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 for the October 14 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, real estate records, and information from trusted, local sources and experts.
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, the 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. 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.
The makeup of the ballot, including names of candidates and texts of propositions, as well as 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.
If you find that you cannot in good conscience cast a vote for any of the candidates for a particular race or a specific ballot measure, you are allowed to skip that ballot item. According to the Secretary of State’s office, “A voter cannot cast a blank ballot; otherwise, they are free to vote for as many or as few races/questions as are on their ballot—from all of them to just one of them.”
On this ballot you will be voting for a new governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, and possibly state representatives, state senators, constitutional amendments, city and neighborhood propositions, a criminal district court judge, and state school board representative.
Benjamin Barnes (Independent)
Patrick Henry “Dat” Barthel (Republican)
Daniel M. “Danny” Cole (Democrat)
Xavier Ellis (Republican)
“Keitron” Gagnon (No Party)
Sharon W. Hewitt (Republican)
Jeffery Istre (Independent)
“Xan” John (Republican)
“Jeff” Landry (Republican)
Hunter Lundy (Independent)
Richard Nelson (Republican)
John Schroder (Republican)
Frank Scurlock (Independent)
Stephen “Wags” Waguespack (Republican)
Shawn D. Wilson (Democrat)
The governor serves as the head of the executive branch of the state. They are responsible for the “administration and enforcement of the constitution and laws passed by the legislative branch.” Additionally, the executive branch also “provides direct services such as medical care for the poor, regulates activities such as hazardous waste disposal, supervises the provision of services by local government such as education, and promotes the state to attract new businesses.” The governor can also declare states of emergency.
Benjamin Barnes lists his occupation in a campaign filing as corrections transportation officer at the Louisiana State Penitentiary (commonly known as Angola). He also runs an online radio station, playing “smooth jazz 24/7” as DJ Sir BenJam’in. Likewise, his platform is a mix of the carceral and the improvisational: Barnes wants to legalize additional forms of execution to get around legal objections to lethal injections and says Louisiana needs a “SuperMax Unit and/or Reform School,” according to his website. He also wants to require “every able-body [sic] Louisiana citizen between age 18-21 to serve a minimum of two years in the Louisiana National Guard”—a policy that seems like it would only increase young people’s existing rate of departure for other states—and institute year-round schooling. Other items in his 10-point platform are less clear, including “Improving healthcare and student Loan repayment” and one reading simply “Deadbeat Parents.” Barnes does favor legalizing abortion, calling it a constitutional right. “Letz Ban FORCED Birth,” reads his website.
This is not Patrick Henry “Dat” Barthel’s first bid at governor. He ran for the office in 2003, and according to The Napa Valley Register his main platform at the time was attracting business to the state and making sure that the Saints stayed in Louisiana. Throwing around creative fundraising ideas for that race, he suggested a model where “members agree to donate $10 a week throughout the campaign” for a “chance to be governor for a day, including a sleepover at the Governor’s Mansion.” He ran as a Democrat then, but has since switched to Republican. Barthel has a more literal approach to the Disneyfication of the state. According to KTBS, the electrician wants to increase jobs, and is a Disney World advocate, meaning he wants to bring Disney World to Louisiana. Perhaps he drew inspiration from the satirical news site Mouse Trap News after they laid out Disney’s plans to move the entirety of the Disney theme parks to New Orleans, including building an “anti-rain dome” to account for our rainier climate. According to his ethics disclosure, Barthel has been “unemployed since 2010 BP oil spill sickness.” Under “spouse’s occupation” he wrote “she claims were devorced [sic].” His campaign finance report says that he has received $0 in campaign contributions, but that he has loaned himself $11,500. He does not appear to have an official campaign website or materials, but his Facebook has a governor campaign image from 2019 and a video from 2022 asking you to “Name ‘Dat’ Tune Louisiana Dat Governor 2024.”
Pentecostal minister and special ed teacher Danny Cole was the first Democrat to enter the governor’s race. He’s heavily focused on insurance affordability, proposing to create a cooperative with other Gulf states to attract insurers and to require insurance companies to offer homeowner’s insurance if they want to sell auto insurance in Louisiana. The LaPlace newspaper L’Observateur reports that Cole considers abortion “a medical and not a legal issue and feels each individual should have control over their own body regardless of social or economic status” and isn’t opposed to “reasonable regulation” of guns. He also calls for pay raises for teachers, state workers, and cops. Cole, who previously ran unsuccessfully for a state Senate seat, doesn’t seem to yet have much of a campaign presence outside of Facebook. Campaign finance reports indicate that Cole has received $0 in contributions or loans. In his previous run, his campaign website was called The Rise of the Rooster and depicted a strutting cockerel with the slogan “Cole front coming through!”
The first three planks of former teacher Xavier Ellis‘ platform are opposing abortion except in the case of incest and rape, opposing same-sex marriage, and limiting government aid to the needy. “In terms of welfare, I believe that government aid should be available during times of crisis, but ultimately, we must work towards realizing our true destiny by pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps,” he writes. He also calls for updating state infrastructure, raising teacher pay, reining in medical costs, and creating more apprenticeships. “People have become comfortable with taking low-paying jobs that offer minimum wage,” he claims. Most of Ellis’ campaign contributions have come from himself in random small amounts of money such as $11.80, $26.12, $17.16, often matching small expenditures for things like gas or meals. Ellis’ past leadership experiences include serving as a student government rep at what’s now Louisiana Christian University, where he “helped draft proposal to get a new volleyball net in front of Tudor Hall dormitory.” That volleyball net “still stands today,” according to his campaign site.
“Keitron” Gagnon has no ethics disclosure, no campaign finance report, and it’s unclear what his legal name is. He has little campaign presence or direction beyond being compelled to run by God. During a recent NAACP forum (which has since been removed from Facebook), he spoke of his “eccentric background in litigation and spiritual disciplines” and said that “The Holy Spirit asked me to run so I decided to run.” During the forum he said he was born and raised in New Orleans and Metairie, attended undergrad at LSU and law school at Southern University. Gagnon is on the “List of Delinquent Filers” for failing to file his required disclosure for this race.
Sharon Hewitt boasts of all the ways she can hang with the boys. Whether it be engineering classes, throwing a football, “[leading] streamlining efforts at Shell and [helping] executives cut unnecessary spending,” or restricting abortion access, Hewitt wants you to know she can do it all just as well as the guys. In addition to her own history in the oil and gas field, her husband is currently the chief petrophysicist at LLOG Exploration Company—an oil and gas company—and Sharon Hewitt has crafted legislation that benefits her husband and his company, which is “embroiled in lawsuits.” Hewitt, by her own admission, would like to make it more difficult to sue businesses. Campaign finance reports show that Hewitt raised about $22,000 and loaned herself $200,000. Hewitt’s strategy seems to be working to appeal to more middle-of-the-road Republicans by agreeing to appoint Democrats in her cabinet if elected and not participating in “culture war” debates—though her recent vote to override the governor’s veto which would ban gender-affirming medical procedures for transgender youth suggests otherwise. Similarly, in a September 15 debate, Hewitt said she would not implement COVID precautions in the future, claiming that “The COVID shot does not stop you from getting COVID. Masks do not stop you from getting COVID.”
Jeffery Istre’s official campaign Facebook page bio simply states “Family oriented, Christian Values, Combat Veteran, Blue Collar.” He does not have an official campaign website and most information about him is via a press release sent to media outlets across the state. A former oilfield worker, truck driver, and Army veteran, Istre is running as an Independent and seems to be leaning into that political identity, stating that “the two party system has gotten out of hand and they are fighting each other more than they are governing, which is what they are being paid to do.” Unsurprisingly, one of his goals for the governorship is to bring Louisiana oilfield production levels up. He also believes that teachers in Louisiana deserve better pay, and that poverty in the state should be addressed. These are certainly not radical goals, though they are a welcome change from what some of the other candidates are proposing. However, Istre does not seem to have any published plan for how to achieve these goals.
Xan John ran for U.S. Senator last year, receiving 0.2% of the vote. A perennial political candidate, he seems to have spent most of his professional career working as a project manager for oil and gas production at Texas Petroleum Investment Company (interestingly, it appears as though he has taken down his LinkedIn profile). His family runs an organization called JohnPac, which, despite the confusing name, is not a political action group but a manufacturing company. John has also been affiliated with the Court of Master Sommeliers and with the Free & Accepted Masons. John is a typical 16th Amendment Truther, believing that the amendment allowing Congress to levy an income tax was “never properly ratified.” He seems to have been kicked off of various social media platforms over the years, and his official Twitter campaign account has 15 followers (as of September 29) which, given how the site has been infiltrated by right-wing groups, seems pretty bleak for him. His platform is full of cliche right-wing talking points, and the three key messages of his campaign for governor are “Pro-Trump & Constitution!”, “Anti-censorship & C.R.T.”, and “Demand Xan John!” His campaign finance report indicates $0 collected or spent during his campaign. Based on his extreme right-wing beliefs and ridiculous public persona, there is a Reddit thread entitled, “There’s no way Xan John is a real person. This is all a bit, right?” where stories about him are shared, ranging from the funny to the disturbing.
Jeff Landry is a specter that has loomed over Louisiana for years. The current State Attorney General, before going into politics he was a police officer, attorney, and business owner. He served as a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Louisiana’s 3rd Congressional District from 2011 to 2013 (he was elected as a Tea Party member in 2010 and lost his bid for re-election in 2012). He has served as Louisiana state attorney general since 2016; when he entered office in 2016, he issued a statement vowing to “reform the Department of Justice into an agency that efficiently and effectively fights federal overreach, supports economic liberty and makes our communities safer,” which is a lot of dog whistles for one sentence. Fittingly, he has received a Trump endorsement in his bid for governor.
Landry’s campaign spending is sketchy at best. He may have violated Louisiana ethics codes for the use of campaign donations for personal use, particularly donor jets. A 2022 article in the Baton Rouge Advocate reported that he has spent over $420,000 since 2007 on paying employees of his staffing company, though it is not clear who is on his payroll.
He’s been in support of book bans across the state, and limiting children’s access to libraries. He’s extremely pro-life. Landry has a history of mixing racism with “criminal justice,” and his campaign is explicitly targeting New Orleans and other predominantly Black, Democrat-run cities in Louisiana. As noted by longtime pundit and former Gambit owner Clancy DuBos, Landry has spent the past eight years as the state’s top prosecutor, so his claim that he “knows what it takes to fight crime” juxtaposed against what he identifies as a rampant crime problem is nonsensical.
In an appearance on Tucker Carlson’s show last October, Landry made the following, chilling declaration: “In Louisiana, we have one of the most powerful executive departments in the country. The governor is extremely powerful. He has the ability to bend that city [New Orleans] to his will, and he [Edwards] just doesn’t… But we will.” Landry has already tried this in his role as AG. He threatened abortion providers after the temporary block of the abortion ban last year. And he influenced the Louisiana Bond Commission to delay $39 million in funds for a critical New Orleans S&WB project, due to the City’s opposition to abortion bans. He is in support of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. In July, he signed a letter with 17 other state attorneys general telling the Biden administration that “those states need access to information about residents who obtain abortions or gender-affirming care in other states.”
Unsurprisingly, he is a proponent of the War on Drugs and uses fear-based and sensationalized messaging around the issue to promote the punitive approach to drug use and distribution, as well as to further an anti-immigration message.
Landry is opposed to the COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates (the Fifth Circuit Court, which is notoriously conservative, ruled in his favor against mandates for federal contractors in 2022). In the September 15 gubernatorial debate, he made the statement, “I will never allow the government to get between you and your doctor.”
His relationship with the press is contentious. In 2021, he sued Advocate/Times-Picayune reporter Andrea Gallo over her attempt to access records related to a sexual harassment investigation of one of his top aides. Judge Tim Kelley of the 19th Judicial District (Baton Rouge) ruled in favor of Gallo. More recently, Landry and his team accused WWL-TV investigative reporter David Hammer of “journalistic malpractice” and “election interference” for reporting that, in April, Landry received a donation of $5,000 from a Texas lawyer accused of insurance fraud on the same day the case was referred to his office. Tangentially related, in the September 15 debate he stated that if anyone has any criticism of him, they can go to jefflandry.com/answers.
Hunter Lundy, who is running as an Independent, has been described as a conservative “Christian nationalist.” A personal injury attorney who has been practicing out of his own law firm in Lake Charles, Lundy, Lundy, Soileau, & South L.L.P, since 1986, Lundy has been positioning himself as a candidate to counter the “divisiveness” of the current two-party system. The son of a dock worker and a teacher who went to college on a football scholarship, Lundy has allegedly invested millions of dollars of his own money into his campaign. In the September 15 gubernatorial candidate debate, he made the claim “I’m the only one who spent the money to compete with Jeff Landry.” According to campaign finance reports, Lundy had about $2.1 million on hand at the beginning of the reporting period, only marginally ahead of opponent John Schroder.
