D2 candidate Kira Orange Jones, Garvey is Teach for America (TFA) affiliated (but with a more minor role than Jones so we’ll save our TFA ire for the D2 section), which should be considered a conflict of interest.

Lee Price-Barrios previously ran in District 5 but lost last year. A retired teacher and journalist with a rather diverse career history (she was once a horse trainer), Price-Barrios got into education advocacy as her children progressed through school. She is pro-public schools, anti-standardized testing, and anti-corporatization of education, which she correctly identifies as a crisis. Her ambitious agenda includes appointing a new superintendent, auditing charter schools, and the Board of Education itself.

Marion “Coach” Bonura is a former board member in D8 who was defeated last year. His 50 years of education experience is mostly athletic instruction (hence the nickname). A main theme in Bonura’s campaign is providing equal opportunities for students of all cultural backgrounds, like by increasing ESL services. He cares about supporting students with disabilities, who have been spectacularly failed under Garvey’s reign. Bonura comes off a bit less polished than Price-Barrios, though he is nothing if not earnest—he said his political philosophy could be best summarized by a poem called “The Dash” by Linda Ellis, which upon cursory examination is more of a lifestyle brand à la “Live Laugh Love” than a poem. His stances are benign if vague: he is against special interest groups, in favor of teacher training and retention, and in favor of smaller classes. He correctly called out the bullshit neoliberal rhetoric of “choice,” central to Garvey’s campaign, as being code for supporting charter schools. Bonura has endorsements from United Teachers of New Orleans, and also from PACs for Louisiana Federation of Teachers and Louisiana Association of Educators.

SUMMARY: Price-Barrios has strong progressive stances and is undeniably endearing—she is a horse girl who partially funded her campaign with retirement savings! But despite being a little corny, Bonura’s endorsements from labor and educators—and longer tenure in education—put him a cut above. Vote with labor for Bonura or vote for Price-Barrios’ stronger stances against charter schools (Bonura is merely anti-voucher). Whatever you do, vote against Garvey.


BESE DISTRICT 2

Shawon Bernard (Democrat)
Kira Orange Jones (Democrat)
Ashonta Wyatt (Democrat)

The race for Board Of Elementary and Secondary Education in District 2 (which includes Orleans and Jefferson Parish, as well as parts of St. Charles, St. John, St. James, and Assumption) is a quintessential battle of symbolic opposites. Incumbent Kira Orange Jones is a field director at Teach for America (TFA), the nonprofit dedicated to taking inexperienced college students, giving them quick training, then plunking them down in schools in disadvantaged (or more accurately “historically looted”) communities whose demographic characteristics they generally do not share, i.e. race and class. TFA’s downright colonial model displaces experienced teachers already at schools.

Jones barely qualified for the ballot this time around, due to unpaid fines and unfiled taxes. In 2012, she faced a challenge to her membership on the board because—and this may have occurred to you—sitting on the board while being a director at TFA (who holds contracts with the board to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars) is basically the definition of “conflict of interest.” However, the board ruled in her favor. Seems pretty corrupt! It’s funny how pro-charter school people love to argue against local governance with the argument that a public school system is too corrupt and incompetant to run itself… we’re not here to defend the record of the pre-1998 district, but to say the charter system is incompetant is to be generous—the segregating, score fudging, lead-in-the-water, asbestos in the walls, failing-to-provide-basic services-headass system often seems outright negligent and malicious. Speaking of negligence, Jones has been practically an absentee member of the board, missing over a third of all meetings.

Shawon Bernard, in stark contrast, is an experienced teacher and principal with over 25 years of experience. Currently an attorney with a family law and educational law practice, she is an advocate for a return of the school system to local governance. New Orleans (which as we all know is 100% charter schools now) is unique in that laws were created to take away the authority of Orleans Parish School Board, with its governing authority taken away and re-allotted to the Recovery School District, and thus to charter management. With her background in law, her advocacy history, and her firsthand experience in schools, Bernard seems up to the task of working to repeal state laws that stymie Orleans Parish’s autonomy and obstruct progress.

Ashonta Wyatt is an advocate against gun violence who touts 18 years of education instruction experience. Last year Wyatt was fired from her job as principal at Edgar P. Harney Spirit of Excellence Academy over dubious, vague, and possibly politically motivated allegations in a session that violated the open meetings law, despite her apparent popularity with parents. Wyatt and Bernard received dual endorsements from both the Independent Women’s Organization (IWO) and United Teachers of New Orleans (UTNO), clearly saying “anyone but Jones.”

SUMMARY: One of the fundamental values of this guide is to reject the influence of post-Katrina opportunism at all levels of government. As a pro-charter, TFA affiliated candidate, Jones is the candidate of post-Katrina opportunism. Bernard has more experience, qualifications, and clearly articulated positions than Wyatt. We agree with IWO and UTNO: vote against Jones.


