This voter education guide is published primarily as a resource and does not constitute an endorsement of any candidate or proposition by ANTIGRAVITY Magazine.
Welcome, readers, to the ANTIGRAVITY voter education guide for the June 12 special primary for the State Senate District 7. Due to Louisiana’s jungle primary electoral system (wherein a single candidate must achieve a simple majority to win outright), a general election is scheduled for July 10.
Feel like we’re constantly voting lately? Blame Cedric Richmond, who was re-elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November, then promptly vacated his seat to join the Biden administration. His ascent up the political career ladder left a rung open, so we had a lil special election primary then a lil general in which Troy Carter prevailed, vacating the seat up for grabs now. Thus we have yet another special election primary (and then possibly a run off). Depending on who wins this time around, we could have yet another open seat, another special election primary… you get the picture. District 7 is barely in our distribution area (not sure what district you’re in? Look it up!) but it is, and that’s the criteria we use to determine which elections we cover.
Is a perpetual election season good for democracy? Fans of direct democracy and public participation might wonder if getting people out to the polls more often could lead to increased civic engagement. Unfortunately, more elections just means lower voter turnout, with people who feel—and are—the most enfranchised, engaged, and invested deciding these races. And then there’s also the reality that elections are decided as much (or more) by moneyed interests than by our puny ballots (we’ve been known to go off on this at times).
Since 2014, we have published and lovingly crafted voter guides as a service to our readers, first in collaboration with the New Orleans Harm Reduction Network, then separating to work under the ANTIGRAVITY banner. Our most consistent position through all the years? That no aspiring politician has earned our endorsement. We review candidates with the mentality that we ought to elect the people who liberation movements might most successfully face off against. In other words, we vote for who we most want as our opponents.
News relevant to this ballot, worthy of consideration, will continue to break after we publish this guide. It is not feasible for us to keep updating it (we have this little side project called ANTIGRAVITY magazine, been goin’ strong for 17 years, check it out).
A team of five people, including ANTIGRAVITY editorial staff, produced this guide. We utilized national media, local media, and social media. Our research included but was not limited to public records, campaign finance reports, court filings, and real estate records.
This voter education guide was not produced by a political party or organization—in fact, we lack faith in not just the electoral process but also the political-economic order. We create this document as a way to dissect and map power. We use these values to guide us:
Local politics impact us most, and vice-versa. We prioritize issues that involve New Orleans, surrounding areas, Louisiana, and the Gulf region. We reject the influence of post-Katrina opportunism, pandemic-era exploitation, and austerity, at all levels of government and the private sector.
Any analysis of power ought to center the needs and experiences of the most vulnerable among us—those most subject to bodily and institutional violence and neglect, not just by the State but also by mainstream politicians, including progressives. We seek to promote justice, dignity, and autonomy for historically punished and exploited populations like Black people, Indigenous people and people of color, people with disabilities, poor people, queer and trans people, immigrants with and without documentation, youth, elderly people, women, unhoused people, people who use drugs, people who earn income in informal or stigmatized industries like sex work, currently or formerly imprisoned people, and people most affected by climate crisis.
We write this guide as unapologetic utopians: we refuse to let the scarcity and horrors of our present dystopia limit our imaginations or our strategies.
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.
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.
The makeup of this ballot, including names of candidates and information about how, where, and when to register and vote is based on information provided by the Louisiana Secretary of State and the City of New Orleans website. For info on what your ballot looks like, as well as information about disability and voting, go to the SoS website, voterportal.sos.la.gov.
State Senator 7th Senatorial District
Joanna Cappiello-Leopold (Democrat)
Gary Carter Jr. (Democrat)
Mack Cormier (Democrat)
Rodney Lyons Sr. (Democrat) —Withdrew
Patricia “Patty” McCarty (Republican)
Louisiana’s State Senate District 7 encompasses parts of New Orleans, Jefferson Parish, and Plaquemines Parish, including many areas of the Westbank (most of Algiers and parts of Gretna, Terrytown, and Belle Chasse). The district is 56% Black, and the median household income is nearly $45,000.
This special election was triggered because Troy Carter, elected in 2015, was just elected to Congressional District 2 during another special election after Cedric Richmond vacated his seat to join President Biden’s cabinet. If Gary Carter Jr. or Mack Cormier wins this seat, another special election will ensue for the winner’s state House spot, and we will merrily produce another voter education guide for you, beloved readers.
This seat, like many seats, has a history of being run and poisoned by nepotism. Francis Heitmeier held this seat from 1991 to 2007. This seat was then passed to his brother, David Heitmeier, from 2007 to 2015. Francis Heitmeier was influential on “levee board decisions on hiring, policy and contracts” and received money from contractors who built the 17th Street and London Avenue Canal Levees. In 1985, the Army Corps of Engineers and New Orleans levee officials “joined forces” to protect the city from hurricanes, and it was “the beginning of a dysfunctional partnership that ushered in two decades of chronic government mismanagement.” And we all know what happened when these levees failed. It’s the same old story—favors are granted, shortcuts are taken, and the residents of Louisiana pay for it in blood.
