This voter education guide is published primarily as a resource and does not constitute an endorsement of any candidate or proposition by ANTIGRAVITY Magazine.
Welcome, readers, to the ANTIGRAVITY voter education guide for the April 24 election. This is the run-off election to become U.S. Representative of the 2nd Congressional District, following a crowded primary in March. Residents of the French Quarter will also vote on a ballot item asking for more police funding.
Since 2014, we have lovingly crafted and published voter guides as a service to our readers, first in collaboration with the New Orleans Harm Reduction Network, then separating to work under the ANTIGRAVITY banner. Our most consistent position through all the years? That no aspiring politician has earned our endorsement. We vote for who we most want as our opponents.
We are releasing this voter guide during early voting per the demands of our readers. Though early voting commenced on April 10, final financial disclosures were not due from the candidates until April 12. We felt diligence outweighed the two-day delay. Even still, news relevant to this ballot, worthy of consideration, will continue to break. It is not feasible for us to keep updating this guide (we have this little side project called ANTIGRAVITY Magazine, check it out). We encourage you to keep yourself informed. ProPublica Nonprofit Explorer is a tremendous tool. Vet your media sources. Blogs can masquerade as valid news sources, when in reality they may have unclear missions and no editorial oversight. You’re stuck with the Georges media group, but thankfully we also have The Lens.
This guide was created by a team of eight people, including ANTIGRAVITY editorial staff. We pored over national media, local media, and social media. Our research included but was not limited to public records, campaign finance reports, court filings, and real estate records. While we did much of our research in our candidate profiles for the primary, plenty happened in the interim.
This voter education guide was not produced by a political party or organization—in fact, as we’ll tell you every guide, we lack faith in not just the electoral process but also the political-economic order. We create this document as a way to dissect and map power. As we tell you every election, our team is unified by specific values. They tell you who we are, who we have allegiance with, and the lens through which we analyze politics.
Local politics impact us most, and vice-versa. We prioritize issues that involve New Orleans, surrounding areas, Louisiana, and the Gulf region. We reject post-Katrina opportunism, pandemic-era exploitation, and austerity at all levels of government and in the private sector.
Any analysis of power ought to center the needs and experiences of the most vulnerable among us—those most subject to bodily and institutional violence and neglect, not just by the State but also by mainstream politicians, including progressives. We seek to promote justice, dignity, and autonomy for historically punished and exploited populations like Black people, Indigenous people and people of color, people with disabilities, poor people, queer and trans people, immigrants with and without documentation, youth, elderly people, women, unhoused people, people who use drugs, people who earn income in informal or stigmatized industries like sex work, currently or formerly imprisoned people, and people most affected by climate crisis.
We write this guide as unapologetic utopians: we refuse to let the scarcity and horrors of our present dystopia limit our imaginations or our strategies.
We suggest you bring a photo ID to the polls, but if you do not have one you can still cast a ballot by signing a voter affidavit which vouches for your identity.
If you have a disability, you are entitled to receive assistance to cast your vote. If your assigned polling place is not accessible, you can vote at the nearest polling place with the same ballot or at the Registrar of Voters Office.
The makeup of this ballot, including names of candidates and information about how, where, and when to register and vote is based on information provided by the Louisiana Secretary of State and the City of New Orleans website. For info on what your ballot looks like, as well as information about disability and voting, go to the SoS website, voterportal.sos.la.gov.
Troy A. Carter (Democrat)
Karen Carter Peterson (Democrat)
In last month’s primary to replace Cedric Richmond, 15 candidates became two, as the biggest spenders tend to win elections (that’s both a metaphor and exactly what happened). Troy Carter pulled 36% of the vote, and will face Karen Carter Peterson, who received 23%, narrowly beating Gary Chambers’ 21%. You can peruse our last guide for a recap on this race’s disappointing and insufficient options.
Whoever claims this seat will be inheriting a district with seven of the 10 most polluted air tracts in the country. This district is an environmental sacrificial zone within the environmental sacrificial zone that is the Gulf South, and the UN has specifically cited the region as an egregious example of environmental racism.
The problems facing District 2 have been discussed in our guides and are beginning to make national news as Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan takes shape. It’s been heavily gerrymandered, and somehow includes all of St. James Parish and portions of Ascension, Assumption, East Baton Rouge, Iberville, Jefferson, Orleans, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, and West Baton Rouge Parishes. If you’re trying to make sense of this, visualize a crayon drawing of a bat by a child who’s trying not to fall asleep. As of 2018, District 2 was 61% Black and the median income was $38,131. It’s due to be redistricted sometime later this year, but no matter how it is shaped following the 2020 census, the problems within will remain. It would be nice to have a candidate who would show up and fight for overhauling environmental change in a region long overlooked, but unfortunately neither candidate gives us any reason to expect that.
The local Democratic Socialists of America’s voter guide did a good job describing the way a decline of wealth and power in New Orleans preceded the emergence of a “newly empowered generation of Black professional class leaders…forced to ‘do more with less.’” While this political class did not create the circumstances they inherited, they continue to play the game and reap the benefits. Neoliberalism is a word that gets thrown around with little specificity or precision, but it correctly defines the politics and world around us, one that Stephen Metcalf asserts “that competition is the only legitimate organising principle for human activity.” It’s an ideology that emphasizes public-private partnerships (a form of chimera that’s been heralded by both Carter candidates) and ruthless individualism. This, combined with the City’s politics being fueled by personal vendettas and long-standing rivalries, breeds policymakers with opaque allegiances and shaky belief systems.