3RD SENATORIAL DISTRICT

John H. Bagneris (Democrat)
Joseph “Joe” Bouie (Democrat)
Kathleen “Kay” Doody (Republican)
Brandon Gregoire (Democrat)

The 3rd District includes New Orleans East, the Lower 9th, and parts of St. Bernard and Jefferson Parish. There is no incumbent in this election—candidates are running to succeed JP Morrell, who has reached his term limit.

John H. Bagneris, a Democrat currently representing D100 in the State House, doesn’t have many publicly available positions but his Facebook header is him chilling with a bunch of cops. Dr. Joseph “Joe” Bouie is his bro from way back. Bouie, a Charity Baby who grew up in public housing, currently represents D97 in the State House, where he was elected by default. There, he has fought for local governance of public schools. He co-sponsored the bill known as Amendment 2, to establish unanimous consent on juries and bring Louisiana just a little further into the 20th (yes, 20th) century. Bouie voted against SB 184, commonly (and misleadingly) known as the heartbeat bill, but has a 75% favorable rating by Louisiana Right to Life Federation. Bouie ran and lost for New Orleans City Council, but landed an endorsement from the Greater New Orleans AFL-CIO. In this race, he has been endorsed by Louisiana Independent Federations of Electors (LIFE), Independent Women’s Organization (IWO), United Teachers of New Orleans (UTNO), and racial/economic justice organizers STEP UP. But also Sheriff Gusman. Sigh.

CORRECTION: We have become aware of a serious error in our Voting Guide: we mixed up a candidate’s name, resulting in a total mischaracterization of her profession, background, and personal history. Kay Doody – Louisiana State Senate District 3 – October 12, 2019 is not an oil and gas attorney. Rather, Ms. Kathleen “Kay” Doody is a school librarian in St. Bernard Parish, with over three decades of experience as an educator. That is a huge discrepancy between what was published and what is factual. We regret the mistake and apologize to Ms. Doody and to our readers. We’d also like to thank everyone who contacted us to point out this discrepancy. We are working to adjust our process to prevent mistakes of this magnitude in the future.

In his first run for office following two decades of service in the military, Democrat Brandon Gregoire has campaigned on generally non-controversial issues such as expanding extracurriculars and programming for students, protecting the coast, and “regional collaboration,” which as far as we can tell means playing nice with other people and not ignoring infrastructure issues.

SUMMARY: Dr. Joseph “Joe” Bouie.


5TH SENATORIAL DISTRICT

Allen Borne Jr. (Democrat)
Karen Carter Peterson (Democrat)

Incumbent Karen Carter Peterson has served in the State House for a decade, and if elected, this would be her final rodeo as State Senator à la term limits. Peterson has been chair of the Louisiana Democratic Party since 2012 and she is currently vice chair of Voter Participation and Civic Engagement for the Democratic National Committee. As a candidate, Peterson features mental health as a leading issue, stating she would push for counselors and mental health professionals in every school. Accordingly, her frameworks surrounding crime are markedly less punitive and more humanizing than your average politico, citing mental health support as critical to keeping people safe.

We of the New Orleans Harm Reduction Network focus our work around the dignity of all those who have, take pleasure in, or struggle with a “vice,” (full liberation for people who use drugs now!), so we obviously have to talk about Peterson’s year with gambling: a very special case of “the personal is political.”

The rundown: Peterson, who has sponsored gambling legislation, revealed her many-year struggle with gambling after a Louisiana State police trooper issued her a misdemeanor summons for gambling at a Baton Rouge casino, where she happened to be violating a ban on entering any such gambling establishment—a ban she imposed on herself. The snafu went public because the summons was leaked to the press. Peterson asked for forgiveness and stated the situation would further her commitment to recovery.

The whole incident was met with scrutiny and ire from the public, particularly due to Peterson’s aforementioned legislative record: she was lead sponsor of a 2019 bill to extend Harrah’s state license to remain the only land-based casino in New Orleans for another 30 years (the bill died, however), and a 2016 bill that passed, which effectively permitted Harrah’s to maintain a lower minimum number of employees.

The bottom line as far as we’re concerned? The drive toward pleasure and away from discomfort and suffering is fundamentally human and ought not be stigmatized or exoticized. We’ve all got hobbies, kinks, interests; we all get our kicks and get through the day in different ways… some of us just happen to gamble and devise circumstances that dragoon our own arrests.