Lundy really leans into his identity as an “independent” candidate, and his political views oscillate between the more moderate to those that are heavily influenced by Christian conservatism. On the more moderate end of the spectrum, Lundy has called for more investment in education and infrastructure such as roads and bridges, and his stance on crime includes educating kids to prevent the school-to-prison pipeline. He has also stated that, if elected governor, he will call a special session to address the insurance crisis.
Lest we give him too much credit, Lundy also believes that throwing more money at police and firefighters will help quell crime, despite evidence to the contrary. When asked to speak about police brutality in the September 15 gubernatorial candidate debate, his response was, “Maybe anger management classes. Who knows?” In that same debate, when asked to speak about COVID-19 he claimed that “The science demonstrates there was no risk.” He is also opposed to masks and vaccines and claims, “I’ve read more toxicology reports than probably the CDC.”
Lundy is one of two candidates in this race to complete the candidate survey from Voters Organized to Educate. In it, he gives some surprising answers, such as believing “Lack of social and economic opportunities,” “Insufficient mental health services and untreated conditions,” and “Insufficient access to quality education” to be the main causes of crime and that he wants to help create programs that ensure formerly incarcerated people can find homes and jobs. He also said that “the ACA has positively impacted medical care accessibility, but there is room for improvement.”
Once again on the flip side, Lundy is a strong supporter of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, stating, “‘I think the legislature took care of it. I agreed with what they did.’” Unsurprisingly, he also supported the state’s failed “Don’t Say Gay” bill, as well as the Louisiana legislature’s overturning of John Bel Edwards’s veto of the ban on gender-affirming care for minors. He also does not support adding any additional exceptions to the state’s strict abortion ban, even exceptions for rape and incest, stating, “There’s always two victims to an abortion, always the child and the mother. I just know too many people that were birthed and have been born out of what some would call rape or some would call incest. And how do you define that in Louisiana.”
Richard Nelson officially withdrew from the governor’s race on September 20 and endorsed Jeff Landry, claiming, “I believe that Jeff has the commitment and the courage to bring the fundamental reforms we need in state government.” Given that he never polled above 2%, which disqualified him from participating in the September 15 gubernatorial debate, his withdrawal is not a surprise, though his endorsement of Landry is contrary to his claims of being bipartisan and wanting to bring change to Louisiana politics, and more in line with wanting to ingratiate himself with establishment Republican power.
John Schroder was described by radio personality Jeff Crouere as “a fiscal conservative like I’ve never seen,” and nola.com reported that among conservative talking heads, Schroder is the most “bullish on shrinking government” of his contenders. This former real estate developer, narcotics detective, and current Louisiana state treasurer, however, is surprisingly in favor of raising the minimum wage—which is still set at a measly $7.25.
Schroder appeared on Tucker Carlson to discuss his decision to pull hundreds of millions of dollars out of the BlackRock Inc. investment firm because, according to nola.com, “the company is putting political and social goals ahead of robust returns for state taxpayers.” Schroder has been called an “anti-ESG crusader,” and he believes that policies that take environmental and social components into business-making decisions are an attack on fossil fuel-producing states. His campaign website states that he is in favor of “[removing] regulatory barriers that keep businesses from growing or locating in our state” next to a picture of a chemical plant along the river. This, while fossil fuel companies abet coastal erosion, cancer, and hazardous air and water quality.
Both Schroder and his wife have a plethora of investments in various properties and real estate endeavors across the state. His campaign finance report shows that he had over $2 million at the beginning of the reporting period, with nearly $600,000 coming from money he loaned himself. He has a 100% pro-life voting record from Louisiana Right to Life.
In a recent attack ad against Jeff Landry, as well as Stephen Waguespack, Schroder cries cronyism and corruption at the hands of his opponents. But during a September 15 debate, when asked to cite examples of these claims, Schroder gave a clumsy response and failed to back his claims with receipts. In his closing remarks Schroder said of his hopeful reign as governor, “The rule will be the rules.”
Frank Scurlock‘s family pioneered the bounce house, and he’s run various related entertainment businesses. He also ran for mayor unsuccessfully in 2017 with the slogan “Make New Orleans Fun Again,” and pled no contest the next year to a charge related to allegations he masturbated in the back seat of a California Uber. He then unsuccessfully sued the Times-Picayune‘s owners and a reporter, saying the paper incorrectly reported he was arrested in connection with that case.
Scurlock reappeared in headlines in 2020, when he cut his girlfriend’s hair for $1 in New York City in protest of the city’s COVID restrictions on barbershops, earning the derision of the New York press. He also attempted to run for president that year, registering the corporation “Frank Mials Scurlock for President to Liberate America, Inc.” His campaign committee received a stern letter from the Federal Election Commission, though ultimately no fine, for allegedly failing to file a required financial report (we’ve been unable to find any state ethics filings for his current campaign, though he’s not on the state’s list of delinquent filers).
In 2021, he supported conservative businesswoman Vina Nguyen’s run for New Orleans mayor, then publicly withdrew his support. Now, he’s running for governor on a platform that includes instituting a “$20 minimum wage for service and hospitality workers,” repealing the state income tax, making “holistic health deductible and covered by insurance,” and declaring Mardi Gras expenses like dues and decorations tax deductible. (It’s unclear where people would take these deductions if the state income tax is repealed, or why a deduction that seems to disproportionately support wealthy members of Mardi Gras krewes is a good idea).
He’s called on “business associates around the world” to support his campaign through an open letter on LinkedIn. “My 40 years at [inflatables business] Space Walk and 10 years in Orlando the entertainment capital of the world makes me unquestionably the candidate of choice for business, hospitality and industry,” he wrote. “Thank you for the opportunity to be a true public servant as opposed to a politician. After all the position only pays $127000.”
Scurlock also has a suggestion for addressing Cancer Alley. “The refineries are the problem… relocation may be the answer,” he says. “Move the pollutants away from the people (and, henceforth, remove the cancer).” It’s unclear where the refineries could be relocated, or how Scurlock would get the oil companies to move them.
Stephen Waguespack, known as “Wags” to his friends and buyers of his branded “Wags swag,” is a self-proclaimed “lifelong Republican” and “a conservative” who was former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s chief of staff. He then led the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), the state’s big business lobby. He’s running as an old-fashioned fiscally conservative Republican—the kind who spends years running a business lobbying group—as opposed to anger-channeling populist “demagogues” like Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, and opponent Jeff Landry. But he’s still pretty conservative on social issues: He supports the recently passed restriction on gender-affirming care for trans minors (though he says he’s more “libertarian” on rights for LGBTQ+ adults), and believes in banning abortion without exception.
He also advocates lower taxes, lower government spending, keeping the minimum wage at $7.25 per hour, training to get kids in blue-collar jobs, preserving the Medicaid expansion, and “expanding school choice for families, creating real viable pathways for each child to bring out their best potential and demanding that our schools always focus on quality education and never on social indoctrination.” That sounds like it means more public money for charter schools and private schools, similar to what was pushed under his old boss Bobby Jindal.
Waguespack has been criticized for responding to a debate question on Cancer Alley by bringing up alleged outsiders who come to Louisiana and “disparage” the chemical industry. But don’t worry, says a Times-Picayune piece endorsing him (without any input from “reporters or editors in The Times-Picayune newsroom or its Capitol News Bureau”), the longtime business lobbyist “voiced regret for his initial response” and said that despite the “economic opportunities” the industry creates, “if any of that has a downside which is causing valid health concerns, we have to attack it vigorously.”
Shawn Wilson grew up in Algiers and went on to earn a doctorate in public administration from Southern University and serve in state government, most recently as secretary of transportation. He’s said he supports the right to abortion—a note that he and his wife are, despite that, personally “pro-life” appears to have been removed from his website—and he supports paid family leave and preserving the life-and-money-saving Medicaid expansion blocked by Bobby Jindal, then launched under John Bel Edwards.
He also wants to “work with locals” to raise salaries for cops, take on rape kit testing backlogs, use state police to assist local cops, and deploy “state of the art and effective techonologies [sic]” to take on crime.
Wilson also wants to work with local governments to take on housing costs, though he doesn’t seem to have a detailed plan there, and work to boost teacher pay, expand access to early childhood education and vocational training, expand free school lunch, and raise literacy by 15% in four years. He also calls for a higher minimum wage and improvements to infrastructure and development.
Wilson wants to continue the death penalty moratorium Edwards put in place and told Voters Organized to Educate that he’s concerned about anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in the state, saying: “Besides the laws currently on the books—such as denying gender affirming care to our youth—most concerning are the bills that were approved by the House and Senate, yet vetoed by Governor Edwards and not overturned. These laws are based on what appears to be cruelty and hatred, rather than actual problems that our State needs to be focused on. As Governor, I believe that one of the most important things I can do for the LGBTQ community is yield a veto pen, and advocate for fact based debate and dialogue on matters.”
Wilson has been endorsed by Edwards, Public Service Commissioner Davante Lewis, U.S. Representative Troy Carter, State Representative Mandie Landry, labor groups including the Louisiana AFL-CIO, and at least five members of the New Orleans City Council. In general, career public official Wilson seems like he’d offer more or less a continuation of the uninspiring-but-at-least-he’s-not-a-Republican-ideologue Edwards administration.
Summary: For the Republicans: Hewitt wants to make it more difficult to sue companies and has standard right-wing policy points. Hunter Lundy has more nuanced beliefs than his conservative competitors, but we think he’s still a bigot; John Schroder is the fiercest fiscal conservative in the race—these two are the biggest campaign spenders behind Jeff Landry. Jeff Landry, the culture-war instigator and obvious frontrunner, is the most odious and frightening of the contenders and we believe is an existential threat to the people of Louisiana. Stephen Waguespack is an old-school fiscal conservative but still backs laws targeting abortion and trans youth. Shawn Wilson, one of two Democrats in the race, is against banning abortion and seems like a continuation of John Bel Edwards’ style.
Elbert Guillory (Republican)
“Tami” Hotard (Republican)
Willie Jones (Democrat)
William “Billy” Nungesser (Republican)
Bruce Payton (Independent)
Gary Rispone (No Party)
The lieutenant governor takes over if the governor dies in office or is otherwise unable to serve, technically acts as governor if the elected governor is out of state, sits on various state committees, and oversees the Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism. Unlike the U.S. president and vice president, the governor and lieutenant governor are elected separately, so they don’t need to be political allies or even from the same party.
Elbert Guillory was born in Opelousas and served in the U.S. Navy from 1964 to 1968. He has a B.S. from Norfolk State University and a law degree from Rutgers University and has worked as an attorney, a Baptist minister, a police reserve lieutenant, and a former Rutgers Law instructor.
His campaign website seems to be playing up his “country boy” roots, even though he has been part of the Louisiana political establishment for decades. Guillory has held various political offices in Louisiana since 2004. He was a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from 2004 to 2009, and a member of the State Senate (representing District 24) from 2009 to 2013. He held both those offices as a Democrat, switching his party affiliation in May 2013 to become the first Black Republican senator in Louisiana since Reconstruction. Guillory served in the State Senate as a Republican until 2015. He was a candidate for lieutenant governor of Louisiana in the 2015 election, coming in fourth place overall in the blanket primary.
At that time of his switch in party affiliation, he released a viral video titled “Why I am a Republican,” in which he stated that he was choosing to “escape the Government Plantation and the Party of Disappointment.” And yet, he has appeared on TV and radio as the guest of right-wing pundits and conspiracy theorists such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Alex Jones.
The issues listed in his campaign platform are “Education,” “Immigration,” and “Safety.” He is staunchly anti-immigration (and anti-immigrant), pro-gun, and believes that “[w]e have let a small minority of wackos come into GOD’S country and EVICT God from our schools, meetings, and even from public life!” He also believes that “[o]ur values, even our languages are in danger. Hard work climbing the ladder of success: family of married mom, dad and children, education, even our language has come to press 1 for Spanish and 2 for English.”
Tami Hotard’s origin story, according to her official campaign website, is that “[h]er grandfather was a businessman from Baton Rouge, who also influenced Tami’s life by giving her a retractable tape measure when she was only 7-years old.” She studied journalism at Loyola University and earned a master’s in English from Oregon State. Hotard worked as an editor on medical manuscripts, and wrote the books In Pursuit of Pat O’Brien (according to the synopsis, “[s]ometimes her sarcasm and inner ramblings take control where the facts leave her stranded.”) and Big Charity: Paralysis at Charity Hospital and the Seduction of Confinement, a “thriller about the haunting of Charity Hospital in the aftermath of Katrina” (definitely not to be confused with the similarly-titled documentary). Interestingly, Hotard’s graduate thesis was an examination of gender and identity in the first and second waves of feminism via “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “Paul’s Case,” which does not seem to track with where her politics lie now.
According to her LinkedIn (which seems very sparse, now that it advertises her candidacy), Hotard has worked in real estate development for the past 25 years in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida. Her ethics disclosure form indicates that she owns four properties in Louisiana and Mississippi, each worth over $200,000.