Cue Troy Carter, who has become a quintessential New Orleans establishment upper class politician. Karen Carter Peterson is a former energy lawyer at international law firm Dentons who, with a lawyer’s trademark elegant footwork, claims she never represented the oil and gas industries (despite indications she worked in the energy sector, for a firm which certainly represents such clients), and has now rebranded herself as the “progressive” candidate. It’s a cynical strategy for Peterson, one which assumes voters won’t ever punch her name into a search engine, though her digital presence has largely been removed from Dentons’ website. In one case, a now-deleted version of a 2014 Dentons press release found at the Internet Archive mentions Peterson appearing at the firm’s 2014 Energy Outlook event, where she’s said to have introduced then-Senator Mary Landrieu. Landrieu was then controversial among Democrats for her support of the oil and gas industries and Keystone Pipeline project. Though media reported Peterson’s appearance at the time, the version of the release on the site today no longer mentions her.
And in a recent ad, Peterson implies she alone expanded Medicaid coverage, which was actually the result of an executive order by the governor, not state legislators. Still, taking progressive talking points at face value has won bigger elections than this one–hell, it’s part of the reason this seat is even available in the first place (still waiting on that end to for-profit detention centers, Joe). Besides, there’s little else to separate these two. Carter’s policy points are nonexistent, and Peterson’s are hollow. They’ve resorted to taking cheap shots at one another as a means to try to create a bit of space between themselves.
Ultimately, both candidates are ambitious careerists deeply entrenched in the toxic ecosystem of donors and megadonors, millionaires and billionaires to whom they are truly beholden—not to their constituents.
Of course, that is true of all politicians, but in all the years of our guides, we cannot remember two more similar candidates competing in a run-off. We don’t make the claim lightly—this conclusion is the result of arduous research. If you read the introduction to this guide, you already know we’re skeptical of people whose lives are directed by the accumulation of power and wealth, in any sector. And if you look at that infographic we created, mapping these candidates’ power, wealth, and influence, you’ll begin to understand the collective weight being thrown around in this race.
Untangling the webs of money and connections on either side of this election, one finds two infernal political machines, built from largely interchangeable parts and powered by the same fuels, headed for an inevitable face-off. It’s tempting to cast the fight as an ideological power struggle between two conglomerations of Southern wealth and power, with the potential for lasting ramifications for our city and state that will go well beyond the scope of the office at stake. However, it’s also all just so unbelievably, ham-handedly petty.
On one side, Karen Carter Peterson is deeply entrenched, politically and financially, in BOLD (Black Organization for Leadership Development). BOLD, founded by Peterson’s father Kenneth Carter, funds and canvasses for candidates. BOLD is one of the very few PACs that received a substantial amount of money from the Louisiana Democratic Party—at least $60,000 in 2019—which Karen Carter Peterson headed at the time. BOLD worked to elect LaToya Cantrell, who has teamed with the organization in subsequent elections, most notably in 2019 when BOLD slated “candidates [who] squared off against candidates backed by U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond.”
This brings us to the other side of the coin with Troy Carter, who Richmond endorsed early on. Cedric Richmond has his own political machine, but his web of influence is now seemingly at odds with new players reaching for power. Richmond donated at least $5,000 to BOLD in 2018 and as recently as late 2020.
And oh, the banality of endorsements. Since the primaries, Jason Williams, our newly-elected “progressive” DA, has endorsed Troy Carter. Looking at rhetoric alone, this may seem surprising, seeing as both Jason Williams and Karen Carter Peterson ran campaigns branding themselves as the “progressive” candidate. But in November’s race to replace retiring DA Leon Cannizzaro, Karen Carter Peterson—along with BOLD and Troy Carter—endorsed Williams’ rival: establishment, tough-on-crime candidate Keva Landrum. This endorsement speaks to both candidates’ lack of concern for Cannizzaro-era incarceration policies as well as the primacy of interpersonal conflict over supposed policy points. Peterson was also endorsed by LaToya Cantrell, an expected move considering Cantrell’s ties to Peterson and BOLD. Notably not making an endorsement in this race is the United Teachers of New Orleans, granting some insight as to how teachers in the city feel about these two co-authors of Act 91.
Gary Chambers, the primary’s third-place finisher and the candidate who had the most grassroots support, is shepherding his supporters toward Peterson. He endorsed and has been actively campaigning with her. Chambers previously said that both Carter and Peterson were establishment candidates who wouldn’t show up to do their job. We think his endorsement speaks less to Karen Carter Peterson’s commitment to progressive policies and more to the flimsy talking points of politicians, even the “progressive” ones. They say what they must and make indefensible compromises; it’s the nature of the game.
Peterson has also won some extravagant praise in the national media, where reporters slobbered over her like she was the latest addition to a future Aaron Sorkin flick about progressive Democrats. “An unapologetic progressive,” raved The Nation. “No stranger to confrontation,” proclaimed CNN. She “isn’t afraid to make waves,” declared FiveThirtyEight.