It wasn’t always clear if Peterson would run with any opposition: Ronald Brown Jr. dropped off the ticket and so did formerly incarcerated community activist and YouTube personality “Fox Rich” Richardson. Allen Borne, Jr. was briefly disqualified after Peterson filed a lawsuit arguing over a clerical error in his candidacy paperwork, but the state Supreme Court overturned the ruling. Thus, Borne is Peterson’s first challenger in the past 9 years that she’s held the seat. Borne has 34 years experience practicing law and next-to-no experience in politics. His stated priorities are education and infrastructure.

While those priorities are fairly common, and Borne doesn’t have specific policies to set him apart, he has made some good points regarding his near-disqualification. Borne noted that without such his thorough professional grasp of the labyrinthine machinations of administrative bureaucracy (and its attendant clerical requirements), it would have cost him thousands of dollars to fight Peterson’s lawsuit, effectively limiting the position to those with legal background and/or connections and/or money.

But that’s where our accolades run dry. Borne exploited Peterson’s self-identification as an addict in recovery to suggestion she was fundamentally unfit to hold office. In fact, people that use drugs or have vices CAN hold jobs and offices—many of us do! Sadly, Peterson herself stooped to that rhetorical level in 2017, when she was supporting Jay Banks in the City Council race against Orleans Parish School Board member Seth Bloom. Peterson cast aspersions at Bloom, who has been open about how he has struggled with dependence on prescription drugs, suggesting that it could impact his workplace efficacy if he had to “focus on recovery.” She did recently apologize for the comment; nonetheless it remains disappointing.

SUMMARY: Karen Carter Peterson.


9TH SENATORIAL DISTRICT

Cameron Henry Jr. (Republican)
Jon “Frankie” Hyers (Republican)

Cameron Henry Jr., who started his career as an aide for Steve Scalise, is in his third term as State Rep for District 82. During his tenure, he voted to forbid insurance companies from covering elective abortions, cut the health care budget, and tried to abolish the office of Lieutenant Governor. Henry is anti-gay, anti-minimum wage increase, and anti-alternative fuel. Of course, his main value of being “fiscally responsible” applies only to the masses—not himself. His campaign and PAC spent more than any other state legislator in 2017, with thousands spent on fine dining and LSU football tickets. Henry owns a holding company for Henry Industrial Supply, a middleman industrial supplier for offshore drillers.

His opposition is fellow Metairie Republican Jon “Frankie” Hyers, a total political novice with no funding who says he believes in grace and tolerance. Hyers identifies himself as a proponent of “Jeffersonian Principles,” stating his top priorities are rewriting the state constitution, restoring what he considers to be true republican principles (particularly where they apply to apportionment), and redistricting. Hyers has such conviction in these principles that he even painted them on the back of his KIA. His official campaign slogan is “send ‘em Frankie.”

SUMMARY: Hyers (vote against Henry).


91ST REPRESENTATIVE DISTRICT

“Pepper” Bowen Roussel (Democrat)
Carling Dinkler (Democrat)
Mandie Landry (Democrat)
Robert McKnight (Democrat)

Because Walt Leger III met his term limit, there is no incumbent candidate running for State Representative in the 91st District, which includes Hollygrove, the Lower Garden District, Gert Town, Central City, parts of Broadmoor, Uptown, and the Irish Channel.

“Pepper” Bowen Roussel is an attorney specializing in food/water/environmental issues, and she has highlighted racial justice in her campaign, via issues ranging from pay inequity, lead in the water, and the school-to-prison pipeline. At the intersection of environmental and racial justice, she has spoken about problems like the radioactive material in the ground in Gert Town. In an interview with New Orleans Democratic Socialists of America, Roussel displayed refreshing nuance, breaking through the standard rhetoric of “access” associated with food/water justice reform, pointing out that she would still technically have access, “even if I live across the street from the Whole Foods and I can’t afford to buy anything in it.” We also love that her pro-marijuana legalization position emphasizes that there can be no ethical legalization without addressing the number of people of color and Black people in particular who are behind bars for being early weed entrepreneurs.

Carling Dinkler, a former Capitol Hill aide who touts his policy background, is currently an executive at a capital investment firm. He supports tax incentives for flood management measures like installing porous surfaces and improved drainage, which is a great solution for a few decades ago but let’s be honest, it’s absurdly insufficient to the scale of what we face today. It may sound like Dinkler is all about that cash, but he has also emphasized his passion for improving access to mental health services, as well as “substance abuse treatment.” He hasn’t clarified if his idea of treatment is more punitive or rehabilitative, but we can assume he doesn’t mean supervised injection sites and safe supply—anything less is like tax incentives for rainwater barrels (not a proportionate response to reality). At the time of writing this, Dinkler still does not have his full policy platforms online on several crucial issues including affordable housing.