Hotard’s official campaign platform is “Preaux Louisiana Vision.” She is “Pro First Amendment: Freedom of Speech” (a well-worn conservative dog whistle); “Pro Second Amendment: Right to Own and Possess Firearms” (she tries to shoehorn in some feminism by stating “I also think women should use creative ways to defend themselves”), pro-oil, anti-immigrant (“For our State to ever flourish again, everyone must hear our message of respecting our heritage as well as our borders”), anti-income tax, and pro-cop to a degree of worship (“Their perception is our reality. We must protect our police as they are sacred”). Despite her 12-point platform, Hotard does not offer any actual plan aside from typical conservative talking points.
This is Willie Jones’ second time as the sole Democrat in the race for lieutenant governor. He’s held a seat on the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee and has also previously unsuccessfully run for a seat on the Public Service Commission and for the state House of Representatives. He also owns a “transportation, consulting service” according to campaign filings. “We need more diversity and fairness in the lieutenant governor’s office in appointments and staffing,” he said, according to the Times-Picayune, but he hasn’t yet had much of a campaign presence.
Incumbent Billy Nungesser initially said he’d run for governor this year, before deciding to seek reelection and leave Jeff Landry as the leading Republican in that race. Now, Nungesser touts his role in promoting Louisiana tourism, the most visible part of the job. But even that has led to controversy for the former Plaquemines Parish president, who has repeatedly suggested transforming the French Quarter into a state park, turning a unique neighborhood where residents live, work, socialize, shop, worship, and attend school into a “family-friendly” tourist attraction policed by Smokey-hatted rangers.
He now owns a variety of real estate businesses and at least six-figures’ worth of oil company stock, according to his financial disclosure form, but Nungesser credits his start in a recent interview to building shipping-container man camps for oil companies. That article also describes Nungesser as coming from a “poor, working class background,” which likely would have been news to his father, who was described during Nungesser’s youth as a “prominent Algiers businessman and civic leader” who regularly made headlines by using a snowmaking machine and literally tons of ice to create a white Christmas for his family.
Nungesser has also been embroiled in periodic controversies involving cultural institutions he oversees. There’s still an ongoing lawsuit brought by the former state librarian—though Nungesser says he’s no longer personally a defendant—who says she was ousted from the job after reporting allegedly “questionable contracts” involving Nungesser to the FBI.
Earlier in his tenure, there were allegations that Nungesser was meddling in State Museum operations and misusing a museum-linked apartment in the Pontalba buildings. That led to him publicly calling the interim director of the State Museum “an agitated old man” and writing a Times-Picayune opinion piece published with the headline “I didn’t misuse French Quarter apartments; I would never sell museum’s art on eBay.”
Bruce Payton owns an “audio visual consulting & real estate development” company, and says he sees the lieutenant governor’s role as primarily a sales job. “The Lt. Governor is a sales position; I’m as good a salesman as it gets; classically trained by the greatest minds in business. l have the face, the voice and most importantly the personality to be your next Lt. Governor. You wouldn’t hire a Politician to sell your home, so don’t hire a Politician to sell your state! Elect the “Salesman turned Statesman!”
Again, it’s true lieutenant governors do have a role in marketing the state, but they also are first in line if the governor dies or leaves office, fill in when the governor’s out of state, and serve on a variety of other state committees.
Payton also calls for term limiting the lieutenant governor’s office and pledges to leave office after a single term, which he says will cause his successor to serve under two different governors, presumably assuming his successor serves two terms. “This promotes cooperation, collaboration, and checks & balances at the highest levels of Louisiana State Government,” he writes. “Only a selfless, pro-active, dedicated candidate would promise this to voters.”
Gary Rispone is probably best known as the host of a TV and YouTube show called Paradise Louisiana that’s focused on hunting, fishing, and the great outdoors. He’s also the volunteer secretary of a group called Wish to Fish Louisiana that works to make fishing accessible to kids. He doesn’t seem to have much of a campaign presence, and his prior involvement in governmental matters seems mostly to be confined to weighing in on fishing regulations. Rispone’s brother, Eddie Rispone, unsuccessfully ran a conservative campaign for governor in 2019.
Summary: It’s time to move on from Billy Nungesser, and the candidate least likely to bring their own fresh horrors to this position is Willie Jones.
Secretary of State
“Gwen” Collins-Greenup (Democrat)
“Mike” Francis (Republican)
Amanda “Smith” Jennings (Other)
Thomas J. Kennedy III (Republican)
Nancy Landry (Republican)
Arthur A. Morrell (Democrat)
Clay Schexnayder (Republican)
Brandon Trosclair (Republican)
The Secretary of State’s Office is responsible for overseeing state elections, maintaining business registrations, and managing the state archives. Incumbent Kyle Ardoin isn’t seeking reelection, citing health reasons but also warning of “pervasive lies” and conspiracy theories around elections in Louisiana. Such bogus theories, combined with issues with the bidding process, helped scuttle his attempts to replace the state’s aging voting machines, meaning that task may fall on his successor.
Attorney and accountant Gwen Collins-Greenup previously ran for this office in a 2018 special election and again in 2019, where she made it to a runoff with Ardoin. She generally has spoken of the need to modernize the office, including streamlining business filings and replacing old voting machines. Unlike some of her rivals who focus on vague allegations of voting fraud, Collins-Greenup wants to address some of the actual issues impacting election returns in Louisiana and “encourage voter participation, increase voter outreach, streamline voter registration, improve voter access, combat voter suppression, and lead efforts to increase protections for election workers against threats,” according to her website.
In a Voters Organized to Educate survey, she said she believes prison gerrymandering—where incarcerated people are counted for districting purposes in the places they’re locked up, despite usually not being able to vote, rather than where they’re from—”waters down the constitutional principle of ‘One Person, One Vote’ and needs urgent attention to uphold fair representation.” She also said she’d work to make sure people being held while awaiting trial, who normally are allowed to vote, get to do so.
She also says that in light of the recent Supreme Court decision in Allen v. Milligan, which held Alabama’s Congressional districts violate the Voting Rights Act and required the state to add another majority-minority district, she would “concede that the [Louisiana] federal maps are inequitable, and work with the legislature to ensure a second Black-majority district is in place prior to the 2024 Congressional election cycle.”
Outside of her legal and accounting work, Collins-Greenup also works officiating youth sports and has done various church and nonprofit work. It’s worth pointing out that she holds a bachelor’s degree and three master’s degrees from Liberty University, the institution started by televangelist Jerry Falwell and known for its conservatism, and The Advocate reported in 2018 that “Collins-Greenup and her Republican rivals agreed on most social issues.” But Collins-Greenup has thus far kept whatever her beliefs are about matters unrelated to this office out of the race, and she’s offered what seems to be a reasonable, voting rights-focused approach on the matters that are relevant.
Mike Francis is a member of the Public Service Commission, a past chairman of the state Republican Party, and the founder and former CEO of Francis Drilling Fluids, which serves the oil and gas industry. His campaign page describes him as “pro-life, pro-family, pro-2nd amendment” and a “conservative Christian businessman” and, according to the Louisiana Illuminator, recently spoke out against same-sex marriage, deploying the old homophobic saw “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”
Francis strongly opposes the push to return the state to using paper ballots and says he was recruited by local clerks of court to run for the office. He arguably represents the pro-business anti-LGBTQ+ Christian wing of the Republican Party, attempting to fend off the more conspiratorial, post-Trump factions of the Party.
One advantage he may have is his wealth—the Times-Picayune reported he spent millions to get elected to the PSC—and his campaign disclosure indicates he and his wife sold hundreds of thousands of dollars in stock at the end of last year. As of September 15, he had loaned his campaign $300,000, of which about $30,000 had been paid back.
Among those conspiracy-focused rivals is paralegal and Bayou Rebel Bait Shack owner Amanda “Smith” Jennings, who previously ran for this office in 2019, when we noted pro-Confederate imagery on social media used for her campaign. That’s still the case—she referred to Hurricane Lee as #TheGhostOfGeneralLee, targeting “Rich men North of Richmond”—and her various pages also feature difficult-to-follow assertions about Black Lives Matter, animal sacrifice, noncitizens voting, and alleged bank fraud. Jennings also claims censorship of her Rebels Against Government YouTube account, which includes videos like “Morning Glories have taken over my AZALEAS” and “We were looking for the police museum and gps took us to the pig bbq place.”
Republican real estate developer Thomas J. Kennedy III previously ran unsuccessfully for secretary of state in a 2018 special election and in 2019. Kennedy calls for rolling out scanned paper ballots and seems to argue that, not being a “career politician,” he is the one to finish the job of upgrading the state’s aging voting machines. “If there is a hiccup, in the roll out of this new technology everyone will be finger pointing at the Secretary of State,” according to his website. “For a career politician, that’s political suicide.” Kennedy also calls for voter education and registration programs, along with automatic absentee ballots for people with disabilities.
Republican Nancy Landry works under incumbent Ardoin as first assistant secretary of state and points to her experience in the office. “With everything on the line, 2024 might be the most important election in our lifetime,” she said. “There is no time for a Secretary of State who needs on-the-job training.” A self-proclaimed conservative, Landry previously served in the state House of Representatives and controversially backed state vouchers to subsidize private school tuition. At the time, she vowed to “fight to protect all innocent life” (presumably meaning she opposed abortion) and to protect Second Amendment rights. She has also worked in family law and in handling land title issues for oil companies.
Arthur Morrell has spent decades in Louisiana politics, including years as a representative in the state House, and 15 years as clerk of the Orleans Parish Criminal Court. That position also involves overseeing New Orleans elections—and occasionally playing politics: In 2020, Morrell threatened to furlough almost the entire court staff during a budget dispute with the City, which raised fears people would be stuck in jail without even the ability to seek bail.
Morrell is also active in horse racing, and not just as a metaphor for electoral politics. “Breeding and racing horses brings a sense of accomplishment, but not as much as running a fair, honest, and safe election,” he said in a campaign video.
Though he hasn’t so far offered a lot of specifics, he’s vowed to run fair elections and support businesses in the state.
Morrell’s son is City Councilmember JP Morrell, and his wife is Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, a former member of the City Council.
Self-proclaimed conservative Republican Clay Schexnayder is speaker of the state House of Representatives. “He has consistently voted to make Louisiana a more business-friendly state, protect the unborn, and support parent’s rights in choosing how and where their children are educated,” according to his website.
Before all that nonsense, he was a race car driver and ran an auto repair shop. He claims to have been the first mechanic and race car driver in the state House, and his website also includes a picture of him posing in a garage, wearing a work shirt and extremely tight jeans, while holding a seemingly impractically large number of wrenches carefully splayed in his hand.
He wants to do more to secure elections, cut regulations on small businesses, hold yearly election audits, and conduct biannual canvasses of voter rolls. He points to a series of bills that would have required annual canvasses by the Secretary of State, which Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed, saying they were “duplicative” of existing canvasses by local registrars and could increase the risk of legitimate voters being purged from the rolls.
Brandon Trosclair owns grocery stores around the state, including a number of Save A Lot stores in the New Orleans area. His business was part of a legal challenge to the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for workers at large employers. The mandate was ultimately blocked by the Supreme Court.
He identifies as a “Christian Conservative” and “Christian Warrior” and has claimed elections are being “manipulated.” His website is LetsGeauxBrandon.net, an allusion to the conservative meme meaning “Fuck Joe Biden,” and he claims an endorsement from MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, noted for promoting conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.
Comparing himself to Donald Trump, Trosclair ran unsuccessfully for the state House in 2019. “Look, having a businessman serve as President is working out pretty well; and, I have a feeling it would work out well for the State Representative position too,” he said at the time. During that election, The Advocate reported that businessman Trosclair faced legal trouble in 2006, when he and a partner ran a business building homes. “Though a charging document doesn’t give a precise amount that prosecutors say was misspent, Trosclair was accused of drawing thousands of dollars from one of his client’s accounts and not using it to pay for the construction work,” according to the paper. “Trosclair described the episode as an unfortunate situation and said he was falsely accused.”
A judge found probable cause for the charge, but it was ultimately dropped after Trosclair completed a pretrial diversion program, according to The Advocate, which reported that he “also faced a handful of lawsuits from homeowners, suppliers, subcontractors and a law firm over housing projects and related litigation in that time period.” Some of the suits were dismissed, and the ultimate disposition of others was unclear, The Advocate reported.
In his spare time, Trosclair enjoys “breeding and racing thoroughbred horses,” an oddly common hobby in this election, according to a profile from Baton Rouge Parents, which also highlighted Trosclair’s affection for dairy. “In my fridge, you will always find… milk. My favorite dessert is… oreos and milk. My favorite food is… jambalaya. My guilty pleasure is… probably too much fresh milk from our cow. I’m always laughing at… my wife,” he said in a Q&A section of the profile.
SUMMARY: Gwen Collins-Greenup seems to have a firm grasp of the duties of the office and a commitment to voting rights.
Lindsey Cheek (Democrat)
“Marty” Maley (Republican)
“Liz” Baker Murrill (Republican)
John Stefanski (Republican)
Perry Walker Terrebonne (Democrat)
The role of the Attorney General is to be the “chief legal officer of the state” and to oversee the Department of Justice.