In 1988, a Plaquemines Parish gossip column in the Times-Pic reporting on New Year’s wishes found that a “Joanna Cappiello wishes to keep her name out of the paper,” but if that’s candidate Joanna Cappiello-Leopold, she has since evolved. Democrat Cappiello-Leopold was appointed by Governor John Bel Edwards in 2017 to serve on the Plaquemines Parish Board of Election Supervisors. The board helps oversee elections, including appointing commissioners to voting precincts, counting early and absentee ballots for elections, and certifying election results. She also served on the board of the Woodlands Conservancy (as Joanna Leopold), a nonprofit engaged in woodland conservancy and ecotourism, including through a forest trail network in Belle Chasse.
A Plaquemines native, Cappiello-Leopold was described by the Plaquemines Gazette as a “conservative Democrat.” Her husband, Republican Chris Leopold, previously served two terms in the Louisiana House of Representatives before he was ousted by Mack Cormier, who’s also in this race. One of Cormier’s supporters filed suit to disqualify Cappiello-Leopold from the race, accusing her of not living in the district. She survived the challenge, though the allegation wasn’t totally without merit—she mistakenly voted outside her district since 2007.
Will Cappiello-Leopold avenge her husband’s loss? Difficult to imagine, since she has almost no campaign presence to speak of. Her campaign Facebook page contains almost no political stances, aside from pledging to investigate sexual assault cases at state universities and gleefully advocating for a Chick-fil-A to open in Belle Chasse. She also promises that if elected she will answer your calls and emails. In 1991, a Joanna Cappiello won the “congeniality award” at the Louisiana Fur and Wildlife Festival. In keeping with that vibe, her husband is affiliated with a political organization called Happy Jack PAC—though if Happy Jack PAC’s official facts are on track, it’s largely gone slack since voters gave him the sack and replaced him with Mack—presumably taking its name from a Plaquemines locale purportedly named for a historic resident also known for his congeniality. So if Cappiello-Leopold does win, you call her up, try to find out what she stands for, and (if she’s maintained her demeanor as well as her sporting ways since the ‘90s) she’ll be nice about it.
Gary Carter Jr. is a former lawyer for Entergy and (did we mention?) is the nephew of Troy Carter, who held and vacated the seat Gary Carter Jr. is running for. Carter the younger is currently a State Representative in District 102. Within the House of Representatives, he serves on the Appropriations Committee, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, and the House Education Committee. That he serves on the House Education Committee is of note considering he was a co-sponsor of Act 91, a piece of legislation that solidified the power of charter schools (which we’ve discussed at greater length in past guides). Carter has also received money from Democrats for Education Reform, a billionaire-backed, pro-charter PAC that found their way into our literal power map.
Like his uncle, a one-time lobbyist for the power company (as we highlighted on our power map), Carter is also directly affiliated with Entergy. As a lawyer, he defended Entergy in several cases, including against a worker who was electrocuted cleaning up after Hurricane Gustav, a worker who died of asbestos, and a guy who was handicapped by a car accident with an Entergy truck driver. A jury awarded a multimillion-dollar judgment to the worker who was electrocuted, despite Carter’s team’s attempts to appeal.
He also heads branding and political consulting companies with the names Trademarks & Hashtags LLC and Connect Strategies LLC.
Carter’s political track record is solid: he’s called for an increase in legal aid funding for those who cannot afford representation, spoke vehemently against a bill to protect racist statues, and opposed a bill to ban sanctuary cities, calling it “horrible.” Other progressive moves: Carter stood against the heartbeat abortion bill, spoke out against a Confederate monument protection bill, and tried to expand enfranchisement by supporting Sunday voting.
He opposed a ban on using a cell phone while driving, citing racial profiling, and supported the rights of football players to voice dissent. When John Bel Edwards sent National Guard troops to the US-Mexico border, Carter called for their removal. Carter opposed the auditing of Medicaid recipients, which is important to note in a time where our scant social services continue to be starved through austerity and means-testing. And though it’s more complicated than you might think, and not necessarily a just path forward, Carter supports constitutional reform.
Carter’s willingness to break with party leadership could be a valuable trait for a politician headed to the capital. However, his campaign strategy seems to be built to paint him as a middle-of-the-road candidate, with his website highlighting promises to “return money to taxpayers” and “honoring our veterans.” Though the site takes time to champion Carter as the creator of the “Best Bank” specialty license plate, there are no mentions of his stances on policing or environmental protection. We did find mention of criminal justice reform on an old campaign site for an earlier run at state rep in Algiers, but it seems for this race he’s taken a leaf from his uncle’s book, pivoting to what he thinks his audience wants to hear. On Facebook, he can be found alternately critiquing a bill to prevent cities from shrinking police forces and praising and posing with NOPD commanders.
It’s hard to know whose interests Carter would prioritize if elected. He has also shown a penchant for shifting his priorities when it becomes politically convenient, and like his uncle, is entangled with Entergy in a way that concerns us and would likely have an impact on decisions he would be called to make in Baton Rouge.
