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 once again to your ANTIGRAVITY voter education guide for the March 25 election.
We have published these guides since 2014—previously in collaboration with the New Orleans Harm Reduction Network and now under the ANTIGRAVITY banner. 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.
Despite lacking faith in politicians or the political order, we create this document as a way to dissect and map power. We do not offer endorsements, but we do provide summaries, as this is a resource designed to aid and alleviate the work for you, dear reader. News relevant to this ballot will continue to break. We are but one resource, and we hope that you consult as many as possible before heading to the polls.
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.
Louisiana House of Representatives
Alonzo Knox (Democrat)
Sibil “Fox” Richardson (Democrat)
The Louisiana House of Representatives consists of 105 members, and candidates are elected to four-year terms. Their duties include “consideration of proposed laws and resolutions, consideration of proposed constitutional amendments for submission to the voters, and appropriation of all funds for the operation of state government.” Louisiana House of Representatives District 93—which includes parts of the CBD, French Quarter, Lower Garden District, Central City, and 7th Ward—is up for grabs after Royce Duplessis was elected to the state Senate.
Alonzo Knox might be best known as the owner, with his wife Jessica, of Backatown Coffee Parlour in the Treme near Armstrong Park. He is in a runoff against Sibil Fox Richardson after receiving 31% of the vote (625 votes) in an election with 6% voter turnout.
He has served in the Marine Corps, worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs and at the State Capitol, and also ran unsuccessfully for the City Council District C Seat in 2021. He’s served on the Historic District Landmarks Commission and has been involved in the push to make the Municipal Auditorium a cultural center, not a new City Hall.
Knox says he plans to “address public safety” and on “addressing the root causes of crime, to combat homelessness, to provide more resources for mental health needs, to help families improve educational and economic opportunities and of course address our deteriorating infrastructure.”
“I will forever remember 9-11,” he wrote on Facebook on Sept. 11, 2021, honoring first responders who worked during the attacks. “I worked at West 57th Street and 5th Avenue which was just a few blocks from the Twin Towers.”
As we pointed out in the primary election voter guide, it’s an unusual use of “a few blocks”: West 57th Street and 5th Avenue in Manhattan is about four miles from the World Trade Center site; for comparison’s sake, that’s a bit further than the distance from Knox’s Backatown Coffee to Metairie Cemetery.
Knox has worked for the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation, a nonprofit that uses individual and corporate donations to support the NOPD. In a Voters Organized to Educate (VOTE) candidate survey, he said he’d accept campaign contributions from “sheriffs and their associations,” although not from the bail bond industry or prison construction contractors.
Knox isn’t an unquestioning supporter of the police, though: During his run for City Council, he indicated that he believed “Black communities are over policed” and said he opposed marijuana arrests and would be open to exploring the decriminalization of other drugs. And in the Voters Organized to Educate survey, he said he supports legal recreational marijuana, “the full decriminalization of drug use” in Louisiana, and decriminalizing sex work, positions also held by opponent Sibil Fox Richardson. (Voters Organized to Educate has endorsed Knox).
Summary: Alonzo Knox, owner of Backatown Coffee Parlour, has been involved in the fight to turn the Municipal Auditorium into a cultural center, and while not blindly supportive to the police, he does seem ultimately sympathetic to them.
Sibil Fox Richardson, also known as “Fox Rich,” is a minister, motivational speaker, entrepreneur, and prison abolitionist. She is in a runoff against Alonzo Knox, after receiving 37% of the vote (760 votes) and in an election with 6% voter turnout.
She’s well-known for advocating on behalf of those unjustly incarcerated, particularly petitioning for clemency for her husband, Robert, told in the Academy Award-nominated 2020 Sundance-screened documentary Time. Since her husband’s release in 2018, Richardson has continued advocating against carceral injustice, founding the Participatory Defense Movement New Orleans (PDMNO) to empower families and individuals with legal savvy and to advance reforms of the criminal legal system. According to the PDMNO, the group has “saved” over 3,000 years of excessive prison sentences.
Richardson’s campaign focuses on “reinvesting in our families,” particularly garnering resources for youth and single-parent mothers. Her focus areas include public safety, quality education, housing reform, women’s rights, and “an economy that works for everyone,” one with fair pay for women and economic opportunities. In a 2020 ANTIGRAVITY interview, Richardson criticized Governor John Bel Edwards for his sparse use of clemency to pardon those who were unjustly imprisoned, particularly Gloria Williams, known as “Mama Glo,” who was eventually released after 50 years in prison and the subject of the interview.
“When you consider the amount of vetting that transpires before someone can even go up for a pardon, it is a disservice to taxpayers to think that we are spending money and resources to do all of this vetting and to receive this recommendation from people the governor has appointed; and yet the governor still fails to act upon all the work that has been done and presented to him,” Richardson said.
Richardson formerly owned a car dealership and a production company, but in spite of having no prior political experience, she seems intent on letting her experience fuel her candidacy. If elected, she would be the first formerly incarcerated Black woman in the Louisiana legislature.