After a stint in the Harris County District Attorney’s Office in Texas, former Ironman competitor and Democrat Lindsey Cheek has focused heavily on asbestos litigation, now running her own firm and winning multimillion-dollar verdicts for mesothelioma patients. A Democrat, she’s called herself “preaux-woman,” “preaux-worker,” and “preaux-voting rights” and has indicated she’d take on polluters in Cancer Alley.
In some areas of the law, she seems to oppose the state taking a role in protecting citizens, as opposed to private litigation, according to her answers in the Voters Organized to Educate poll: “When it comes to consumer/resident protections in the areas of pharmaceuticals, banking industry, petrochemicals, and online commerce,” Cheek says she believes the state has been “over-aggressive with litigation, which will only drive costs up on the consumers.”
And when asked about ensuring commercial background check services “comply with federal and state regulations such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act” she responded, “This is not the role of Attorney General, as individual plaintiffs are free to file suit to handle their grievances.”
Cheek’s real estate company Ferbo St. Charles LLC owns a mansion on St. Charles Avenue that was almost sold to become WWOZ’s headquarters, before the deal was nixed by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation Board.
“I will always, always, always be pro-life, pro-gun, and pro-Louisiana,” says Republican career prosecutor Marty Maley in an audio clip posted to Facebook. He’s been a staff attorney at the Louisiana District Attorneys Association, doing various prosecutorial work, and an assistant DA in the 18th Judicial District. “From white collar criminals to violent crime, Marty Maley has prosecuted it all,” according to a campaign ad. Maley also ran unsuccessfully for attorney general in 2015.
Unsurprisingly, his approach to the AG’s office seems heavily focused on crime and prosecution. “If you want someone like me that has a tough on crime background, I think you would be well-suited to join our team and I would be honored to have your vote on Oct. 14,” he says in that Facebook clip.
He also owns the Fin, Fowl, and Wild Beast Sports Club, which offers members hunting and fishing opportunities. Maley has also served as executive vice president of Crimefighters of Louisiana, a victims’ rights group founded and led by Irvin L. Magri, Jr., a controversial former New Orleans police union head known for decades of incendiary comments about crime, race, and policing.
Liz Murrill is Jeff Landry 2.0. She is currently employed as the Solicitor General for the Louisiana Department of Justice, and Landry has been working to help secure her this role in the wake of his departure. The Louisiana Illuminator referred to her as one of Jeff Landry’s “top deputies” and also reported that, of Murrill, Republican mega-donor Lane Grigsby said, “Even if you ask Jeff, she really runs the AG’s office already.” Murrill has been endorsed by the Louisiana Republican Party, the Republican Attorney General’s Association (of which Jeff Landry is part of the leadership), was given $5,000 from Landry’s wife in campaign contributions, and shares a political advisor with Landry.
According to her campaign finance report, Murrill had over $1.4 million as of September 14, including from Koch Industries, Entergy Corporation PAC, HOSPPAC, and Merlin Oil & Gas. She is currently a board member for Family Services of Greater Baton Rouge and the Baton Rouge chapter of The Federalist Society.
During a forum in April, Murrill claimed she carries a gun whenever she travels to New Orleans.
According to the Louisiana Illuminator, Murrill worked with Landry on over three dozen lawsuits against the Biden administration, fought federal COVID-19 mitigation protocols, and defended Louisiana’s abortion laws before the U.S. Supreme Court. She will continue Jeff Landry’s exceptionally fear-mongering vision for this office.
Current state representative (District 42) John Stefanski is, unsurprisingly, also tough on crime. His campaign website claims that violence has grown to “epidemic levels” and that as the “top law enforcement officer in Louisiana” he will make violent criminals fear consequences.
His top issues are violent crime, defending the constitution, defending the police, faith and family, corruption, human trafficking (a common conservative, moral panic talking point), and election integrity. His endorsement list is stacked with sheriffs and district attorneys.
As a representative he has co-sponsored a bill that enacts harsher penalties for fentanyl possession, a bill that says if a juvenile detention center is full defendants may be held in an adult facility, and a bill that would have provided “relative to a mandatory minimum bail amount for certain offenses.”
At a forum in April, Stefanski suggested “assistant AGs could handle appeals of local criminal cases if district attorneys pledge to prosecute more offenders with their freed up resources.”
According to campaign finance reports, Stefanski had about $677,000 at the beginning of the reporting period.
Perry Walker Terrebonne is an attorney who says he specializes in “Social Security, disability. constitutional defense of crimes and personal injury [sic].” He has a master’s degree in education and previously ran for the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, but doesn’t seem to be campaigning particularly hard for this race. The Louisiana Illuminator reported he qualified for the race “with little fanfare and made no comments to reporters.” He did fill out a candidate survey for Voters Organized to Educate, which gives some indications of his platform, writing: “I believe in strong consumer protection and strong environmental protection. I have handled private consumer creditor abuse cases as a private attorney and have filed suits under the Louisiana Fair Trade Practices Act. We all deserve a clean [sic] drinking water.”
Summary: While Lindsey Cheek is in some ways more reticent than we might like to use the power of the state to protect residents, she’s the only candidate running a serious campaign from a perspective other than the far right.
John Fleming (Republican)
Dustin Granger (Democrat)
Scott McKnight (Republican)
The Louisiana Treasurer is in charge of managing state funds by “promoting prudent cash management and investment strategies as well as monitoring, regulating, and coordinating state and local debt obligations.” This seat is currently held by John Schroder, who is now running for governor.
Subway sandwich shop owner John Fleming served as the assistant secretary for the Economic Development Administration during the Trump administration and also doesn’t know what fake news is. In 2012, the then-sitting Congressman (District 4) cited an Onion article titled “Planned Parenthood Opens $8 Billion Abortionplex” which outlined plans to “terminate unborn lives with an efficiency never before thought possible.”
According to The Advocate, in an interview Fleming gave after his Trump appointment he said “They offered it to me, and I thought about it, and I said, ‘Well, gosh, that’s what I’ve been doing—economic development.’” On global warming he also lends his eloquence, saying, “It’s very unscientific to say we had a big rain so it was caused by global warming.”
Fleming helped found the House Freedom Caucus—along with Ron DeSantis—which, according to the Pew Research Center, is “among the most conservative of House Republicans, with several falling on the rightmost end of the spectrum.”
As AP reports, Republicans have been “ramping up their criticism of ‘ESG investing,’ a fast-growing movement that says it can pay dividends to consider environmental, social and corporate-governance issues when deciding where to invest pension and other public funds.” When asked how he would handle calls to boycott financial firms or pull projects from Louisiana localities over social issues by the Louisiana Illuminator, Fleming said he wouldn’t let his politics affect investments, though he would consider avoiding banks that avoid firearms companies, adding, “We don’t want to take away precious capital from the oil and gas industry.”
Fleming’s campaign website discusses his experience, his endorsements, and his family roots but does not discuss his vision for the office.
Debate club president Dustin Granger is the owner of and financial advisor at Generation Wealth. A graduate of Sulphur High School and Louisiana State University, Granger is a lifelong Louisiana resident and the only Democrat in this race. His platform is by far the most fleshed out amongst his opponents. On his website, Granger breaks down his policy points by problem and solution on issues such as reversing “Jindal-nomics,” an insurance relief program, ending the Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP), preserving homestead exemptions, and investing in “green” initiatives. ITEP policies have granted lucrative tax breaks to businesses, often ones harming the physical landscape of the state. Though outside the purview of his office, his website lists “strict abortion ban, gerrymandering, and laws restricting LGBTQ rights” as concerns.
When asked by the Louisiana Illuminator how he would handle financial boycotts over social issues, he said if elected, he would “immediately lift any prohibition Schroder has put in place on working with companies who favor alternative energy” and that he “intends to shift Louisiana’s public investments away from the oil and gas industry.”
Granger is endorsed by the Louisiana AFL-CIO, UTNO, IWO, the Democratic Party of Louisiana, as well as John Bel Edwards, Mary Landrieu, Davante Lewis, and James Carville.
Scott McKnight keeps busy as the vice president of Cadence Insurance, a state representative for District 68, and a former volunteer reserve deputy with the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office. He told the Louisiana Illuminator that he would “generally take the same approach to the state’s investment portfolio as Schroder” but he does believe that the oil and gas industry “might benefit from ESG.” He also told them that he would “remain neutral as the leader of the bond commission” in regards to local policies and debates surrounding things like abortion and COVID-19 restrictions. “I look to continue to be a neutral party to help run the commission,” he said. McKnight has a 100% scorecard from Louisiana Right to Life.
Summary: John Fleming is one of the furthermost right politicians around, and Scott McKnight is conservative and unimaginative. Dustin Granger has by far the most detailed plan for the office and wants to move funds away from the oil and gas industry.
Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Paul Hollis (Republican)
Lauren Jewett (Democrat)
This Board district includes St. Tammany Parish and portions of Tangipahoa, Orleans, and Jefferson parishes. This seat is up for grabs, with the incumbent, Metairie Republican James Garvey, not seeking reelection.
The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education sets rules and policies for K-12 education. Its decisions can impact everything from curriculum, graduation standards and teacher pay to the presence of cops in schools. It’s naturally affected by the conservative suspicion, conspiracy theories, and anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments that have surrounded public education in recent times.
Republican State Representative Paul Hollis (District 104) made waves earlier this year when he introduced a bill that would have given parish councils more authority to remove library board members and required that library board rules adhere to local ordinances. Critics saw the bill as empowering conservatives on parish councils at a time when right-wing politicians are trying to censor materials in public libraries. That’s not a promising move by someone who’s vying for a seat on the board that sets education policy for the state.
Hollis, whose father Ken Hollis was a prominent state legislator, has said he wants to promote educational standards and transparency and preserve school choice, which usually refers to charter schools and public funding for kids to attend private schools. He’s also an advocate of more vocational training.
Hollis also recently introduced a controversial new vape tax law to benefit the state police. Critics say it also restricts what types of vape products can be sold in the state, benefitting big tobacco companies.
When he’s not legislating, Hollis is a rare coin dealer. He’s the author of a book on coins in American history, has sold coins through a Shop at Home Network TV show called The Coin Vault, and once operated a website called ChristCoins.com, focused on coins from around the time when Jesus walked the earth (and ejected moneychangers from the Temple).
A brief U.S. Senate run in 2014 saw an endorsement from the Gold and Silver PAC, and Hollis successfully introduced a state bill in 2013 to broaden sales tax exemptions for coins and bullion. Appearing as a guest on a recent episode of The Coin Shop Podcast, Hollis denounced bullion taxes as a “travesty.” Opponents of coin and bullion taxes typically argue that it’s unfair to impose sales tax on coin and precious metals investors when buyers of other investments like stocks and bonds don’t pay tax; naturally, there are also those who argue that the mostly wealthier people who trade stock should be paying tax on that, too.
Lauren Jewett is a special ed teacher who cites her understanding of teaching and schooling in her campaign. Unsurprisingly, she advocates for higher pay and fair evaluations for her teacher colleagues.
“I was a Teach for America corps member from 2009-2011,” Jewett said in her generally thoughtful and detailed response to the Voters Organized to Educate survey. “While Teach for America is initially how I became a teacher, I also have serious critiques as to its overall impact on teacher preparation and retention. My longevity and sustainability in the profession has come more from pursuing additional degrees and certifications as well as being a member of my local teacher’s union and understanding the importance of professionalization of education.”
She also calls for accountability and public accessibility for BESE, “achievement, safety, and equity for all children,” oversight of charter schools and voucher-receiving private schools, and support for mental health of students and staff.
“I will stand strong in efforts to ensure BESE embraces and enacts policies that affirm, uplift, value, and honor the contributions and identities of all of our students, their communities, and their cultures,” she says. “Students should also feel physically and emotionally safe while at school, and I will work to address these needs if elected as a BESE member.”
Jewett has been endorsed by the Greater New Orleans AFL-CIO, the United Teachers of New Orleans (UTNO), and the New Orleans Democratic Socialists of America and shares testimonials from a bevy of educators, parents, and neighbors.
She ran unsuccessfully for Jefferson Parish school board last year and, her campaign disclosures indicate, is active with Louisiana Books 2 Prisoners. She has also held office within UTNO and been president of the New Orleans Track Club.
SUMMARY: Lauren Jewett is an experienced teacher who is active in the community. Paul Hollis is a conservative legislator who has proposed a law that would give the right more power over libraries and sold coins on a TV shopping network that’s probably not even one of the two you can name.
“Ray” Garofalo (Republican)
Robert “Bob” Owen (Republican)
The Louisiana Senate is made up of 39 senators and they make up one half of the legislative branch of Louisiana. Their responsibilities include “passing bills on public policy matters, setting levels for state spending, raising and lowering taxes, and voting to uphold or override gubernatorial vetoes.” Senators have four year terms. This Senate district includes parts of St. Tammany, St. Bernard, Plaquemines, and Orleans parishes. This seat is up for grabs, with incumbent Sharon Hewitt leaving office and running for governor. Two conservative Republicans are running for this seat.