In a startlingly astute assessment of housing reality, Mandie Landry supports rent control! Landry, who is a lawyer from a union family, has highlighted raising wages, expanding early childhood education, and the apparently radical notion that tourist revenue in New Orleans should actually benefit New Orleans. Plus, she’s pro-choice. With the next census around the corner, she supports counting imprisoned people in their home districts rather than where they are caged. Currently the practice of counting people in prison in those districts unfairly inflates the representation for those areas and under-represents urban areas.

Robert McKnight has been profiled in this publication in his capacity as an Orleans Public Defender. From his experience in the justice system, he has observed and been vocal about the criminalization of poverty. His work in the community has foregrounded job training and other reentry services via relationships with the Urban League, Job1, and STRIVE NOLA. McKnight supports early intervention approaches to mental health, meaning rather than waiting for the cops to decide you’re a danger to yourself and others, or waiting until you’re having a mental health crisis, actually having health care services—rather than relying on jail as the first line response to those situations, which is the status quo here.

SUMMARY: “Pepper” Bowen Roussel. Though we certainly swoon when we hear Landry say the phrase “rent control,” and appreciate McKnight’s focus on the injustice system, Roussel’s analysis of institutional violence is apparent throughout all her stated positions.


94TH REPRESENTATIVE DISTRICT

Saudia Marcha Broyard (Independent)
Stephanie Hilferty (Republican)
Tammy Savoie (Democrat)
Kirk Williamson (Republican)

Republican Stephanie Hilferty, the incumbent, has served one term. During that term, she earned the favor of conservative groups, business interest groups, and the NRA. Hilferty’s record is despicable. She voted for HB 453, a xenophobic, fearmongering bill requiring sanctuary cities to be liable for damages caused by undocumented immigrants, a problem that does not really exist (it passed). She voted against a measure that would have banned the box requiring disclosure of a criminal record on some job applications. Hilferty has voted against reproductive autonomy at every opportunity, earning a 100% approval rating from the Louisiana Right to Life Federation. Most recently, she voted in favor of SB 184, part of the wave of legislation prohibiting abortion before most people even know they are pregnant.

Democrat Dr. Tammy Savoie, who ran against Steve Scalise in a futile 2018 primary, spent her entire career in the military—first the National Guard, then the Air Force. She is a clinical psychologist. She has campaigned on improving wages and education, and fighting gerrymandering, climate change, and gun violence. Her pro-choice platform appears to embrace the reproductive justice model of prioritizing abortion access right alongside improved sex ed and pre- and post-natal care (an urgent cause in a state with an abhorrently high maternal mortality rate). Savoie’s long list of endorsements include State Senator and Louisiana Democratic Party Chair Karen Carter Peterson, former New Orleans Councilmember Susan Guidry, the Louisiana Association of Educators, the AFL-CIO, the UAW, the IBEW, multiple chapters of Indivisible, and the Independent Women’s Political Organization.

Like Savoie, Republican Kirk Williamson is also a veteran. He was stoked to earn a fly-by endorsement from Trump after a brief introduction at an airport (the President did not appear to actually know who Williamson was). His main issue is tax cuts. Williamson wants to help rich people get richer and the bone he will toss everyone else is trying to make car insurance cheaper. He supports “educational choice” which is a euphemism for charter schools, and “medicaid reform” which is a euphemism for taking away health care.

Saudia Marcha Broyard, running as an Independent, is from Mid-City, and her campaign seems non-existent as of press time.

SUMMARY: It is a tragedy that Hilferty was able to carry her seat to term once—don’t let her do it again. Vote for Tammy Savoie.


97TH REPRESENTATIVE DISTRICT

Ethan Ashley (Democrat)
Eugene Green (Democrat)
Durrell L. Laurent (Democrat)
Matthew Willard (Democrat)

Four candidates are vying for the office of State Representative for the 97th District, which is open because Rep. Bouie is running for Senate. The 97th includes Gentilly and Pontchartrain Park, as well as parts of Bayou St. John, the Lakefront, and Mid-City.

After three somewhat fraught years being a charter school apologist on the school board, 30-year-old Compton (CA) native Ethan Ashley is running on a platform that includes more funding for counseling in schools, universal pre-k, and comprehensive, trans and queer inclusive sex ed. Ashley’s criminal justice positions may be the best on the ticket: when it comes to incarceration, he emphasizes prevention (in the form of diversion and bail reform) as much as boosting re-entry services (eliminating the fees associated with re-entry and restoring voting rights). Not only does Ashley support a living wage, he also supports—so briefly you could be forgiven for missing it—statewide basic income! Earning the second-highest score from the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance (GNOHA), Ashley committed to introducing legislation to support renters’ rights. He’s a well-rounded progressive, pro-choice, who seems to understand that food is a human right. Ashley is endorsed by Councilmembers Giarrusso and Brossett, as well as a smattering of school board members, and former Senator Mary Landrieu.