And in a survey ANTIGRAVITY sent to the candidates, Peterson said she’s “firmly opposed” to the proposed Formosa Plastics Group manufacturing complex in St. James Parish after talking to people and groups in the area, saying she’d push for a tougher federal Clean Air Act that would bar such “polluting projects.” In response to a question about Gordon Plaza, an affordable housing development built on the site of a toxic landfill and declared a Superfund site in 1994, Peterson said she “will fight for the residents of Gordon Plaza to finally receive the environmental justice they deserve. These families need help, and I will be the partner the city of New Orleans needs to find the resources to relocate residents who have waited so long for relief.”
But by her own admission, the former corporate lawyer is brand new to the fight for environmental justice. She didn’t oppose the Formosa plant until a few weeks before last month’s primary election and acknowledges learning about pollution issues facing District 2 during her Congressional run, an oddly delayed education for someone who already holds state public office and worked as an energy attorney at Dentons.
She also said in her survey responses that she supports sex work decriminalization and that “we must end the war on drugs, divest from mass incarceration and militarized policing, and build a new legal justice system from the ground up.” She called for marijuana legalization, the expungement of past marijuana convictions, and she said she’d support supervised drug consumption sites. But it appears she would “end the war on drugs” the way the U.S. often “ends” wars, leaving behind a heavily armed force with an unclear and contradictory mission. “Nobody should go to jail merely for the possession or ingestion of a drug—they ought to receive the medical care and assistance they need instead,” she wrote, ominously suggesting that jail time might simply be replaced by some sort of mandatory medical care, a policy floated by Biden that’s essentially prison by another name. She continued, “However, I am not willing to rule out legal punishments for those who sell large quantities of dangerous drugs.” Research shows that criminalizing drug dealers reduces safer supplies of drugs and has no positive impact on public safety. Like so many of Senator Peterson’s new stances, they announce themselves as progressive but scratch below the surface and you find the same old carceral bullshit.
Troy Carter didn’t respond to our candidate survey. He’s also made progressive overtures, promising to “advocate for the reduction or elimination of student debt and fight for people with disabilities.” Carter, who lives in a Westbank gated community, is invested in the tech industry: He owns between $50,000 and $100,000 in “Apple stock,” between $500,000 and $1,000,000 in “INTC” (Intel’s stock ticker symbol), and between $15,000 and $50,000 in “GE” (General Electric’s symbol), according to a newly-amended financial disclosure document. The candidate who pledged to “expand access to quality and affordable healthcare” also owns between $15,000 and $50,000 in “WAG” (Walgreens’ ticker), according to the document. Carter, who also owns several other properties, including one in Algiers that’s been dilapidated for years and was in 2018 legally declared a public nuisance, vowed to create “equal and fair housing legislation” to let people “live the ‘American Dream.'”
While many of his promises are indeed vague and banal enough to be dream-inducing—if Karen Carter Peterson has hopped the progressive bandwagon, Troy Carter is standing on the sidelines talking about how he’ll totally try and join a marching krewe next year—he did at least in one case outflank her from the left. In February, Karen Carter Peterson introduced a bill in the State Senate that would gradually raise the state minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2026. A month later, Troy Carter introduced a rival bill to do so effective next year, with annual inflation-adjusted increases. It’s ultimately just political theater and more petty nose-thumbing: Louisiana Democrats push to raise the minimum wage every year, the Republicans who control the legislature refuse, and minimum wage earners’ purchasing power sinks that much further into the swamp. Most likely, the only Louisianans who will benefit from either of the bills will be the two Carters with six-figure incomes—two people among the wealthiest 15% in the entire country—who got a few extra headlines.
Politicians changing their tunes to suit the times is nothing new. A recent op ed in the Bayou Brief argued in favor of voting for Peterson in this election, saying that it matters less whether her progressive promises are sincere or opportunistic. By that op ed’s estimation, what matters is that she can be held accountable in the next election if she doesn’t stand by them. While we appreciate the cynicism—both candidates are saying whatever’s politically advantageous; it’s just that one is saying things the authors agree with—the issue with this strategy is that it assumes holding politicians “accountable” is even a possible, tangible, meaningful thing. Let’s look at the tape. How’s that going with Biden so far? But we were going to push him from the left, right? The trouble is that these politicians aren’t accountable to the voters; they’re accountable to the money and players that made them electable in the United States.
This is one of the dangers of imagining voting as a mechanism for political change in and of itself. Voting will never be enough to effect change on its own. Without additional power to exert on the elected, voting becomes a technique of placation, quashing critical dialogue and reinforcing the Big Scam: that the elected politician represents the interests of the people before their own. Politicians like Peterson say what they need to when they need to. But even if we believed she wanted to get these things done, could she? The elected officials largely heralded as progressive haven’t had much success passing their legislative efforts. They’re outnumbered, working within a system that inherently and ideologically rejects them. In this way, those politicians’ “progressiveness” becomes not unlike its own brand of political theater. Though they struggle to amass the support inside the legislature to get their policies passed, the media latches on to their popularity, making celebrities of them. Though more genuine progressive candidates than Peterson or Biden can have some success pushing rhetoric to the left from the inside, we should be extremely aware of the political possibilities we gain and lose by believing that the AOCs and the Bernies can save the lobbyist-driven cesspool of the Democratic party. And we should be cognizant of moderates and neoliberals putting on the costume of progressives because they understand—and in recent elections have banked on—the popularity it generates.