The first is Ray Garofalo, a real estate developer and state rep who drew national attention for saying he wanted Louisiana schools to teach “the good, the bad, the ugly” of slavery in a state House committee meeting, effectively costing him the chair of the House Education Committee. Garofalo reportedly told the USA Today Network of newspapers that House Speaker Clay Schexnayder “made it clear he was sacrificing me to the Black Caucus, who seem to be controlling the House of Representatives this term.”
Garofalo continues to reference the situation in his campaign. “I’m the state legislator who led the fight against critical race theory and political indoctrination in our schools, and I got attacked for it,” he says in a campaign video. “Not just from the left and the mainstream media, but I got stopped by our own Republican leadership, being stripped of my committee chairmanship.”
Other highlights of the video include Garofalo declaring that “America is under attack” while grainy protest footage plays, and his claim that “the very values we try to instill in our children are being attacked in the classroom,” aired over a photo of what appears to be a drag queen reading to kids in a library. Garofalo co-authored a “Don’t Say Gay” bill that would have severely curbed discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in K-12 classrooms and even extracurriculars, a bill to require parental permission to use student names and pronouns not in their official records, banning teachers from even mentioning their own orientations and gender identities, and a newly passed law that restricts gender-affirming care for minors.
The slavery comment isn’t the first time he’s dubiously claimed to be misrepresented. Garofalo has previously complained of false accusations that he owned truck stop casinos, according to the Times-Picayune, though he told the paper he does own video poker machines.
Interestingly, in his financial disclosure filing for this election, he declared a 50% ownership interest in an “amusement distribution” company called Rand Enterprises of Louisiana LLC, an “amusement company” called Rand Amusements LLC, and a “truck stop” business called Rand Investments LLC, all of which share an address in Meraux. Both the filing and St. Bernard Parish property records indicate that property is jointly owned by Garofalo and his wife. All three companies are listed as a “gaming interest” in his filing.
According to Lafourche Parish property records, Rand Investments owns a property on Highway 90 in Des Allemands and a truck stop on that land, while Rand Amusement owns “business personal property” including “video poker” items on site. Google Maps and social media indicate the truck stop advertises as a casino.
And while it’s unclear whether all of these “Rand” businesses fall into the category of Louisiana businesses named in tribute to pro-laissez faire novelist Ayn Rand, Garofalo’s politics—and the fact that he earned a “Most Valuable Policymaker” award from Louisiana big business lobby group LABI for his support of “free enterprise”—seem to earn them at least an honorable mention.
Running against Garofalo is another conservative state representative, Bob Owen, with his own disturbingly right-wing campaign video, which is framed as Owen explaining the reasons for his campaign to his daughter. In it, Owen declares that “our society must protect the most innocent of all life—the unborn—while also helping parents build strong families,” while delivering a box of Huggies to a man in a golf shirt who’s sitting behind a desk labeled “Pregnancy Support Center.” Owen also advocates for more police in the state—”We need to shackle criminals, not law enforcement,” he says.
In the Voters Organized to Educate survey, Owen says he believes teaching on slavery, racism, and LGBTQ+ rights “in public schools can be beneficial, but it should be withheld until high school and balanced with all perspectives and approaches to history and social issues.” That’s significantly more restrictive than the current state social studies standards, which cover “the abolition of slavery” and the “civil rights movement” by Grade 3, and mention Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. as early as kindergarten.
In that survey, Owen also says he doesn’t currently know enough to make a decision about a number of important issues, including: sentences of life without parole, non-unanimous jury decisions, “housing barriers for people with criminal convictions,” the school-to-prison pipeline, prison gerrymandering, and publicizing juvenile court records.
Owen, who refers to himself as a “businessman” and “healthcare executive,” is the “executive manager” of the Center for Health Management in Gulfport, Mississippi, according to his campaign financial disclosure. That’s the medical practice of his father, Dr. Stanford Owen.
Summary: This race, like the majority(!) of Louisiana state House and Senate districts, has only Republicans running. Both are vocally conservative men. Reminder: while your ballot cannot be blank, you are not required to cast a vote on every ballot item for your overall vote to be counted.
J. Cameron Henry, Jr. (Republican)
Mary Anne Mushatt (Democrat)
This Senate district includes parts of St. Bernard, St. Tammany, and eastern Orleans parishes.
J. Cameron Henry is the incumbent in this race. He also served as a Republican member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, representing District 82 from 2008 to 2020. Despite his decades of experience in Louisiana state politics, his campaign website lacks any mention of any sort of campaign platform or plan.
Henry holds an MBA from Tulane and has worked in business consulting. According to an ethics disclosure form he filed for this election, Henry is the COO of Think NOLA LLC, a “strategic consulting company committed to providing high-quality services in the private and public sectors,” which seems to be some sort of job search program. He is also the owner of JCOM LLC, a network IT company that appears to be defunct (he reported it on his ethics disclosure form as an “empty llc”). Henry did not disclose his or his wife’s income on the disclosure forms; a 2018 article in the Bayou Brief reported that Henry claimed that he and his family lived off his salary as State Rep and their rental property in Jefferson Parish, though his wife is a lawyer and has a stake in her family’s restaurant (Domilise’s). Both his rental and family homes in Jefferson Parish are valued at over $100,000.
According to the same 2018 article in the Bayou Brief, Henry is alleged to have spent more money from campaign and personal PAC (CameronPAC) than any other legislator in 2017, including meals, rideshare, and entertainment. The report discussed in the article claims that Henry spent “[t]housands of dollars…on travel and airfare, thousands more on food and fine dining, and, of course, thousands on LSU football tickets.” Funds were spent on transporting motorcycles and high-end automobiles (more than $700) and to repair his campaign vehicle (another $2,600 of campaign and PAC funds). Henry also used these funds to pay for Uber trips, had 117 different line-items for food (covering everything from coffee to a nearly $900 meal catered by Galatoire’s), and 122 different line-items for travel (running the gamut from filling up his car’s gas tank to $1,400 plane tickets for a weekend trip, as well as, classically, a $682 night at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.).
Mary Anne Mushatt does not appear to have any prior experience in campaigning for or holding political office. She is an oral historian who has also worked in the past at Tulane University in administration and development. Her works as an oral historian are in the fixed collection at Tulane’s Amistad Center. As part of her MFA thesis at Tulane, she collected oral histories of residents along River Road, which were compiled into the documentary Lion’s Tale, which she wrote, directed, and produced. Mushatt is also a published author, with a series of Jane Austen fan fiction novels inspired by her love for Austen’s works (in particular, Pride and Prejudice).
Unlike J. Cameron Henry, Mushatt actually has a published campaign plan. In the introduction to her plan, she explicitly states she “believe[s] in science and expertise.” It should be noted that her husband, Dr. David Mushatt, is an infectious disease physician at Tulane University and was involved in the university’s COVID-19 response. In other words, unlike many political candidates this election, Mary Anne Mushatt is not a COVID denier or anti-vaxxer.
Also unlike many candidates, Mushatt not only completed her full ethics disclosure form, but also included documentation of both her and her husband’s joint investment holdings and financial transactions.
On her campaign website, Mushatt says that one of her reasons for running for office is because “…our state is so dangerous for women… women are being denied autonomy in determining their own fate, even though we are the most dangerous states for newborn survival.” Her Facebook page also includes several pro-choice posts. Her health care plan cites her concern about Louisiana’s abortion ban having no exceptions for rape and incest, with one of her goals being to introduce legislation to create these exceptions. To address maternal and infant mortality, she wants to implement funding for doulas to aid pre- and post-partum birthing parents for at least three months, and to both extend and fund midwives and nurse practitioners to continue care for patients who have given birth for more than six months postpartum.
Mushatt is a major proponent of funding for mental health services at all levels of the community, is an advocate for increasing the minimum wage to a living wage, and wants increased funding for education. As part of her crime plan, she does “support the police to train and retain officers to authorized, budgeted levels.”
Mushatt is a self-described community organizer and co-founded Alzheimer’s Services of the Crescent City (the organization does not currently have an active website). She is also very involved in human trafficking advocacy, working with the Greater New Orleans Human Trafficking Task Force. It is important to discuss that, though many human trafficking advocates engage in the work with best intentions, imprecise data drives much of this work, resulting in a focus on the very low threat of suburban children being trafficked, and increasing the marginalization of, and lack of resources for, people who are at risk. For more context, the podcast “You’re Wrong About” produced an informative episode on the myths around human trafficking.
Summary: J. Cameron Henry is the conservative incumbent who is alleged to have spent more campaign and personal PAC money than any other legislator in 2017. Mary Anne Mushatt is an oral historian with an actual campaign plan and is pro-choice.
Bryan Jefferson (Democrat)
Shaun Mena (Democrat)
Pearl Ricks (Democrat)
Tammy M. Savoie (Democrat)
The Louisiana House of Representatives consists of 105 members, and they are responsible for considering proposed laws, resolutions, constitutional amendments, as well as “appropriation of all funds for the operation of state government”—all bills that raise revenue must originate in the house of representatives. Representatives have four-year terms.
District 23 of the Louisiana House of Representatives includes the Mid-City, Bayou St. John, Hollygrove, Dixon, Gert Town, Tulane/Gravier, B.W. Cooper, and Fairgrounds neighborhoods.
Bryan Jefferson is a lifelong New Orleans resident, the son of a stevedore and nurse. He graduated high school from St. Augustine and went to law school at Loyola University. Jefferson is currently a personal injury attorney and partner at Foley, Lamy & Jefferson. According to the bio on his website, he is a charter member of the National Museum of African American History and Culture and also holds memberships at the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Audubon Nature Institute.
Jefferson’s campaign priorities are fairly standard: public safety, health care, job creation, infrastructure, education, and addressing the insurance crisis. His website doesn’t go into very much detail about any of these priorities, and there is no published plan (as of press time). Based on his website, he is of the opinion that providing more resources and training to law enforcement will make our communities safer (despite evidence that this just leads to an increase in misdemeanor arrests), but is also in favor of reducing health care costs and increased funding for public education.
In a survey from Voters Organized to Educate, Jefferson says he acknowledges many systemic issues, such as lack of mental health care, housing access for formerly incarcerated people, and lack of adequately paying jobs, but does not offer much insight there either as to how he would address them. In a survey from the League of Women Voters, Jefferson said he would vote to raise the minimum wage, raise teacher pay, and to enact exceptions for the abortion ban.
In short, his policies and outlook seem to be pretty middle-of-the-road liberal.
Shaun Mena is the son of Honduran immigrants and a lifelong resident of District 23. He is also the scion of a union family; his father was a member of the carpenters’ union and his mother a member of the teachers’ union. Mena received a favorable rating from the New Orleans AFL-CIO, as well as the endorsement of the United Teachers of New Orleans, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 527 union, and IWO New Orleans. He is an official candidate of the Democratic Party, as endorsed by the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee.
A personal injury attorney, he has his own private practice, the Mena Law Firm, that is advertised as “provid[ing] a bespoke client experience.” Prior to this, he worked as a legal claims reviewer, examining claims related to the Deepwater Horizon incident. Mena engaged in policy work before and during his legal education, including stints with Louisiana Housing Finance Agency (now Louisiana Housing Corporation) and the Louisiana Board of Regents, as a Policy Analyst for former Governor Kathleen Blanco, and as a legal intern for then-Senator Mary Landrieu in Washington, D.C. In other words, Mena clearly has had political, or at least policy, ambitions for years.
Mena does genuinely seem committed to District 23; he is engaged in several community organizations, including the Mid-City Rotary Club, Warren Easton Alumni Association, and Mid-City Neighborhood Association. His campaign website lists his priorities for District 23 as public safety, education, insurance reform, infrastructure, equity, and economic development, but does not offer any detail beyond that. In May, nola.com published a letter to the editor that he wrote, in which he argues that “ambition” is a solution to violent crime in New Orleans (“We can and should have the ambition to do better as a city”), though an actual plan is not outlined in that piece. Mena’s answers in a survey from Voters Organized to Educate are similarly lacking in detail.
Pearl Ricks is an artist, organizer, and activist with an extensive background in reproductive justice, mutual aid, community organizing, legislative advocacy, and issue education. They are the co-founder and current Executive Director of Reproductive Justice Action Collective, which provides access to reproductive justice education, resources (including Plan B), and opportunities for organizing under the reproductive justice framework.
Ricks is one of the only true progressive voices running for office in New Orleans (the other being, of course, Mandie Landry). They have lobbied and organized against harmful legislation in Baton Rouge for years, on behalf of people at risk of becoming pregnant and for poor, Black, and LGBTQ+ Louisianans, and have also spoken out at the national level. Ricks has hosted and produced podcasts, including the progressive New Orleans podcast This Is The Point.