If you’re judging solely by quantity of experience, Eugene Green has worked in economic development under four mayors. He has also served on the City Planning Commission and the Council on Aging. Truly no stranger to public office. He ran for city council in 2014 against Stacy Head and lost—wish we could peek into the alternate timeline where he won, but given that he owns a real estate company it’s likely he would have been just as lousy as Head on housing (Green earned the lowest score from GNOHA for this race). His positions aren’t particularly ambitious: the school board should take over failing charter schools, there should be more early childhood education, people shouldn’t earn less money because of their race or gender, youth deserve mentors, the property tax is too damn high.

Durrell L. Laurent is board chairman of Einstein Charter Schools, which has come under fire for not administering mandatory assessments to its students, and also not providing them with transportation (they provided bus passes rather than buses). Laurent’s campaign position that the school board should be responsible for paying for buses is likely a response to that. Laurent has emphasized “curbing juvenile crime,” which sounds a lot like punishing kids—who don’t need more curfews or cages. Leave ‘em alone.

Matthew Willard comes from a long line of public servants and politicians, and a union family—which likely shaped his pro-worker values and earned him the endorsement of the AFL-CIO, the United Teachers of New Orleans, and racial/economic justice organizers STEP UP. Willard supports paid maternity leave and increasing the minimum wage to a living wage (his campaign website doesn’t specify what amount) by 2025, which is literally too little too late but also literally just about as good a position as you’ll find.

Willard, who also earned the endorsement of Councilmembers Banks and Palmer, supports ending money bail but only for nonviolent crimes; an inadequate position that panders to a general incoherent public fear of criminality not based in actual values like that we shouldn’t have debtors’ prisons. He earned a 95/100, the highest score of all the candidates from GNOHA. He supports lowering the property tax eligibility age from 65 to 60, a move that would greatly help elderly homeowners, some of whom may pay more in property taxes than they did for their homes. (Hey, his opponent Laurent would qualify!) Speaking of housing, much like Crispin Glover in the 2003 film Willard, 30-year-old Willard has been accused of still living with his mom (he says he doesn’t, and that the allegations are designed to make him look young and inexperienced).

SUMMARY: The youth have it—Willard and Ashley are the strongest candidates.


98TH REPRESENTATIVE DISTRICT

Aimee Adatto Freeman (Democrat)
Evan J. Bergeron (Democrat)
Marion “Penny” Freistadt (Democrat)
Max Hayden Chiz (Democrat)
Ravi Sangisetty (Democrat)
Kea Sherman (Democrat)
Carlos L. Zervigon (Democrat)

The 98th district includes the bulk of Uptown and Carrollton. We got ourselves a good ‘ol donkey trot with this one—seven Democratic candidates are vying for the spot previously held by Neil Abraham.

Aimee Adatta Freeman is a business owner and consultant, as well as an adjunct professor at Tulane. On the business front, she married into the family that originally distributed Coca-Cola in Louisiana, and supports a measly $9 minimum wage, at a time when the popular consensus has landed on a (still inadequate) $15. Freeman has some decent stances on climate change and education, but that’s kind of par for Freeman sits on the board of the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation, whose work includes providing horses and dogs to police, as well as encouraging and assisting residents with installation of private security cameras. Freeman advocates for intensified surveillance of people post-incarceration—a challenge to the imagination in our already panopticon-esque city.

Evan J. Bergeron is a Louisiana local, lawyer, and Loyola Law school graduate. Though only 33, he has been working in the Louisiana legislature since he was 17, and has accrued experience in politics and election law unique for his age. If elected, Bergeron would be the first openly gay man to sit on the Louisiana Legislature. His stances are optimistic and far-reaching, at both the macro and micro levels—from supporting pro-choice legislation, to combating flooding in New Orleans, eliminating the gender pay gap, curbing student debt, and lowering college tuition. Bergeron seems to be placing himself in line with the young new school politicians like AOC and Ilhan Omar, and leaning hard into his LGBTQ status. We like his energy and his ideas, and he’s raised an impressive amount of money for his campaign, after only entering the race a couple months ago. That said, it will be hard for him to win this race, wherein he has to stack up against so many other established candidates whose liberal-lite policies will likely appeal to a wider voter base. Whatever happens, we hope this isn’t the last we see of Bergeron in Louisiana politics.