All said, imagining we can hold someone like Peterson accountable for her progressive policies is to willfully ignore the vested interests that the majority of lawmakers have, regardless of their party, in continuing to undermine and overwhelm those policies. Come next election cycle, if Peterson hasn’t succeeded in fulfilling her lofty campaign promises, she’ll tell us it wasn’t for lack of trying. Politics takes time, and she’ll surely get it done in the next go-round, or wherever it is she springboards to next. Like her and Troy’s minimum wage bills, it’s always too little too late. Stagnation in the form of incremental change is a mode of control.
Once we concluded that nothing on Earth could set the candidates apart, we looked to the heavens, for you, our poor star-crossed voters. But alas… two Carters, both alike in policy, are also both Scorpios. So is New Orleans, as a professional astrologer explained to us. Scorpio energy is like a swamp—indiscernible depths, secrets, life becoming death and then life again at a rapid pace in still water. Both candidates have their sun and another personal planet in Scorpio, indicating that trust, secrets, and power are central to their ways of operating. There are more politicians with their sun in Scorpio than in any other.
Lacking the candidates’ birth times and being too embarrassed to ask, our astrologer had only planetary placements to guide them, no rising signs. Moon signs indicate one’s inner emotional life, the forces that drive their desires. Carter’s moon is in a mutable degree of group-oriented Aquarius, while Peterson’s is in a cardinal degree of individualistic Leo. Carter’s Mars (the planet dictating power, passion, authority, will) is in Sagittarius which could lead to rash decisions. Peterson’s Mars in Capricorn is much more reliable, but also a lover of bureaucracy.
Why would we try to persuade you to listen to this depressing story when we could just be talking about giant traffic cones, the latest hundred-year storm, or the price of crawfish in Arabi? Because of the stakes. Here, children are destined to asthma based on their zip code, and adults to cancer. Here, in the shadow of an industry that solely extracts from our region, keeps us resource poor, and lays pipelines. Stolen lives, stolen futures, on stolen land. Our ever-lengthening hurricane season is punctuated by tourist season and the brief reprieve of Carnival. None of our utilities work right. Our quality of life has sunk to the bottom of every list, by every metric, and we ourselves are sinking. The pandemic killed some of us, got some of us permanently ill, and made all of us poorer. As usual the scale of damage was preventable; as usual the State could have intervened but didn’t.
Exasperated and defeated, you’re like, so what are we supposed to do? If you’re not warming up to Karen aren’t you just helping Troy? Are you telling me not to vote? We have to vote for someone.
But do we? Start talking about not voting at all and people get upset for a whole lot of reasons. Let’s dig in. “Not voting is a privilege.” Set aside for a moment the anti-electoral movements led by Black people and people of color—and Indigenous people, who would like to have a word in a moment. Set aside for the moment the tremendous disservice privilege discourse has done to liberatory ideologies and movements (it is, in fact, counterrevolutionary—click dat link!). True: failure to engage with politics or the freedom to identify as “apolitical” can be a byproduct of insulation from injustice, or apathy, or ignorance, or fear. True: Black people were firehosed and attacked by police dogs and murdered by the government for the right to vote. To this day, voter suppression efforts continue. It is nothing short of tragic that access to voting was so hard won through the civil rights movement, only for that movement to be systematically destroyed by the U.S. government—and for the political ruling class to winnow away at how much voting can change. We aren’t telling you not to do it and we don’t mean to diminish the legacy that fought for it. But look at disenfranchisement and ask yourself if voting is a tactic that is working. Look where the primacy of voting as a political strategy has gotten us: a society where white supremacy is maintained through institutions and violently enforced.
What about harm reduction? Can voting be harm reduction? Our local harm reduction group started the series that evolved into these guides, and the guides used to bear that moniker. Harm reduction is a philosophy—and a movement—which accepts the reality that people do use drugs and will continue to do so. Rather than moralizing, stigmatizing, or deploying punitive and ineffective strategies to address drug use (like the catastrophic and deadly War on Drugs), harm reduction seeks to minimize the risks associated with using drugs. Once more we are talking about an ideology with a growing body count, and people fighting for their survival. Some harm reductionists see value in applying their principles to voting. To us, it is painful and galling to involve that legacy with an act as divorced from its origins as voting. In “Voting Is Not Harm Reduction,” Indigenous Action concludes—in a piece with more nuance than you might expect from the title—”If voting is the democratic participation in our own oppression, voting as harm reduction is a politics that keeps us at the mercy of our oppressors.”
Voting, an inadequate individual solution to a range of systemic problems, mirrors the idea craftily invented by BP that individual actions were the appropriate response to climate crisis, rather than an international reckoning with both fossil fuel dependence and the U.S. military, which is the world’s largest polluter (and that’s why your environmentalism is nothing without anti-imperialism). So what are people doing besides voting and recycling? A lot, including a little something the State likes to call environmental terrorism (or “ecoterrorism”). The same approach used to be called environmentalism or activism, but the legal system welcomes any opportunity to apply sentence enhancements to protests.