Their campaign platform is detailed, and much more so than those of their opponents. Their answers to a survey by Voters Organized to Educate indicate a deeper understanding of the systemic issues they’re being asked about, and they reference specific legislation within their answers. Among the many issues they will advocate for are a total rollback of Louisiana’s abortion ban, LGBTQ+ non-discrimination policies, a $25 minimum wage, a worker’s bill of rights, and the development and implementation of a climate change reparations fund.
Tammy Savoie previously ran for Congress in November 2018. At that time, the ANTIGRAVITY voter guide reported that she wanted to train counselors and law enforcement on the possibility of marijuana legalization, based on the belief that this would lead to increased addiction, despite evidence to the contrary.
Savoie is a clinical psychologist and served in the Air Force in a clinical role. During her time with the Air Force, she did work with substance use disorder patients, which may explain her stance on drug use. In a Facebook page post made on August 31 in commemoration of Overdose Awareness Day, Savoie declared, “If elected, I vow to address this crisis head-on, with effective, evidence-based policies that support those who are struggling,” though what those policies might be is not clear.
She ran for 94th District Democratic State Central Committee in 2020 and, at that time, was for “increasing funds for education, opposing gerrymandering, improving infrastructure, and increasing the minimum wage (but only to $9).”
Savoie’s current campaign platform has her vowing to focus on issues such as affordable housing, gun policy reform, reproductive justice (she is pro-choice), livable wage (though what that wage might be is not noted), voters’ rights, and addressing the climate crisis (she is a member of the Sierra Club).
Her answers to the Voters Organized to Educate survey are more detailed than some other candidates in this race, where she states that her “number one budgetary and legislative priority is the environment” and that we must “move as quickly as possible to sustainable energy.”
Her campaign received a “favorable” rating from AFL-CIO.
Summary: Bryan Jefferson and Shaun Mena both offer fairly status quo, undetailed visions for the office. Tammy Savoie is a psychologist who is concerned with environmental issues, but has made questionable assessments of marijuana legalization. Pearl Ricks has given detailed understanding of the systemic issues plaguing Louisiana politics and has pointed to specific legislation that would help shape their political path.
Edward “Ed” Carlson (Democrat)
Mandie Landry (Democrat)
Madison O’Malley (Democrat)
District 91 of the Louisiana House of Representatives covers the Gert Town, Marlyville/Fontainebleau, Broadmoor, Hoffman Triangle, Central City, Milan, Touro, Garden District, Irish Channel, and Lower Garden District neighborhoods.
In a press release announcing Ed Carlson’s campaign he stresses his main priority—addiction. Carlson is the CEO of Odyssey House Louisiana, a “non-profit behavioral health care provider with an emphasis on addiction treatment” that has been side-eyed and criticized by members of other harm reduction workers in the city (for reasons including inadequate supply distribution from their much-publicized syringe service program and reports of stigma against people who use drugs) and has a 2.9 overall rating on Indeed.com, many of the reviews citing poor management.
In a podcast interview with councilmember JP Morrell, Carlson stated that he was compelled to run in recent months because of increasing concern for the toll the opioid epidemic has taken on the city. He also says that he believes marijuana should be legal and heavily taxed to pay for treatment. He also believes “nobody goes to treatment voluntarily” and that studies show the outcomes are the same if treatment is mandatory or voluntary, so why not make everybody go?
In addition to addiction and mental health prioritization, his campaign website lists education, economic opportunity, individual rights, rising insurance costs, and coastal restoration and disaster preparedness as his focuses for office. All of his policies seem as though they will be heavily shaped by his background in addiction and mental health services.
The heftiest platform point on his website is on the page called “Crime Reduction Plan.” In a paper titled “Crime Reduction Through Substance Use Disorder Treatment: A Plan for New Orleans,” Carlson links addiction to crime, and says there are “multiple avenues to tackle substance misuse: prevention services, treatment programs (including detox, residential treatment and outpatient services), the criminal justice system through police and courts, and the larger community as a whole.” The plan acknowledges the limitations of police in the role of drug-related issues, though does still include them as a crucial part of the process with an emphasis on crime resulting from drug use. The plan also mentions “New Orleans’ deplorable criminal problem” and how “the criminal justice and treatment systems can optimize resources to benefit the health, safety, and well-being of individuals and the communities they serve.” His plan also says that mandatory treatment is more effective than voluntary treatment, which is a coercive way of looking at health treatment that is not necessarily backed by research. A systematic review examining the effectiveness of mandatory drug treatment found that mandatory drug treatment is not effective in promoting abstinence from drug use or reducing crime. Mandatory drug treatment has also been found to significantly increase the odds of non-fatal overdose after release by almost two-fold. The fact is, if people are not ready for treatment, these programs will not be effective and will place them at higher risk for overdose after release, as their tolerance will be reduced.
Carlson’s salary from Odyssey House is $330,000 per year, which is a large sum of money from a company that receives such significant grant money for harm reduction services not granted to smaller organizations. Ethics report filings show that Carlson owns two rental properties, 50% ownership of a French Quarter condo, as well as a “property used for creative and storage space.” This property was sold to Odyssey House from the City in 2007, transferred to another organization affiliated with Carlson, turned into art studios, then transferred to Carlson directly. His campaign finance report reveals nearly $6,000 in contributions and about $7,500 of his own money.
It’s difficult to ignore Mandie Landry and the voice she’s had in the state legislature. She comes from a union family and has been an attorney for almost 20 years and has represented “an abortion clinic, a fertility clinic, and minors seeking permission from the court to have an abortion (pro bono).”
Landry has been a vocal critic of both Republicans and Democrats in the state, going so far as to temporarily break from the Democrats and register as an Independent, citing failures of party leadership, specifically Party Chair Katie Bernhardt. Landry has since rejoined the party before April’s legislative session where she said it would be “all hands on deck.”
Landry recognizes the failures of the state government. She put forth a bill that would have allowed constituents to present ballot initiatives directly. The bill was shot down by seven Republican lawmakers. Other bills she sponsored that were shot down included a bill to term limit sheriffs and a bill to decriminalize sex work. When being interviewed by Voters Organized to Educate, Landry spoke of the difficulties she had in the legislature trying to pass a bill to end co-pays in prison. In a survey put out by Voters Organized to Educate from her state senatorial run, Landry said she has been a “longtime supporter of decrim of drugs and sex work. I DO think we need to continue to have strict regulation (or at least, oversight) of most pharmaceuticals because of what we saw happen with the Sackler family and opioids.” In the same survey she said the money bail system is “atrocious” and that she’s in favor of raising the minimum wage to at least $15 per hour. She has advocated to expand Medicaid, raise the minimum wage, preserve the coast, and supports rent control. Landry has earned a 19% scorecard from Louisiana Right to Life.
In a more successful bipartisan bid, Landry was able to pass a $500 tax incentive for firearm safety purchases. She also authored the bill removing the requirement for a property to be declared blighted in order for criminal charges to be brought against a negligent landlord, and made the first change to solitary confinement laws in over 100 years, which would prohibit someone who is pregnant or who has just had a child from being put in solitary confinement.
In her recent bid for a Louisiana Senate seat, opponent Royce Duplessis criticized Landry for voting against a redistricting effort that would have created a new Black-majority seat in northwest Louisiana. According to nola.com, Landry in response claimed that she was being “consistent with an unwritten agreement among House members not to create an unwinnable district for a legislator who was planning to run for re-election.”
During the past legislative session when the rights of trans youth were under aggressive attack, Landry was a vocal opponent. She recently went on the podcast William Wallis for America, a conservative-leaning podcast, and said that reproductive and maternal health and gun safety classes are some of her focuses for her next term.
Voter education seems to be a priority of Landry’s as well. She is extremely active on social media, breaking down how the legislature functions, as well as educating voters on how to research their candidates and the funds they’re raising. New Orleans DSA, who also takes seriously the importance of voter education, recently made their “first ever #lalege endorsement” for Mandie Landry.
Madison O’Malley loaned herself $127,500 to run for this race. According to her ethics filings, O’Malley is a health care consultant who makes between $25,000 and $100,000 per year. Her campaign finance reports also reveal more than $15,000 from her fiancé and his family (the Corley family are big donors), as well as $2,500 from Republican Lane Grigsby, who is known as a mega-donor with a heavy influence on Louisiana politics.
She is endorsed by OPREC, “Official Arm of the GOP Republican Party in Orleans Parish,” as well as GNOR PAC, a “Political Action Committee for SE Louisiana Republicans aged 35 to 55.” However, she is also the “only candidate endorsed by the Democratic Party.” On Talk Louisiana, when asked if she takes issue with her opponent Mandie Landry’s track record, she says that Landry has “never proposed a bill that has directly affected our property damage crisis.” While rising insurance policies are of great concern to Louisiana residents, it raises eyebrows when the biggest concerns of a candidate are matters of property.
Her campaign website says that she will work to create tuition-free community college and work to restore abortion access, but many of the issues on the page lack concrete vision. While O’Malley has attempted to brand herself as a Democratic voice in this election, her endorsements and donations speak louder than her campaign rhetoric.
Summary: Ed Carlson, CEO of Odyssey House, is concerned with addiction but raises suspicion in his approach. Madison O’Malley, despite being registered as a Democrat, has received money and endorsements from multiple Republicans and Republican entities. Mandie Landry is a vocal and tireless proponent for the most vulnerable of her constituents.
Stephanie Hilferty (Republican)
Charles E. Marsala (Republican)
District 94 covers much of Lakeview, Lakeshore – Lake Vista, City Park, Navarre, Lakewood, West End, and parts of Metairie, like the Bucktown and Bonnabel Place neighborhoods.
Stephanie Hilferty describes herself as a “portrait of grace in motion.” She is a commercial real estate agent and the incumbent in this race, holding the seat since 2016. When she ran for this seat before we described her voting record as “despicable.” Hilferty has voted against sanctuary cities, against the ban the box initiative, in favor of the “heartbeat” bill, in favor of a law that automatically classifies 17-year-old defendants as adults, in favor of a bill that prohibits school teachers and employees from using a student’s preferred pronouns, and in favor of Bible study in public schools. She has a 100% scorecard from Louisiana Right to Life and currently sits on the House Select Committee on Women and Children.
According to campaign finance reporting, Hilferty has garnered donations from a sizable number of PACs, including the New Orleans Hospitality Coalition PAC, Louisiana Nursing Home PAC, Louisiana Charter Schools in Action PAC, Create Film Jobs PAC, Louisiana AGC Construction Industry PAC, and more. Her campaign website says she has been endorsed by GNOR, International Association of Fire Fighters, OPREC, and more.
Charles E. Marsala is a proud Italian American and staunch Confederate monument defender. Marsala runs the Marsala Cultural Fund and was, according to MaCCNO, on Mayor Cantrell’s “now defunct all-white ‘monument advisory committee,’” wrote a book about monuments, is president of the American-Italian Federation of the Southeast, produces a WGNO show titled “Celebrating Culture,” helped get an elephant statue erected in Kenner, was the mayor of Atherton, California, and has worked as a sales manager and as an offshore drilling engineer.
As president of the American-Italian Federation of the Southeast, Marsala sued the City to get them to call what was Lee Circle Tivoli Circle again, after removing the Lee naming but before deciding on a new name. The case was thrown out at Marsala’s expense, after the City called it “frivolous” and argued there was no controversy the Tivoli name was in place, stating “The Code of Civil Procedure would not require that the Court’s resources be wasted on a suit for declaratory judgment decreeing that the sky is blue or that the name of this city is New Orleans.”
In an article he wrote for The Hayride, Marsala said the “Marxists and Orwellians were able to defeat the Louisiana Guard without firing a shot” in regards to renaming efforts of Confederate monuments.
While on the City Council in Atherton—recently dubbed “Silicon Valley’s Poshest Town” by The New York Times—he was involved in a controversy when he asked to borrow $500,000 from someone who was preparing to sue the town over an allegedly false arrest, then voted against a police oversight committee the person supported. The City attorney said that Marsala had not committed a crime.
Marsala has advocated against West End Lakeshore Park to be used for purposes of economic development, which would convert public green space into housing and businesses. Why is Marsala against this, you might ask? He “believes this will add to crime in District #94 as his car was stolen in the Fall of 2002, his neighbor’s boat stolen Easter Sunday.”
When it comes to voting, Marsala believes that “in person voting provides for better election integrity” as opposed to “mail-in ballot harvesting,” and that people who haven’t voted in two years should be removed from voting registries and forced to re-register. He does seem concerned with coastal restoration and harmful algal blooms.
SUMMARY: Neither of these are great. Hilferty has a proven and deplorable voting record. Marsala is a Confederate monument defender and enthusiast. Reminder: while your ballot cannot be blank, you are not required to cast a vote on every ballot item for your overall vote to be counted.
Jacob Braud (Republican)
Joanna Cappiello-Leopold (Democrat)
Mack Cormier (Democrat)
Donald “Don” Vallee (Republican)
District 105 of the Louisiana House of Representatives covers the entirety of Plaquemines Parish and parts of Orleans and Jefferson parishes on the Westbank.