Summary: Sibil Fox Richardson, a formerly incarcerated woman who publicly fought for her husband’s release, is a prison abolitionist who seems intent on allowing her experiences with the carceral system shape her path in the legislature.
Judge Civil District Court
Stephanie Bridges (Democrat)
David Jefferson “Jeff” Dye (Democrat)
Marissa A. Hutabarat (Democrat)
Civil District Court handles cases where one party is suing another party—money, housing, family, etc. In New Orleans, there are 14 elected divisions (A through N) of Civil District Court.
Perennial candidate Stephanie Bridges is the president of the New Orleans Council for Community and Justice (“a human relations organization dedicated to fighting bias, bigotry and racism”) and has run for office many times over the past few years.
Bridges was originally disqualified from this race for not filing her 2021 taxes on time, but the state Supreme Court ultimately ruled that she could run.
When covering Bridges in previous elections, we’ve noted that her platform has been vague, and this election is no different. Her campaign website offers little insight into how she might rule on the bench, besides saying she wants to offer virtual court options.
When we covered her for her City Council bid, we noted that she is in favor of turning New Orleans into a Smart City, which often just means increased surveillance. In a September 2020 forum for her Criminal District Court judgeship run, Bridges noted that she would be the candidate working within the existing parameters of the current system rather than trying to fundamentally change the system.
Summary: Stephanie Bridges is the president of New Orleans Council for Community and Justice, and she has run for office many times, but doesn’t seem to offer much depth in her platform.
David Jefferson Dye has run his own law practice since 2001, “representing clients of all walks of life in state and federal courts across the State of Louisiana.” He says he’s worked on major “business and real estate transactions,” handled personal injury and oil-and-gas cases, and done pro bono criminal defense work. He’s also represented the Lakefront Management Authority, which controls the Lakefront Airport and various other public lakefront properties like parks and marinas.
Before he became a lawyer, Dye worked as an environmental scientist for a gas pipeline company. He’s also a certified cycling instructor and has advocated for bike safety improvements in New Orleans.
He has pledged to “guard against implicit and confirmation bias” in the courtroom—”I have seen racial discrimination in the court room as a lawyer and will do everything in my power to stop it,” he told the New Orleans Bar Association—and support “the improvement and timely replacement of the courthouse.”
Summary: David Jefferson Dye runs his own law practice and has worked on major business and real estate transactions.
Marissa Hutabarat is currently a judge on First City Court, which handles matters like small claims and evictions for the East Bank of Orleans Parish. She’s gathered endorsements for this new seat from the AFL-CIO, multiple members of the City Council, and the clerks of all four local city and parish courts.
Hutabarat told the New Orleans Bar Association she favors expanding court hours, including “night and weekend court,” to make the process more efficient for litigants, and resolving cases without trial when possible. She has also volunteered with The First 72+, which works with people newly released from incarceration.
When she first ran for First City Court judge in 2020, she faced some scrutiny over a short term rental (STR)-related dispute between her live-in partner (now husband) Mark El-Amm and the City. El-Amm’s company Elamm Equity Investments says the Treme-area properties should be legal to use as STRs despite City restrictions because they have long been used as such, but the City has said the company hasn’t presented evidence that’s the case under the law.
The company is still fighting the City over those rentals, and the case is currently pending in Orleans Civil District Court, perhaps an example of the type of matter that could use a boost in efficiency, though roughly a month and a half of the case docket entries last year are devoted to judges recusing themselves from hearing the case due to El-Amm being married to a sitting judge.
Such recusals are probably a fact of life given New Orleans’ tight-knit business and political circles. One judge, Robin M. Giarrusso, offered a second reason for recusal: “also as my son is a City Councilmember for the City of New Orleans and will be making policy and finance decisions that affect the city,” she wrote. Incidentally, Judge Giarrusso’s son, Councilmember Joseph Giarrusso III, has endorsed Hutabarat.
Summary: Marissa Hutabarat is currently a judge on First City Court who is in favor of expanding court hours, and whose husband has been in a legal battle with the City so he can legally run STRs.
Judge Criminal District Court
Diedre Pierce Kelly (Democrat)
Simone Levine (Democrat)
Leon Roché (Democrat)
Criminal District Court handles cases where someone is arrested and charged with a crime. In New Orleans, there are 12 elected divisions (A through L) and one magistrate division of Criminal District Court.
Diedre Pierce Kelly is chief of staff to Councilmember Oliver Thomas, and she’s been endorsed for this race by the entire City Council. Fairly entrenched in the New Orleans political establishment, she’s also been a member of the Audubon Commission, which oversees Audubon Park and other Audubon facilities like the Aquarium of the Americas, as well as the City’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee.