Though attention has shifted from Standing Rock, nationally, confrontations with State-backed corporate encroachments on land continue. Indigenous activists held several actions in DC earlier this month demanding that Biden shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline (he won’t, they won’t stop fighting). Just before we published this, the Appalachian Pipeline Blockade ended with arrests after over 932 days. The Prison Industrial Complex continues to plunder and poison the Earth and those trapped on it (which is why your environmentalism is nothing without prison abolitionism). Locally, we have no shortage of people fighting for their breath, against environmental racism (which is why your environmentalism is nothing without a commitment to destroy white supremacy). You may recall the fight against the Bayou Bridge Pipeline, which has seen its share of legal losses and wins. Peruse ANTIGRAVITY’s extensive and long-running coverage on these struggles. Here in Louisiana, LA Bucket Brigade has been fighting for the health of St. James residents, and though City Council just symbolically rejected the construction of a Formosa plastics plant there, you can be sure the company won’t give up that easily. Gordon Plaza residents remain on a toxic superfund site. Expect further confrontations.
Do whatever you want with your one wild and precious vote. You know your choices—two very wealthy candidates running to represent an impoverished, looted district.
People often bemoan that the country is more divided than ever, even as the two parties that dominate politics merge more and more in terms of policy and personnel, little more than competing brands. Here we have two Democrats with negligible differences. In the face of an entire political-economic class that is always already consolidating power and wealth, the real problem is that we are not divided enough. It’s time to pick sides, and we don’t mean pick candidates. Class is aspirational, meaning that people often identify with where they’d like to see themselves rather than where they are (failure to understand this will leave you confused about why people “vote against their interests”). Who will you identify with—the people who demonstrably do not care how or if you live, or those among us taking extreme measures to reject their agenda? And are the measures extreme, or commensurate with the literally existential threats we face?
SUMMARY: In the past, we’ve mitigated our disgust at naming candidates in this section with recommendations on other avenues of political participation: joining the renter’s assembly, supporting abortion funds, supporting our local harm reductionists, writing to people in prison, embracing Medicare for All, organizing your workplace, contributing to “mutual aid” efforts, submitting a comment to city council, and so on. Yes, do that. And understand that it is treading water so we don’t drown, or really, so that fewer of us do. But eventually your limbs tire, and the waters are always rising.
Groups that have a political critique of the conditions they find themselves in, and combine direct services to confront those conditions by creating the space for community organizing and hanging out—that’s what we like. Otherwise, New Orleans’ left is largely managed by the nonprofit sector, even moreso than other cities thanks to post-Katrina neoliberal rebuilding. No doubt each nonprofit is populated by fresh-faced professional class college grads ready to save the city and by long-time true believers. They’re also convenient footholds for those seeking political careers or to become celebrity activists. They also have donors to answer to, some of which also fund or actively benefit from the ills the nonprofits seek to redress. Any nonprofit that isn’t actively trying to eradicate the need for its own existence is simply a business with virtue as its brand. For such entities, convincing you that incremental change is the only way forward is a fantastic business plan.
The nonprofitization of this city’s left sucks away resources and people who might otherwise engage in consequential organizing. With paltry housing stipend programs, little “financial coaching” programs for the generationally impoverished, little food assistance, these organizations keep residents on life support—lost in bureaucracy, barely getting by… just placated enough to not riot. When we do take to the streets, leaders affiliated with these nonprofits become the peace police, corralling us into a passive audience listening to speaker after speaker in political theater that poses absolutely no threat to the status quo. Or you’ll find them on bullhorns telling you how and where to protest. You’ll even find them negotiating with the actual police, even at protests against the police. And the people assembled obey, because we are used to having people in charge, because we are afraid to be wrong, or because we are afraid of getting in trouble for not following leadership.
Nonprofits teach us to wait for incomplete relief doled out at the whims of bureaucrats we have no say in selecting. If you demand more in any sense, those with something to gain from this pyramid scheme will attempt to police you and any calls for liberation beyond stop gap measures. Often these self-appointed judges sort behavior and people into appropriate and inappropriate kinds of resistance, with no consideration of the efficacy or urgency of diverse tactics.
But this arrangement is absolutely paralyzing. It’s well past time to abandon the peaceful protestor/rioter narrative and a city where people trying to fucking survive were called looters and shot at should instinctually understand that.
Not everyone is able to fill the streets when the police commit extrajudicial murders, or to put their body between a landlord and the doors to eviction court, or to put their body between the police and our unhoused neighbors. Not everyone is able to stand between ICE thugs and our undocumented neighbors. Not everyone is in a position to put their body between Big Oil’s militarized private security forces and the land they want to plunder. Not everyone is prepared to take the risks inherent in sabotaging industry. But… are you? What do you live for? What do you cherish? What are you willing to risk? Locate your inner compass by asking yourself—what would you die to protect?
If you can’t be out there physically defying the white supremacist capitalist death machine and its liberal allies, you sure can support those who are. Sometimes that just means getting out of their way. Or learning that you didn’t see shit and aren’t going to snitch. It means being ready to support bail funds, do jail support, and push back against the rhetoric that enables criminalization of dissent. Get right with G*d, readers. Look within and pick a side—there is no other option. It’s later than you think.