Next up is Marion “Penny” Freistadt, a scientist and professor at Delgado. She’s posited herself as “Your Climate Candidate,” and is running a grassroots campaign almost entirely on the platform of combating climate change. She points out, rightly, that many industries along the Mississippi River are engaged in systemic racism that negatively impacts not only our climate, but people of color and underprivileged communities. Freistadt believes in data-driven approaches to policy, and offers a number of concrete strategies to confront the climate crisis, beginning with calling a statewide climate emergency. She would also legislate to place a moratorium on all fossil fuel-related projects and petrochemical plants in the state, and reinstate the Solar Tax Credit as a means towards moving Louisiana towards 100% clean energy.

On his campaign website, Max Hayden Chiz is pictured staring down sternly, hands on hips like a disappointed dad, at a pothole above the policy point “Infrastructure,” and you know this guy means business. Actually, the policy proposals on Chiz’s website aren’t so much proposals as they are short paragraphs pointing out abstract and fairly obvious problems with our city, like education and flooding. How will he fix those issues? We don’t know! If Chiz knows, he’s not letting us in on the secret. Where does he stand on abortion? Who knows, but we do know he likes fencing and that he had some role in designing cruise control in some cars.

Attorney and Audobon Commission member Ravi Sangisetty ran as a pro-life Democrat in 2010, but has rebranded this time with a lukewarm pro-choice stance. Sangisetty, a Catholic, is personally against abortion but doesn’t think it’s the government’s role to regulate bodies in that way. He advocates for more sex ed and more access to birth control—prevention of unwanted pregnancies. With regards to housing, Sangisetty is similarly disappointing. While he earned an 87/100 score on the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance housing scorecard, he also serves on LSU’s committee (in an advisory role) on the redevelopment of Charity into a coworking space and short term rentals operated by an out-of-state platform (rather than community services or affordable housing). The tepidity continues in his education platform. Sangisetty wants to train teachers in early childhood ed and provide programs to encourage local students to become teachers and teach in Louisiana—but makes no mention of teachers being underpaid. Despite that, he earned one half of a dual endorsement of United Teachers of New Orleans.

Kea Sherman, also an attorney, earned the other half. Co-founder of Emerge Louisiana and Les Femmes PAC (two groups dedicated to electing more women), Sherman has big “I’m With Her” energy. She’s essentially a centrist, but if you care more about identity representation than policies, you won’t care. There is nothing particularly innovative or brave about her platform, and she even earned a point lower than Sangisetty on the housing assessment.

Endorsed by civil rights icon Ruby Bridges and former Senator Mary Landrieu, Carlos L. Zervigon is secretary of the Keller Family Foundation, a former Ben Franklin social studies teacher and also a (quite talented, if we do say) glass artist. If you think “Zervigon” rings a bell, you’re not wrong—he’s from a political, activist oriented family with a long civil rights legacy. Or perhaps you’re remembering how in 2014 Mario Zervigon’s Uptown home was burned down, coincidentally after he worked for several alternative energy candidates. Back to Carlos though—he is into gun control, medicaid expansion, a living wage, reproductive freedom, marijuana decriminalization, and LGBTQ rights. He wants to improve access to non-carceral drug treatment.

SUMMARY: Freistadt or Zervigon.


99TH REPRESENTATIVE DISTRICT

Adonis C. Exposé (Democrat)
Candace N. Newell (Democrat)
Jameel Shaheer (Democrat)

The race to become State Representative for the 99th District got off to a late start when State Sen. Wesley Bishop announced in August that he would not pursue reelection. The 99th includes the 9th Ward and New Orleans East, so the local economy is a big issue. For perspective, the median income in this district is about $30k below the national median.

Let’s just get this out of the way—and we are exercising significant restraint here—Adonis C. Exposé is a very sexy name. Exposé, who runs an event management business, is a former Zulu King and Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) communications officer. He has been very active in the community both professionally (recruiting small businesses to contract with RTA) and outside of work, collaborating with various youth groups. Exposé supports increased local governance over charter schools. He has the most impressive collection of endorsements, with Councilmember Moreno, State Senator Carter, outgoing State Senator JP Morell, and U.S. Representative Cedric Richmond supporting his campaign.

Candace N. Newell has a legal background and is now manager of board relations for S&WB. She was an intern for the Legislative Black Caucus, which appears to make her the only candidate with experience in the state capital. Her policy positions include increased public funding for childcare, closing the wage gap, letting parishes set their own minimum wage, and fighting the displacement of homeowners. When it comes to education, she wants more consequences for low performing charter schools but has accepted the charter school system as a given. Newell is endorsed by the Black Organization for Leadership Development (BOLD), the Independent Women’s Organization (IWO), and Councilmembers Banks and Palmer.