Democrat Mack Cormier is a member of the State House of Representatives, having defeated Republican Chris Leopold (husband of candidate Joanna Cappiello-Leopold) for the seat in 2019, amid controversy over a plan to impose tolls on a bridge being built in Belle Chasse. Like so many candidates, he’s from a political family—his father, Amos Cormier Jr., and his brother, Amos III, both held office as Plaquemines Parish president—but he’s had a lower profile as a legislator than fellow State Representative Gary Carter Jr.
Cormier calls himself the “Pro-Life, Pro-Second Amendment, Pro-Religious Freedom Democrat” in the race. That’s no surprise—he’s previously run for office with a pro-gun, anti-abortion stance. This year, he proposed imposing a tax on people sending money abroad or receiving it from overseas in order to pay for raises for public school teachers. Most people who send money abroad are from immigrant households, and they’re often already hit by high fees. He also authored a bill that would limit sales tax collection in Plaquemines Parish while tolls are in place on that bridge. All politics is local!
Last year, Cormier successfully sponsored a bill creating a Louisiana Toxic Mold Task Force. Speaking of toxicity, it’s worth noting that should Cormier win, his current seat could flip back to the Republicans, who are already very close to a Louisiana House supermajority that would let them routinely override Gov. John Bel Edwards’ vetoes.
You’ll see Rodney Lyons Sr. on your ballot, but he dropped out of the race after qualifying. If you’re going to throw your vote away we recommend writing in Noonie Man’s name instead (even though he doesn’t live in the district), just to keep the perpetual candidate’s streak going.
The sole Republican in this race, Patricia “Patty” McCarty previously made a name for herself as the executive director of a group that organizes political debates in Plaquemines Parish. She comes from money—her father ran oil services company Baker Hughes and co-founded a bank.
An entrepreneur with a Tulane MBA, McCarty’s varied endeavors include an education technology company, a security business, and a chauffeur service staffed by “security professionals” and off-duty cops. “Let us provide an armed guard to shadow you as you enjoy New Orleans in the French Quarter,” she offers on LinkedIn. Unsurprisingly, McCarty supports a “strong police force.”
McCarty is against abortion, vows to “strongly defend the 1st and 2nd Amendment” and supports low taxes and limited business regulation—your standard issue Louisiana Republican. On immigration—a subject not really within the purview of the State Senate—she advocates “having strong physical and cyber protected boarders [sic] to mitigate threats.”
And like so many of the pearl-clutching free speech defenders, she wants to ban free speech by keeping “critical race theory” (aka CRT, fundamentally a legal framework) out of schools, a new, and likely unconstitutional, right-wing strategy to prevent teachers from teaching anything other than a white supremacist version of history. Optics are everything, something that Republicans seem to understand better than Democrats. In the world of police PR, videos of police committing extrajudicial murders (you know, “police-involved shootings”) are edited by marketing firms and released to the public to control perception of how events unfolded (another sad example of why body cams were not the reform many had hoped). And regarding the CRT drama, conservative think tank fellow Christopher Rufo of the Manhattan Institute described the strategy bluntly: “We have successfully frozen their brand ‘critical race theory’ into the public conversation and are steadily driving up negative perceptions. We will eventually turn it toxic, as we put all of the various cultural insanities under that brand category.”
Stoking the flames of the culture wars effectively diverts organizing resources from the Class War, and liberals always take the bait, understandably so. Class war of course also involves keeping vulnerable populations under perpetual risk of preventable premature death. But instead of fighting individual battles, a better strategy might be to attack from the angle of wealth inequity (and bipartisan popular programs like Medicare for All), which would have the effect of protecting groups targeted in the culture wars, but from the root—in the exact opposite of a “trickle down” approach.
McCarty says she wants to pass legislation about “women’s sports.” While she doesn’t elaborate, it’s a supportive nod to the violent rampage lawmakers are on right now, making attempts all over the country to isolate transgender children from accessing health care and social life in general. Shame on every single person in the Louisiana Legislature who voted to ban trans girls from playing sports with their friends. Shame on them, but they don’t feel shame, because (as local trans activist Dylan Waguespack put it) after “passing a bill that maligns and discriminates against a community of children and young people with a 40+% suicide attempt rate,” they applauded themselves, blood on their gleefully clapping hands. We endorse those lawmakers rotting to pieces in their Christian hell.
So yeah, those are McCarty’s folks. Anyway, “Life is about lifting others as we journey on this Earth,” McCarty muses on her LinkedIn page. Real food for thought!
SUMMARY: We may have shared this fact: Gary Carter Jr. is Troy Carter’s nephew. Being related is not inherently damning (after all, we don’t choose our families). But legacy politics does contribute to how the governing class maintains power. It’s an insider game, and it serves only those within. Also, former Entergy lawyer. Also, this is Louisiana politics, and these are your options. “These are your options—not great!” would make an excellent state slogan.
Early voting is through June 5 from 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m.
The deadline to request an absentee ballot is June 8 by 4:30 p.m.
Saturday election voting hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
1300 Perdido Street 70112
225 Morgan Street 70114
Chef Menteur Voting Machine Warehouse Site
8870 Chef Menteur Highway 70126
Lake Vista Community Center
6500 Spanish Fort Blvd. 70124
Dependent on the outcome of this one.
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Images courtesy of the public domain