Kelly has worked as a defense attorney, though she’s also worked as a staff attorney for the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office under former Sheriff Marlin Gusman and, before going to law school, worked as a parole officer in Texas. She’s worked for Ike Spears, a prominent lawyer and political consultant, and has acknowledged signing his name to legal documents “without his knowledge or consent” before she was a lawyer.
She wasn’t charged criminally but was suspended from practicing law in 2015 and 2016, which in turn prevented her from running for a Criminal Court judgeship in 2020, since the state Supreme Court ruled her time suspended from practicing law meant she didn’t have the eight years of legal experience required to be a judge. She’s called the forged signatures a “bad decision” and said she has since been “a practicing attorney without blemish,” according to WWL-TV.
Summary: Diedre Pierce Kelly is entrenched in the Louisiana Democratic Party, having been endorsed by every sitting councilmember, and has, in the past, forged signatures on legal documents before she was a lawyer.
Simone Levine is an assistant district attorney for Orleans Parish and former executive director of Court Watch NOLA, a watchdog organization that monitors the Criminal District Court itself. Levine had an early career as a criminal defense attorney and white collar crime prosecutor in New York. She began the New Orleans portion of her career in 2011 as deputy police monitor for the Office of Independent Police Monitor, where she primarily supervised NOPD major use of force cases (including officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths) and officer disciplinary hearings. Levine was notably involved in the investigation of the killing of Wendell Allen by NOPD officer Joshua Colclough, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
In 2015, Levine took the position of executive director for Court Watch NOLA, expanding court observers into Magistrate and Municipal Courts as well. The organization focuses on training Court Watchers on court system procedures and leading community advocacy efforts to keep elected officials accountable. Court Watch NOLA also monitors law enforcement, defense attorneys, the public defender’s office, and the sheriff’s office. The organization has produced judge bias reports and public recommendations for these disparate systems in an attempt to implement better standards of transparency and efficiency. The jump from observing the horrific intricacies of the District Attorney’s Office, to then choosing to work for them is intriguing—but it may increase electability. On at least some levels of the judiciary, including state supreme courts and the federal bench, studies have shown former prosecutors are more heavily represented than former public defenders.
During her time at Court Watch NOLA, Levine focused on trying to end the use of fake subpoenas by the District Attorney’s office and warrants that led to the incarceration of victims of rape and violent crime for failure to testify in court. Levine claims she will use a “trauma-informed” approach to changing the criminal court system by implementing a “survivor-focused” courtroom which includes “separate space in the courtroom” for the victims.
Levine has stated that the court system is structured for “insiders” to maintain harmful practices that benefit them financially. “The way that it is benefits them. They get salaries out of this process, it’s life as usual, they have their own language.” After watching this broken court system from the outside for so long, Levine is now seeking to be a part of that system. Levine has received an endorsement from her former boss Sheriff Susan Hutson—who, despite being labeled a “progressive” sheriff, is still simply a sheriff—as well as from newly elected District 3 Public Service Commissioner Davante Lewis, and community advocate and charter school exec Timolynn Sams. Levine has also received support from former New Orleans Chief of Police Michael Harrison.1This guide originally included Harrison in the above list of endorsements, but his support “does not constitute an endorsement as [Harrison] is an appointed official,” according to press releases from the Levine campaign.
Summary: Simone Levine is the former executive director of Court Watch NOLA turned assistant district attorney, and has drawn support from the sheriff and former police chief.
Leon Roché was a criminal defense attorney for the Orleans Public Defenders Office for 13 years and now owns and operates Leon T. Roché II Law Firm. Roché is a New Orleans native and has been endorsed by United Teachers of New Orleans (UTNO), AFL-CIO, and Voters Organized To Educate (VOTE), as well as NOLA Defenders for Equal Justice. Having spent his entire career as a criminal defense attorney, he has garnered the favor of other defense attorneys.
On his campaign website, Roché says that as a judge he will seek “alternatives to incarceration for people suffering from mental illness, drug addiction, or veteran status; where possible.” In a poll by the New Orleans Bar Association, he says that his nearly 14 years of experience assures that he “know[s] the tactics defense attornies [sic] use to stall out cases and I know the tactics prosecutors use to stall out cases” and would prevent that, in a way not specified in his answer. His campaign materials mostly cover his background rather than his platform, so it’s difficult to know his specific vision for his role on the bench.
Summary: Leon Roché is a career-long criminal defense attorney and has gotten support from public defenders, UTNO, and VOTE.
The deadline to request a mail ballot is March 21 by 4:30 p.m (other than military and overseas voters).
The deadline for the registrar of voters to receive a mail ballot is March 24 by 4:30 p.m. (other than military and overseas voters).
Early voting for this election begins on March 11 and ends on March 18 (excluding Sunday, March 12) from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday election voting hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Click here for more info on early voting
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8870 Chef Menteur Highway 70127
Lake Vista Community Center
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Saturday, April 29, 2023
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This voter education guide is published primarily as a resource and does not constitute an endorsement of any candidate or proposition by ANTIGRAVITY Magazine.