Jameel Shaheer, an accountant and former firefighter and high school teacher, would be the first Muslim state represenative. When it comes to young people, Shaheer advocates for increased local governance of charter schools, and wants to create more youth employment opportunities. In one of the most clearly articulated progressive stances in this race, Shaheer supports a $15 minimum wage. Unfortunately, one of his campaign objectives is also to hire more police, thereby increasing criminalization and reducing public safety. He also supports policing reproduction, earning a 73% pro-life rating from Pro Life Louisiana.

SUMMARY: Newell’s policy positions are progressive, though we wish she would come out in support of a specific minimum wage ($15 is a good start) and that she didn’t seem so resigned to the dominance of charter schools.


100TH REPRESENTATIVE DISTRICT

Jason Hughes (Democrat)
Anthony Jackson Jr. (Democrat)

The 100th District includes New Orleans East. The race is between former Vice Chairman of the City Planning Commission Jason Hughes and 22 year-old youth advocate Anthony Jackson Jr. As CPC Vice Chairman, Hughes patiently presided over several contentious housing issues, like short term rentals and the mixed income HANO development in the Bywater. On STRs, at times he seemed invested in trying to please everyone to the point of delaying action (voting to exhaustively and repeatedly defer, review, and study), but that’s kind of just the culture of the CPC and it makes sense for him as a young, ambitious politician. That said, he earned a 96/100 on the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance’s housing scorecard, promising to introduce legislation to protect renters. Hughes also endorsed restrictions on new dollar stores in New Orleans East, demonstrating his commitment to protecting the local economy from predatory businesses.

Anthony Jackson Jr. was an aide to Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn and an intern at City Hall and Criminal District Court. The list of community associations with which he is involved is extensive, mostly youth-oriented, which fits with his campaign focus on improving education by creating trade schools and job training programs. He aspires to start a nonprofit dedicated to teaching teen boys how to be responsible with money, and also “etiquette.” Follow that whiff of respectability politics and you’ll come to a stink—he volunteers with Crime Stoppers and is a graduate of the NOPD Citizens Academy. Gotta give the kid credit for dreaming big, though: Jackson has said he wants to build an airport in New Orleans East.

SUMMARY: Jason Hughes.


105TH REPRESENTATIVE DISTRICT

Mack Cormier (Democrat)
Christopher J. “Chris” Leopold (Republican)
Christopher Schulz (Republican)

The 105th District is mostly Plaquemines Parish but (according to our attempts to decipher the cryptic district map the state provides) includes parts of Gretna and Algiers. The hot topic in this district is the construction of the Belle Chasse bridge, which needs more funding and is struggling to get it. There are blood feuds over the question of implementing a toll to cover expenses.

The incumbent, Republican Christopher J. “Chris” Leopold, has presided for two terms over a district with a 20% child poverty rate. He opposes universal pre-k. Like most pro-life politicans, he fails to demonstrate in any meaningful way that he actually cares about born children. Leopold holds endorsements from every single group in the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association. But let’s set aside frivolous matters like these and talk about the real issue: tolls. Leopold is on the defensive after initially being anti-toll and now reluctantly considering one, after other efforts to fund the bridge have fallen short.

Leopold’s Republican challenger, Christopher Schulz, has come for him hard on the toll issue and just about everything else. Leopold is staunchly anti-choice, but not anti-choice enough for Schulz, who criticized Leopold for being absent the day of the heartbeat bill vote.

Very little information is available about Democrat Mack Cormier or his policy positions. We can tell you that he has earned zero support from the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association and that he has the United Teachers of New Orleans endorsement.

SUMMARY: Vote against Schulz and Leopold, for Cormier.


CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS


CA NO. 1 (ACT 444 – HB 234) Tax Exemptions for Outer Continental Shelf

Do you support an amendment to exempt raw materials, goods, commodities, personal property, and other articles stored in public and private warehouses and destined for the Outer Continental Shelf from ad valorem taxes? (December 1, 2019) (Amends Article VII, Section 21(D)(2) and (3))

The key words left out of this amendment are “oil and gas.” The exceptions proposed here would benefit oil and gas companies shipping materials, goods, and more to offshore drilling facilities. In short, these companies should pay taxes on the business they want to conduct through Louisiana.

At present, most of the goods being shipped out to the Gulf through Louisiana are not being taxed. Businesses have been acting as if these goods were already exempt—ye olde “ask for forgiveness, not permission” gambit. In recent years, however, some assessors have called this exemption into question, which led to the controversy that birthed this proposed amendment.

We don’t need more tax exemptions—least of all for big oil and gas companies. Regular Louisiana citizens and small business owners are paying property and sales tax. These corporations most certainly should be as well. Additionally, the few parishes that do currently tax these types of goods rely on those funds for local sustainability, and the amendment would strip them of that capital.