Shall a .245% increase in the sales tax be levied within the boundaries of the French Quarter Economic Development District (“FQ EDD”) to be collected on the sale at retail, the use, the lease or rental, the consumption and storage for use or the consumption of tangible personal property and sales of services within the boundaries of the FQ EDD for a period of five years, beginning July 1, 2021 and ending June 30, 2026 (an estimated $2.5 million reasonably expected at this time to be collected as a result of the levy per year) for the purpose of funding POST Certified supplemental police patrols and homeless assistance services, with the initial $2 million collected in any year dedicated to supplemental police patrols and any additional revenue to be divided between additional patrols and public safety programs (including homeless assistance), and administered by the French Quarter Management District for fiscal and operational oversight of the FQ EDD Trust Fund and services provided by such fund and subject to quarterly budget and expenditure reports to the City Council, to facilitate economic development within the FQ EDD?
Back on the ballot again after the various tentacles of the punishment bureaucracy failed to effectively coordinate their response to the December vote, residents of the French Quarter will once again be asked if they’d like to pay a higher sales tax to be policed even more. Last time, a plan backed by Mayor LaToya Cantrell was defeated when a group called the French Quarter Management District, which is run by a board largely selected by business and tourism orgs, opposed it after not getting more clout over how the money would be spent.
Now, the FQMD’s own plan is on the ballot, with the same focus on keeping extra cops on Quarter streets. While the ballot measure also refers to unspecified “homeless assistance services,” that’s the latest example of local officials padding these items with feel-good buzzwords that don’t reflect what’s actually being voted on. Under revenue estimates in the ballot measure itself, at least 80% of the funds would go to policing, with an even higher percentage going to cops in years where sales tax numbers fall short.
We covered this extensively in the last election in which we saw the Pig Easy shoot their shot, you’re welcome to revisit it.
SUMMARY: No. Defund, disarm, disband the police.
Early voting is April 10—17 from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The deadline to request an absentee by mail ballot is April 20 by 4:30 p.m.
The deadline for a registrar of voters to receive a voted mail ballot is April 23 by 4:30 p.m. (other than military and overseas voters).
Saturday election voting hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
1300 Perdido Street 70112
225 Morgan Street 70114
Chef Menteur Voting Machine Warehouse Site
8870 Chef Menteur Highway 70126
Lake Vista Community Center
6500 Spanish Fort Blvd. 70124
October 9, 2021
This voter guide is offered without cost as a service to our beloved readers, but donations are accepted to help cover research fees and labor. A suggested donation of whatever your lifestyle considers $5 is appreciated. Payments can be made via Venmo or PayPal. Please include “Voter Guide” or “VG” in the comment or memo.
Original infographic created by voter guide contributors | All other images courtesy of the public domain
The following is a list of infographic nodes explaining and citing each connection. Though this graphic is the result of extensive research and fact checking, all information is ultimately a matter of public record unless otherwise noted (direct communication with campaigns, for example). We made every effort to link to individual financial disclosures, but in many cases they are so numerous that it was simply more efficient to link you to the public resource where you can do your own research. (Back to the top)
Action NOLA PAC: Action New Orleans backs Cantrell and was founded by her campaign manager; it’s her PAC. Action NOLA donated $20,000 to BOLD in 2019. Action NOLA has sent at least $28,100 to, and received at least $65,000 from, the LA Democratic Party. ^
Jay Banks: Councilmember Banks is the former political director (and current operations chief) of BOLD and has donated to them and been paid for services substantially over the years. Donation types include campaign services, pro rata share of ballot (totaling at least $12,500). Banks worked for Entergy, then consulted for the City about Entergy, which is pretty common for BOLD affiliates—and overall, it’s common for utility regulators to have lucrative affiliations with the very utilities they are tasked to regulate. ^
The Black Organization for Leadership Development (BOLD): Kenneth Carter, Sen. Peterson’s father, co-founded BOLD. You’ll notice their heavy influence on local politics illustrated among other endnotes, which describe a few notable donors and connections to the organization. ^
Michael Bloomberg: Were you surprised to see this non-Louisianan billionaire (net worth approx $59 billion) on this power map? Don’t be—his family has major financial interests in privatizing education, which we’ve covered in our evergreen primer to the charter school ecosystem. Bloomberg, his family foundation, and Bloomberg Philanthropies (they’re only separate for tax purposes, why should we pretend they don’t serve the same interests?) are very much all up in our shit. Bloomberg gave $100,000 to Our Voice/Nuestra Voz in 2016. Bloomberg gave $50,000 to BOLD in the 2020 election cycle. ^
Kristine Breithaupt/Last Word Strategies: Kristine Breithaupt and her PR and marketing firm Last Word Strategies are working for Troy Carter in this election. They’ve also worked for Mayor LaToya Cantrell and her Action NOLA PAC, and former candidate for DA Keva Landrum. Breithaupt’s personal Instagram offers this helpful quote, attributed to Shirley MacLaine, that we keep in mind when reading the emails she sends on behalf of her clients: “It’s useless to hold a person to anything he says while he’s in love, drunk, or running for office.” ^