Republican Jacob Braud is a lawyer who has represented clients ranging from people affected by the Deepwater Horizon disaster to big companies like Walmart and Best Buy. He’s also worked on real estate matters, including some big Plaquemines Parish residential subdivisions and the Jesuit Bend Wetland Mitigation Bank marsh restoration project, and has his own title company.
The most detailed pledges of his campaign involve specific road projects in Plaquemines Parish he wants to see completed. Braud also expresses an interest in taking on coastal restoration, health care outcomes, crime prevention, and insurance costs, but his plans there are far less specific. “My background includes representing insurance companies and policy holders,” he writes, for example. “I will put my experience and knowledge to work for you.” But how, we wonder?
He thankfully seems to avoid the explicit anti-LGBTQ+ bigotry and general paranoia that afflict many of his partymates, but it remains to be seen how he’d vote on many social and personal freedom issues, and his party affiliation naturally makes us less than optimistic.
Self-identified “conservative Democrat” Joanna Cappiello-Leopold previously ran for state Senate in a 2021 special election, losing to Gary Carter Jr. Carter’s running for that seat unopposed this year, and Cappiello-Leopold is running for this seat, which was once held by her husband Chris Leopold, who lost it to incumbent Mack Cormier in 2019.
Chris Leopold held office as a Republican, and some of Cappiello-Leopold’s beliefs suggest she has a lot in common with that party. “The breakdown of the nuclear family, the lack of boundaries, the absence of God in the classroom & the so called defunding police has not played well for our society,” she posted on Facebook last year, though that didn’t keep her from being endorsed by the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee.
More practically, Cappiello-Leopold vows to push for state and federal funding for the district, to create jobs and job training programs, to work to protect shrimpers and fishers, and to work with sheriffs and DAs “to strengthen laws to fight crime and protect victims.”
She also supports a higher minimum wage and legislation to address the gender pay gap and vows to work with the commissioner of insurance to address homeowners’ insurance rates.
As mentioned above, incumbent Democrat Mack Cormier defeated Republican Chris Leopold for this office in 2019. He also ran unsuccessfully in 2021 for the state Senate seat now held by Gary Carter Jr., and his father and brother both held office as Plaquemines Parish president.
He is also a former teacher, “former little league coach” and an “inner city youth mentor and coach,” he told the League of Women Voters.
In his Senate run, Cormier called himself a “Pro-Life, Pro-Second Amendment, Pro-Religious Freedom Democrat.” This year, he repeatedly voted with Republicans seeking to overturn Gov. John Bel Edwards’ vetoes of right-wing bills targeting LGBTQ+ people, including: an anti-trans bill that would have required teachers to get parental permission to use names and pronouns that don’t match student records, a Don’t Say Gay bill that would have severely restricted teacher discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms and even extracurriculars for grades K-12, and a bill that passed over the governor’s veto to restrict gender affirming care for minors.
Cormier says he does support laws tackling the gender pay gap, teacher pay raises, “insurance transparency and fairness” and “paid family medical leave.” He wants to gradually raise the minimum wage “so as not to shock/put small companies out of business.”
Does Cormier realize the acronym “FJB” on the sign he’s holding at this shrimp industry rally stands for the opposing party’s slogan “Fuck Joe Biden?” Judging by his recent votes in the legislature, it’s quite possible.
Republican landlord Don Vallee has for years appeared sporadically in the Louisiana press as the head of variously named New Orleans landlord associations. He also ran for New Orleans City Council in 2012, though he dropped out after several of his properties, including a Belle Chasse gun club, were damaged by Hurricane Isaac. “He admitted his campaign never really got off the ground,” the Times-Picayune reported at the time.
Now, he doesn’t seem to have much of a campaign presence in this race, though he occasionally comments on Plaquemines Parish issues on Facebook and sits on the Plaquemines Parish Tourism Commission board. He’s still active in real estate, it appears: His financial disclosure form lists 20 properties in Orleans Parish, many in New Orleans East, and claims he makes more than $100,000 per year in “Social Security + Rental Income.”
SUMMARY: There’s no great candidate in this race. Two conservative Democrats, including one, Mack Cormier, who’s crossed party lines to vote against LGBTQ+ rights, and two Republicans who’ve been silent on many issues. Capiello-Leopold, at the bare minimum, doesn’t have a proven conservative voting record.
Judge Criminal District Court
Leon Roché (Democrat)
Melanie Talia (Democrat)
Defense attorney Leon Roché’s name may seem familiar—that’s probably because he unsuccessfully ran for another criminal court judgeship in the spring, losing by less than a percentage point to Simone Levine. He worked for 13 years with the Orleans Public Defenders before starting his own private defense practice, and says the experience taught him to work with both defendants and victims.
Roché says he’ll ensure accountability for violent criminals, hold parties “to the highest ethical standards around evidence to ensure those convicted are not wrongfully convicted,” seek alternative sentences for nonviolent crimes, and work with organizations on services to reduce recidivism.
Roché has also expressed concerns about convictions based on a single witness’ testimony and about the use of questionable forensic science in court, according to the March 25 DSA voter guide.
He wants to keep Zoom in place for court proceedings to ensure public accessibility and reduce how often people have to physically come to court, and wants to institute e-filing for matters before the court. In his last run, he said voters say they’re ready for a change in the courts. “They are tired of the same old, same old,” he said then.
Melanie Talia is the longtime head of the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation (NOPJF), which raises money to support the police. It also operates various City-funded, police-related programs, including the SafeCam program that gives police access to feeds from privately-owned surveillance cameras and, at times, aspects of police recruiting. She gets paid more than $130,000 from the NOPJF, according to the foundation’s most recent publicly available IRS filing.
Not surprisingly, she sees policing as the answer to crime. “Crime is not a problem without a solution,” she said in July 2022. “Every day across the city of New Orleans, people are saying we want to see more police, we want to see more patrols.”
Like Roché, Talia has advocated for electronic court filing and an efficiently-run courtroom. In her case, efficiency seems to mean getting people to jail faster, and removing “from the community” the “most violent offenders who drive so much of our crime,” according to the Times-Picayune.
As PAC for Justice reminds us, Talia drew attention in a 2022 City Council meeting saying that “If we remove 9 or 10% [of people] from our community, we will have a safer community.” It’s a remarkable and scary statement since that would mean an extraordinarily high incarceration rate: Louisiana’s current rate, among the highest on the planet, hovers around 1%.
Talia has since seemingly backed away from that estimate, saying in a WDSU debate that she was referring to 300 to 400 people—”if we could incapacitate and/or remove from the street with supervision that 300 to 400 people, we would have a much safer community, and that number is one tenth of 1 percent of our population, not 10 percent” she said in the debate—though she used the “9 or 10%” figure multiple times during her City Council testimony. It also remains unclear what it would mean for the legal system to “incapacitate” someone, an unusual and disturbing term in this context.
In a League of Women Voters survey, Talia also said she’d seek alternatives to incarceration. “While incarceration serves a critical role by incapacitating dangerous offenders, prison is not the solution for every offender,” she said. “For non-violent, low risk offenders, incarceration can detract from public safety and contribute to recidivism; hence, non-violent offenders who may safely be supervised in the community will be.”
Her endorsements include the New Orleans Fraternal Order of Police and the Greater New Orleans Republicans.
SUMMARY: Leon Roché is an experienced defense attorney who promises to heed the interests of defendants and victims. Melanie Talia has spent recent years organizing for NOPD, not in a courtroom, and despite recent comments seems far too focused on policing and punishment.
Amendments & Propositions
CA No. 1 (ACT 200, 2023 – HB 311) – Prohibits the use of private funds in the administration of elections.
Do you support an amendment to prohibit the use of funds, goods, or services from a foreign government or a nongovernmental source to conduct elections and election functions and duties unless the use is authorized by the secretary of state through policies established in accordance with law? (Adds Article XI, Section 6)
Amendment 1 (House Bill 311) would provide in the state constitution that “no funds, goods, or services donated by a foreign government or a nongovernmental source shall be used to conduct elections” unless approved by the Louisiana secretary of state and if that use is allowed by law. Amendment 1 threatens to suppress voters by invoking xenophobia, rooted in the false belief that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Trump.
In October 2020, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg donated $350 million to the Chicago-based nonprofit Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) to disburse funds to local offices who apply to replace old voting equipment and improve pay for election workers. This sparked controversy among conservatives and news outlets calling Zuckerburg’s actions a “targeted, private takeover of government election operations” and supporters of the bill have strung that “stolen election” theory to Louisiana. However, Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, a Republican, encouraged local registrars and court clerks to apply for the grants to help fund parish election administrations, which are generally underfunded. But the clerks ultimately turned down grant awards in apprehension of mailed warnings sent by Republican gubernatorial candidate Attorney General Jeff Landry, who also filed a lawsuit against CTCL claiming a “corrupting effect” on the voting process.
Amendment 1 follows the trend of 24 other GOP states that have enacted similar legislation in the past two years, during which Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed similar bills from Republican State Representative Blake Miguez. Edwards critiqued one of these bills in his veto letter, mentioning “overheated rhetoric,” the problem the bill presents for staffing future elections, and the hypocrisy to restrict money to local election offices but allow free use of any money, such as large donations, for the Legislature. Amendment 1 reflects the same issues, but the Republican supermajority pushed the amendment directly to the ballot, circumventing the governor.
From its proponents, the proposed amendment aims to reinforce the need for a better legislative budgeting process, and to avoid using donations as a band-aid solution to the administrative burdens election offices often face. However, philanthropic funding can be particularly useful after public emergencies or disasters, and a process for accepting donations with integrity is certainly possible. Barring the potential resources may leave administrations without many options.
Summary: Vote “No” on Amendment 1.
CA No. 2 (ACT 30, 2023 – SB 63) – Provides that the freedom of worship is a fundamental right worthy of the highest protection.
Do you support an amendment to provide that the freedom of worship in a church or other place of worship is a fundamental right that is worthy of the highest order of protection? (Adds Const. Article XII, Section 17)
Amendment 2 (Senate Bill 63) adds that “the freedom to worship in a church or other place of worship is a fundamental right that is worthy of the highest order of protection.” The Louisiana Constitution already guarantees the free exercise of religion (as does the United States Constitution), but this amendment specifically states that courts may apply the legal standard of “strict scrutiny” against a “state or local government body or official” to protect this fundamental right.
This language is highly concerning for its vague use of “highest order” and potential impact on public health and safety. Senator Beth Mizell, a Republican, authored the legislation to be aimed at protecting church gatherings from restrictions such as the stay-at-home mandates that were enacted, and later loosened, by Gov. John Bel Edwards in March 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This bill is yet another piece of legislation meant to corral constituent support, while opening the door for possible endangerment of said constituents to future public health emergencies.
Summary: Vote “No” on Amendment 2.
CA No. 3 (ACT 107, 2023 – HB 47) – Dedicates certain payments to be applied to the state retirement system unfunded accrued liability.
Do you support an amendment to require that a minimum of twenty-five percent of any money designated as nonrecurring state revenue be applied toward the balance of the unfunded accrued liability of the state retirement systems? (Amends Article VII, Section 10(D)(2)(b)(ii) and (iii))
Amendment 3 (House Bill 47) would increase the minimum payment amount to eliminate unfunded accrued liability from 10% to 25%.
Louisiana has 13 statewide retirement systems, providing state-required retirement pensions for teachers, district attorneys, state police, firefighters, and other civil offices and agencies. Part of the state’s non-recurring revenue (surplus) is used to pay off unfunded accrued liability (UAL), which is in simple terms “the debt the state owes to the state retirement systems.” The surplus budget is used to deposit into the state’s rainy day fund, to pay for the state’s UAL, defeasance of bonds, funding capital outlay, coastal protection, and highway construction projects.
As of 2022, Louisiana was operating on a $17 billion UAL according to a fiscal note provided by the legislative fiscal office. Out of the four retirement systems, 10% of the state budget surplus must pay toward the two systems with the largest retirement debt, the Teachers of Louisiana system and the Louisiana State Employees system. Constitutionally, the UAL that’s been in place since 1988 must be paid off by 2029; however, this amendment effectively removes that deadline and would broaden the surplus allocation to the much smaller debts of the remaining two retirement systems, the Louisiana State Police Retirement System and the Louisiana School Employee’s Retirement System.
In the 2024 executive budget overview, $72.7 million, 10% of the surplus budget, was used to pay the teacher and state employees retirement UAL for the 2022 fiscal year; $181.6 million (25%) went to the rainy day fund, and the remaining $474.2 million (65%) was evenly split among the Department of Transportation and Development, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, and capital outlay deferred maintenance. If Amendment 3 were in place, it would enforce a $182 million payment to all four retirement systems, leaving about $364 million for other spending priorities.
The minimum payment amount toward retirement UAL started in 2013 at 5%, then rose to 10% in 2015. Increasing the state budget surplus allocation toward UAL to 25% will help pay down this debt amount over time, eventually freeing up the budget to be spent elsewhere while also better guaranteeing paid pensions to retired workers. However, Amendment 3 would significantly reduce funding from a multibillion dollar backlog of coastal protection and infrastructure projects, limiting how much lawmakers can allocate to these critical areas. The increase is a jump and the cut of costs can cause drastic budgeting effects.