One argument for the amendment is that if these companies and their offshore business are not rendered exempt by the Louisiana constitution, then they will seek to retain their exemption status according to the U.S. Constitution, via legal processes that could be expensive and time-consuming. In other words, the companies are arguing for the continuance of their tax exemptions by threatening to instigate legal battles that would cost taxpayers money.

SUMMARY: We won’t be held hostage by big oil and gas. Vote no and tell them to pay up.


CA NO. 2 (ACT 445 – HB 62) Amend Education Excellence Fund

Do you support an amendment to provide for appropriations from the Education Excellence Fund for the Louisiana Educational Television Authority, Thrive Academy, and laboratory schools operated by public postsecondary education institutions? (Amends Article VII, Section 10.8(C)(3)(b), (c), and (g); Repeals Article VII, Section 10.8(C)(3)(d))

The Education Excellence Fund allocates money to a number of schools in Louisiana with educational programs specifically aimed at serving at-risk kids, those in danger of repeating a grade, and remedial learning, as well as other approved programs.

This amendment would extend funding to three more schools across the state, as well as statewide educational programming that provides access to education for many young kids around the state that are still too young to enroll in school. While the lab schools do have some other sources of funding, this amendment would not take money away from any other schools. The argument against CA 2 boils down to a procedural point—that these funding issues shouldn’t be solved by constantly amending our already labyrinthine constitution but rather by the legislature’s own appropriations process. But we don’t think kids can wait for that. 

SUMMARY: Education is good. Money for education is good. Access to education is good. Assisting struggling and at-risk young people is good. Yes.


CA NO. 3 (ACT 446 – HB 428) Remedy for Unconstitutional Tax Paid

Do you support an amendment to protect taxpayers by requiring a complete remedy in law for the prompt recovery of any unconstitutional tax paid and to allow the jurisdiction of the Board of Tax Appeals to extend to matters related to the constitutionality of taxes? (Adds Article V, Section 35)

Currently, when Louisiana residents have a tax dispute they must go before local courts in order to get a legal resolution. The proposed amendment would render it such that the Tax Advisory Board would be able to rule on these decisions. Proponents for the bill include businesses and local government, who propose that the change would expedite the tax dispute process, by allowing it to all be handled in a single location. Additionally, the Tax Advisory Board would ostensibly be able to make more expert and nuanced rulings on tax matters than the local courts.

Those in opposition to the amendment point out that the ability to make legal rulings is not normally awarded to individuals or groups beyond the courts, and that while the board may be experts in tax law, their knowledge of Louisiana and constitutional law may be lacking.

The attempt to streamline tax dispute legislation has become somewhat of a trend popping up around the country in recent years. This is Louisiana’s attempt at beginning that process. 

SUMMARY: Not sure there’s a wrong answer here, and both sides seem to have a point. Unless you have to dispute a tax issue in a legal capacity, this likely won’t impact you. Follow your heart.


CA NO. 4 (ACT 448 – SB 79) Allow New Orleans Property Tax Exemptions (Select 1)

Do you support an amendment to allow the City of New Orleans to exempt property within Orleans Parish from all or part of ad valorem taxes that would otherwise be due for the purpose of promoting affordable housing? (Adds Article VII, Section 21(O))

Affordable housing = good. Incentives for affordable housing development = hell yeah.

SUMMARY: Yes.


Depending on where you live, your ballot may differ from this guide. Visit voterportal.sos.la.gov to view your ballot by your name or address. Election day voting hours are from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Voters in line at 8:00 p.m. will be allowed to vote.

As of press time, the deadline to register to vote for the October 12 election has passed. Early voting will be Saturday, September 28 through Saturday, October 5 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. (excluding Sunday).

We suggest you bring a photo ID to the polls, but if you do not have one you can still cast a ballot by signing a voter affidavit which vouches for your identity. The secretary of state audits all voter affidavits after the election to ensure that you are who you say you are.

If you have a disability, you are entitled to receive assistance to cast your vote. If your assigned polling place is not accessible, you can vote at the nearest polling place with the same ballot or at the Registrar of Voters Office. For more details on disability and voting, see the Louisiana Secretary of State’s voting information page (sos.la.gov). Voters who need help finding their polling location can call (504) 658-8300.


EARLY VOTING SITES

City Hall
1300 Perdido Street 70112
Room 1W24

Algiers Courthouse
225 Morgan Street 70114
Room 105

Chef Menteur Voting Machine Warehouse Site
8870 Chef Menteur Highway 70127

Lake Vista Community Center
6500 Spanish Fort Blvd. 70124
2nd floor meeting room

Registrar’s Office (City Hall)
RM 1W23; 1300 Perdido St. 70112


This voter education guide is published primarily as a resource and does not constitute an official endorsement of any candidate or proposition by ANTIGRAVITY or New Orleans Harm Reduction Network.