LaToya Cantrell: New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell endorsed Karen Carter Peterson for Congress. She has also sent BOLD, which Peterson’s father founded, at least $26,000 since the time of her 2017 mayoral run. That includes paying the group $12,500 for get-out-the-vote canvassing in November 2017 and giving BOLD $10,000 for a “mailer to voters” in September 2017. Her campaign also sent BOLD a $3,500 donation in November 2019. In the race for DA last year, she endorsed Keva Landrum. She’s backed by Action New Orleans PAC. ^
Kenneth Carter: Kenneth Carter was Louisiana’s first elected black assessor, one of the cofounders of BOLD, and Karen Carter Peterson’s father. A law firm he founded also worked for the City Council in regulating New Orleans Public Service Inc., Entergy’s predecessor. ^
Troy Anthony Carter: Senator Troy Carter is closely associated with Algiers PAC. He won an endorsement from DA Jason Williams and uses the services of local political PR figure Kristine Breithaupt. Nuestra Voz executive director Mary Moran is his deputy campaign manager. A former lobbyist for Entergy, he has in past campaigns received at least $2,000 in campaign funds from the company’s political action committee. ^
City of New Orleans: This node specifically refers to the city government apparatus; not the city itself. The City Council has been in charge of regulating Entergy and its predecessor NOPSI since the 1980s, an unusual role for a U.S. city council, as The Lens has reported. Because it has few employees to actually do the work of regulating a power company, it’s paid outside law firms millions of dollars per year for help. In 1987, it hired a firm cofounded by BOLD cofounder Kenneth Carter. As of last year, the massive law firm Dentons, where his daughter Karen Carter Peterson was until recently an energy lawyer, was authorized to bill the city up to $3.5 million for helping to regulate Entergy. Peterson has also represented the City Council in court. ^
College Hill Media/College Hill Strategy: This is a pair of firms headed by Dana Peterson, husband of Karen Carter Peterson, and involved in local political campaigns. Keva Landrum’s campaign for DA paid College Hill Media more than $48,000 for various goods and services, and Karen Carter Peterson reported a total of $544,915.24 income in two years from College Hill Strategy, including “filer and spouse consulting fees.” Senator Peterson reports co-owning College Hill Strategy Group with her spouse on her 2019 state ethics disclosure. ^
Democrats for Education Reform: This pro-charter group and sister organization Education Reform Now Advocacy are backed by money from billionaires like the Walton Family and Michael Bloomberg. They give it to local politicians and PACs to promote school privatization, and around here they’ve found no shortage of takers. The groups, including DFER’s Louisiana branch, collectively gave at least $100,000 to the Louisiana Democratic Party while Karen Carter Peterson was chair. They also gave $3,500 to Cedric Richmond’s campaign in 2018, $2,000 to Troy Carter’s Algiers PAC in 2017, $2,500 to Carter’s campaign in 2015, and $1,000 to back Jason Williams’ City Council run in 2017. ERNA’s Louisiana filings show $150,000 in donations from Walmart heir Jim Walton last year and in 2016, DFER’s Louisiana arm got $50,000 from Michael Bloomberg, while ERNA pulled in $300,000 from his Bloomberg Philanthropies. Dana Peterson (Karen Carter Peterson’s husband) gave $250 to DFER LA in 2015, $500 in 2017, and $500 in 2019. That’s not much by Bloomberg or Walton standards, but the family seems to have gotten some payback: DFER LA gave $2,500 to Karen Carter Peterson’s campaign in 2019. ^
Dentons: Dentons is the largest law firm in the world, offering services in at least 80 countries and rapidly expanding across the United States. The firm gets paid millions of dollars every year by the City Council to advise it on how to regulate Entergy. Until recently, it employed Karen Carter Peterson in its “global energy sector,” where she pulled a six-figure salary. She recently declined to discuss her work there with the Times-Picayune and told Sludge she didn’t represent any oil and gas companies, though the firm certainly does. Other lawyers still at Dentons have donated to her campaign—including global energy sector co-chair Clinton Vince, who gave $2,500—and the firm gave $25,000 to the Louisiana Democratic Party’s PAC between 2013 and 2018, while Peterson was party chair. ^
Entergy: Entergy is New Orleans’ monopoly electric provider, often hated for things like hiring a PR firm that sent actors to pretend to be supportive residents at public meetings, issuing cryptic bills, turning people’s power off on a frigid Mardi Gras Day for no reason, and suffering unexpected outages due to everything from a stray cat in a substation to party balloons caught in the wind. In addition to enlisting actors to win over politicians, Entergy hires lobbyists including, in the past, Troy Carter. And the company has a PAC called ENPAC that gave at least $2,500 to Karen Carter Peterson’s campaign in 2019 while she was employed at a law firm that advises the city on how to regulate Entergy, contributed at least $2,000 to Carter’s campaigns since 2017, and gave at least $52,000 to Cedric Richmond’s campaigns since 2010. ^