Summary: Vote “No” on Amendment 3.
CA No. 4 (ACT 48, 2023 – HB 46) – Restricts ad valorem tax exemptions for certain nonprofit organizations.
Do you support an amendment to deny a property tax exemption to a nonprofit corporation or association that owns residential property in such a state of disrepair that it endangers public health or safety? (Amends Article VII, Section 21(B))
Amendment 4 (House Bill 46) would prevent a nonprofit organization from receiving a property tax exemption if the property it owned is in such disrepair that it is a risk to public health and safety. The proposed amendment, introduced by New Orleans State Representative Jason Hughes and backed by City Councilmember Helena Moreno, comes after reports by Fox 8 that a Tennessee-based nonprofit that owns The Willows apartments in New Orleans East and The Bellemont in Metairie failed to maintain them and address issues like mold and termites, making them unsafe for residents. The tenants of The Willows have sued the nonprofit this April, with representation from the Housing Authority of New Orleans, on the grounds of uninhabitable conditions due to mold, water damage, pest infestation, and failing infrastructure.
Louisiana’s nonprofit property tax exemption is unusually broad, covering even commercial properties not related to nonprofits’ missions and including about 4,400 properties worth about $3.9 billion in New Orleans, according to a 2021 estimate. If Amendment 4 passes, the City would have some authority to deny or revoke this nonprofit property tax exemption. Irresponsible landlords of leased properties who are guilty of three or more health safety code violations within the past year won’t be able to take advantage of the tax breaks, so that property taxes can be collected on these properties until conditions are remedied.
The city is still getting its code enforcement fleet operational, so there may be uncertainty about how effective code violations would be processed and remedied. The amendment utilizes the property tax system to keep careless landlords accountable and rewards properties that invest in clean, livable housing. Any concerted effort to push landlords to ensure safe housing is worthwhile for residents who’ve suffered enough.
Summary: Vote “Yes” on Amendment 4.
PW HRC Amendment Prop. No. 1 of 2 – Art. VI, Sec. 6-102 & 6-104 – CC
Shall Article VI, Sections 6-102 and 6-104 of the Home Rule Charter of the City of New Orleans be amended to move up the deadline by which the City Planning Commission must submit a capital program to the Mayor; and by which the operating budget, the proposed revenue and operating budget ordinances, the capital program as prepared by the City Planning Commission, the Mayor’s capital budget message, and the proposed capital budget ordinance must be submitted to the Council by thirty days so that the Council may have additional time to conduct public hearings and to receive input on budget matters, as provided in Ordinance No. 29370 M.C.S.?
Every year, the mayor creates a draft of the City budget for the City Council to review, ask questions, and approve by December 1. Parishwide Home Rule Charter Amendment Proposition 1 would extend the deliberation period for the City Council by one month, effectively moving the deadline for the mayor to submit a budget draft to October 1, instead of November 1. The proposition asks for this extended period for “additional time to conduct public hearings and to receive input on budget matters.”
This extension gives the council more time to ask in-depth questions and for the City administration to adequately respond. Normally, this would be done with the Thanksgiving holiday interrupting the deliberation process midway through, which really gives the council two-and-a-half weeks to scrutinize the mayor’s proposal, as expressed by author Councilmember Joe Giarrusso. He hopes the extra month will provide opportunities to the public to stay updated and engaged with the process through community meetings and hearings, such as the 2022 budget hearing we covered.
The caveat is that the City’s administration still has room left to improve to make hearings more accessible to the public, such as making meetings more focused and providing additional days for residents and council members to review and ingest changes to the draft. Ultimately, the additional month allows for a thorough and deliberate review of the City’s budget and prompts accountability and transparency between the public and municipal government.
Summary: Vote “Yes” on Charter Amendment 1.
PW HRC Amendment Prop. No. 2 of 2 – Art. IV, Sec. 4-702 & 4-801 – CC
Shall the Home Rule Charter of the City of New Orleans be amended to establish the Department of Code Enforcement to inspect substandard property and authorize demolition or remediation of property hazardous to the public health, safety, and welfare, and to enforce laws and regulations for maintaining streets, vacant lots, and other places free from weeds, trash, and deleterious matter, thereby reassigning such functions from the Departments of Safety and Permits and Sanitation to the Department of Code Enforcement, as provided in Ordinance No. 29371 M.C.S.?
Parishwide Home Rule Charter Amendment Proposition 2 seeks to formalize a disparate City “division of code enforcement” into a newly-established Department of Code Enforcement for New Orleans. Outlined in the proposition are the department’s responsibilities, which include property inspection, demolition, and code regulation for the purpose of promoting public health and safety. It would become the City’s main agency for addressing blight, a prominent focus of Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration.
Studies on blight have tied its eradication to improved quality of life and lower violent crime rates, something Mayor Cantrell has centered in her approach to reduce crime. Local business owners and neighbors themselves have expressed the need to address the overgrown and infested buildings that leave sore spots in their neighborhoods. Having a dedicated department would improve the responsiveness to reports of hazardous properties and the accountability of funding the fight against blight. This fiscal year’s budget includes $20.9 million for “blight remediation and beautification,” which was spread across four different departments with staff of varying code enforcement responsibilities. The flow of that money is still unclear to Councilmember Joe Giarrusso, who also authored this proposition. He said having a single department dedicated to code enforcement would make monitoring the department’s spending more transparent.
This proposed Department of Code Enforcement would likely be led by current Deputy Chief of Administration Thomas Mulligan, who has been in charge of the City’s anti-blight operations since 2021. Nicknamed the City’s “blight czar,” Mulligan was successful in lobbying a hefty fine on the owner of the abandoned Plaza Tower to compensate for lost parking meter fees. Since 2019, Thomas has greenlit the demolition of 326 properties considered as emergent hazards based on a risk assessment. However, remediating blight is not just leveling plots of land but having a plan for what to do with the empty lots afterwards. Both residents and experts have concerns with what happens to these vacancies, which would offer the Department of Code Enforcement an opportunity to engage and involve the community to plan remediation.
But even when owners wish to address their property’s violations, the City can threaten seizure of the property if the owner isn’t able to make adequate progress over a course of inspections and hearings. There are certainly risks of having a department that has authority to fine and cite property owners in low-income neighborhoods, which have a higher presence of blight. Without a clear development and upkeep support plan for the community, these neighborhoods are susceptible to invasive City planning projects and systemic gentrification. Having an established department provides the public with options of community feedback and accountability.
Charter Amendment 2 does further its case being alongside Constitutional Amendment 4, which proposes to incorporate penalties against landlords that accrue multiple housing code violations that impact tenants’ health and safety. The responsibility would fall on the Department of Code Enforcement to enforce this, as well as a portion of the Healthy Homes law passed last year. Voters have a unique opportunity to establish the department that would enforce these propositions.
Summary: Vote “Yes” for Charter Amendment 2, but with a sense of vigilance.
PW School Board Proposition – 4.97 Mills Renewal – SB – 20 Yrs.
Shall the Orleans Parish School Board (the “School Board”) renew the levy and collection of a tax of four and ninety-seven hundredths (4.97) mills on the dollar of the assessed valuation of property within the City of New Orleans assessed for City Taxation, (an estimated $20,450,000 reasonably expected at this time to be collected from the levy of the tax for an entire year), for a period of twenty (20) years, beginning in 2025, for the purpose of preservation, improvement and capital repairs of all existing public school facilities, to be levied and collected in the same manner as is set forth in Article VIII, Section 13(C)(Second) of the Louisiana Constitution of 1974?
The Parishwide School Board Proposition asks voters to renew a property tax levy that will supply an estimated $20.5 million to the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB), specifically to be used for the repair and upkeep of all public school facilities. The OPSB governs New Orleans Public Schools (the District), the school district responsible for the recurring maintenance of over 75 school campuses funded through the School Facilities Preservation Program, a governing law that determines how tax revenue is allocated to each school.
The Preservation Program was enacted into law in 2014 with the purpose of capturing revenue, managing investments, and fairly allocating funds across all school facilities to ensure the $2 billion federal investment in post-Katrina facilities were not lost. The program arms the District with agreed-upon criteria that determines fair distribution of funds, prioritizing schools built prior to Hurricane Katrina that haven’t seen renovations since. Officials and advocates have acknowledged that the funding system isn’t perfect, but it keeps politics out of decision making and refrains from overallocating well-connected schools. According to the Bureau of Governmental Research, the District already has a comprehensive plan to determine tax revenue allocations based on each school’s capital needs.
In December 2014, voters approved a similar 10-year property tax to fund the Preservation Program. The tax generates more than half of the Preservation Program’s annual revenue, accompanied by a portion of the OPSB’s 1.5% sales tax. Without this property tax revenue, the District has no alternative funding mechanisms to replace the tax without creating significant gaps to address priority concerns, like modernizing building infrastructure, upgrading doorways and windows, and replacing electrical and plumbing works.
The renewal proposes a longer 20-year term to provide stable financial footing so the District can shift focus on financial threats like rising insurance rates and the looming “capital bubble” where post-Katrina facilities will all soon require extensive repairs and replacements at the same time. There are still ongoing developments with the District’s plans for school closures and consolidation due to sinking enrollment rates and divestment of abandoned properties too old to fix. Therefore, the tax revenue levied by this proposition may or may not fulfill the District’s funding immediate needs. However, the 20-year period allows the District the flexibility to invest the revenue in long-term bonds for sustainability.
The bottom line here is that there’s lots of impending financial concerns for the Orleans Parish School Board and the New Orleans Public Schools to address and they won’t come close to resolving those matters without a necessary revenue stream.
Summary: Vote “Yes” for the School Board Proposition.
Lake Willow Subdivision Imp. Dist. – $300 Parcel Fee – CC – 3 Yrs.
Shall the City of New Orleans levy an annual $300 fee for each improved parcel of land within the Lake Willow Subdivision Improvement District (the “District”), which is comprised of that area within the following boundaries: Morrison Road on the north, the Lawrence Drainage Canal on the west, the I-10 Service Road on the south, and on the east by a line approximately two hundred feet west of the west line of Crowder Road, excluding Lots 1B, 1C, and 1D shown on said plan, which said plan of subdivision is registered in COB692, folio202, Orleans Parish, comprising all of the Lake Willow Subdivision, for a period of and not exceeding three (3) years, beginning January 1, 2024 and ending December 31, 2026, which fee is estimated to generate approximately $52,200 annually, to be used exclusively for the purpose of promoting and encouraging the beautification, security, and overall betterment of the District, except a 1% City collection fee, and if used for additional law enforcement or security personnel and their services, such personnel and services shall be supplemental to and not in lieu of personnel and services provided by the New Orleans Police Department?
The Lake Willow Subdivision Improvement District provides security patrols in its section of New Orleans East, bordered by Morrison Road on the north, the Lawrence Drainage Canal on the west, the I-10 Service Road on the south, and on the east by a line slightly west of Crowder Road.
While it legally can also spend funds on other services like neighborhood “beautification,” its financial documents show it focuses almost exclusively on security: In 2022, it spent $40,812 in total, including $37,212 on security, plus another $1,000 on accounting and $2,600 on insurance.
As we’ve said before, including about this very district, data is generally scarce about what these types of privatized security patrols (often staffed by off-duty cops from other agencies) do and even whether they’re effective at reducing crime. One study from a decade ago by the City’s Office of Inspector General found such districts do seem to have lower rates of property crime but no significant difference in violent crime or murder rates.
“Evaluators also examined crime trends before and after the formation of five new security districts and found no clear trends… Furthermore, security districts were only available to those able to pay additional taxes for increased services, which raises the question of whether public safety should be treated as a private good at the neighborhood level, or as a public good at the city-wide level,” the OIG warned at the time.
And as The Lens pointed out in a May story about officers from another security district facing a lawsuit after allegedly racially profiling, stopping, and pulling guns on young Black males looking for a lost dog, the districts generally aren’t bound by the federal consent decree designed to rein in NOPD. According to court documents, the officers in that case allegedly justified the stop in part by pointing out that the BMW the young men were traveling in was registered in New Orleans East, far from the Uptown neighborhood where they were stopped. This only reinforces concerns that the districts function, in part, to enforce neighborhood boundaries and segregation. A federal judge in September found the officers didn’t violate the young men’s rights: “In all, this Court concludes that, in light of the totality of the circumstances, it was reasonable for Defendants to point their guns at the car as they conducted a Terry stop late at night, in light of the totality of the circumstances that existed at the time,” the judge wrote.
SUMMARY: Say no to privatized police.
The deadline to request a mail ballot is October 10 by 4:30 p.m (other than military and overseas voters).
The deadline for the registrar of voters to receive a mail ballot is October 13 by 4:30 p.m. (other than military and overseas voters).
Early voting for this election begins on September 30 and ends on October 7, (excluding Sunday, October 1) from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday election voting hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
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