Pres Kabacoff: We wish it had been feasible to include more of the real estate developer class on this graphic, but we had to have some parameters or the graphic would have been utterly unreadable and probably taken a year to complete. So while it is more than symbolic to include OG post-K gentrifier Kabacoff, let him serve as a reminder of how much more fetid this morass really is. Just barely resisting what we are sure was a vigorous urge to say “the poors,” this public housing destroyer once said of urban design: “Density is good as long as you don’t concentrate the poor.” (That quote is from 2013, in a fairly generous interview with The Lens.) Saying that gentrification made Kabacoff rich isn’t quite accurate—it’s racism that made him rich, and really how profitable white supremacist business and policy is. Kabacoff kept poor people and Black people from returning home after the storm, and from accessing quality housing with a formula: privatize (with the help of his political cronies), exercise landlord privilege, push fear-mongering narratives conflating poverty and Blackness with crime. “Just get them out of there,” he once said of the disposable class, in a moment of profound honesty. If this sewer of a country’s “War on Crime” and “War on Poverty” are really “wars,” Kabacoff is a war criminal. He is a frequent political donor; the spending pattern we’ve observed is that he tends to hedge his bets, donating to many candidates though not always in quantities you’d guess for a rich man who wants to buy politicians, not that he has to pay top dollar anymore—he already won. Donations of note to our infographic: Kabacoff donated $2,500 to Richmond‘s campaign between 2017 and 2019. Kabacoff donated $1,000 to Karen Carter Peterson’s campaign and another $1,000 to Troy Carter’s campaign. Kabacoff donated $1,500 to Jason Williams’ campaign for DA in 2020. Kabacoff donated $1,000 to Action NOLA PAC in 2020. Since 2014, Kabacoff has donated at least $22,566.67 to the LA Democratic Party. ^
LA Democratic Party: The state Democratic Party had Karen Carter Peterson as chair from 2012 through 2020 and is naturally entangled with numerous local officials and organizations. The party and/or its PAC have received money from Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s Action New Orleans PAC and law firm Dentons, as well as prior campaigns by Peterson and Troy Carter. The Dems have sent funds onward to Carter’s Algiers PAC, Peterson-linked BOLD, and back to Action New Orleans. The state Dems have also taken money from mega-developer Pres Kabacoff and from affiliates of the pro-charter Democrats for Education Reform. The Dems endorsed Cedric Richmond last year. ^
Keva Landrum: Landrum was the establishment, tough on crime candidate for DA last year, losing the race to Jason Williams but winning an endorsement from Mayor LaToya Cantrell and at least $5,000 in campaign donations from Karen Carter Peterson and husband Dana Peterson. Cedric Richmond’s campaign kicked in another $5,000. Landrum’s campaign in turn sent at least $5,000 total to Cantrell’s Action New Orleans PAC and another $20,000 to BOLD. Her campaign also paid Dana Peterson’s College Hill Media Group more than $48,000 and also used the services of political PR maven Kristine Breithaupt’s Last Word Strategies. ^
Mary D. Moran: Moran sits on the IDEA charter school board as of 2019-2020. She is the co-founder and executive director of Nuestra Voz. According to FEC filings, Mary Moran received at least three disbursements of $5,000 for her role as “deputy campaign manager” for the Carter campaign, a role characterized as “contract/1099” by a representative for the campaign in e-mails to us. ^
Nuestra Voz: Moran is listed as executive director and cofounder of this group, a group whose donors are dedicated to the destruction of truly public education. From 2017 to 2018, the Walton Foundation appears to have provided 87% of Nuestra Voz’s funding. Nuestra Voz is a Latinx parent advocacy group that pushes for more progressive policies within the charter system. They’ve certainly pushed for important reforms, but reforming the charter school system reinforces the idea that the privatization of education is reformable at all. Buried in their advocacy is the push to get parents to buy into the legitimacy of punitive ratings of schools that are based on standardized tests—tests that have origins in racist and eugenicist thinking. The punitive use of test data is then the tool for privatizing schools—especially in districts like Baton Rouge that still have public schools to privatize. ^
Dana Peterson: Dana Peterson, Karen Carter Peterson’s husband, was formerly deputy superintendent of external affairs, Recovery School District. In that role he earned more than $100,000 a year. According to an ethics disclosure timestamped January 1, 2021, Peterson indicates that he is now assistant state superintendent, LA Department of Education, but it is unclear if he remains in that position. A newsletter from Louisiana Believes (which is just the Department of Ed) makes it sound like he got promoted from the RSD role and is also CEO of the “Baton Rouge Achievement Zone.” He was board chair of FirstLine Schools. So it comes as no surprise that he’s a frequent donor to Dems for Ed Reform. In addition to a joint donation with his wife, he independently donated $2,500 to Keva Landrum’s DA campaign. He also donated $2,000 to LaToya Cantrell’s mayoral campaign. ^
Karen Carter Peterson: Senator Peterson has made payments to Jay Banks totalling at least $60,620 for various consulting services. Together with her spouse Dana Peterson, she donated $5,000 to Keva Landrum’s DA campaign. ^
Cedric Richmond: Cedric Richmond vacated the LA02 seat for a position in the Biden administration, which is how we found ourselves in this nightmare of mediocrity in the first damn place. Richmond gave $10,000 to BOLD in 2018, and at least $15,000 other years. The Louisiana Democratic Party endorsed Richmond in 2020. Richmond had his successor in mind early—he endorsed Troy Carter before the primary. In the 2020 district attorney race, Richmond donated at least $5,000 to Keva Landrum. Richmond has donated at least $17,000 to BOLD in recent years. ^
Walton Family: Jim Walton, Walmart heir and huge supporter of privatizing public schools, gave $150,000 to Democrats for Education Reform‘s Louisiana chapter last year. Over the past three years, his family’s foundation has donated at least $850,000 to Nuestra Voz. ^
Jason Williams: Newly elected New Orleans District Attorney Jason Williams endorsed Troy Carter. He made donations to Algiers PAC (totalling at least $1,500). Mary Moran, who was on his campaign leadership team, was paid at least $3,500 for her services. ^