This voter education guide is published primarily as a resource and does not constitute an official endorsement of any candidate or proposition by ANTIGRAVITY or the New Orleans Harm Reduction Network.
Greetings beloved readers, and welcome to the collaborative Anti-Oppression/Anti-Bullshit Voting Guide for the election on July 11, 2020! These guides have been lovingly produced since 2014 by an ever-evolving group of individuals who seek to confront the lack of accountability in the branches of Louisiana government. To create this guide, we created a survey, conducted research, and talked with our neighbors, friends, and co-conspirators.
We agree on the following guidelines to shape our analysis:
- Promote justice, autonomy, and dignity for vulnerable, historically neglected, and exploited populations: Black people, Indigenous people and people of color, poor people, queer and trans people, immigrants, youth, women, unhoused people, people with disabilities, and people most affected by climate crisis. In other words, to prioritize the needs of people most harmed by systemic oppression.
- Favor the judicial candidates least destructive to the lives of poor and working class people, undocumented people, unhoused or precariously housed people, people impacted by and most vulnerable to incarceration, and others caught in the dragnet of our punitive legal system.
- Be strategic about New Orleanians’ specific needs being adequately addressed and advocated for on the state and federal levels, especially with regards to environmental, economic, housing, and health care concerns.
- Center concerns and demands currently being raised by the public, particularly considering the role of police in our communities, our budgets, and our lifespans.
- Vehemently reject the influence of post-Katrina opportunism, pandemic-era exploitation and austerity, and all disaster capitalism at all levels of government and the private sector.
We approach this work with a harm reduction ethos. Harm reduction is a philosophy and praxis rooted in autonomy and mutual aid, designed and led by people who use drugs, specifically focused on minimizing the harm associated with drug use.
Is it possible to reduce harm within a system fundamentally based on control and disenfranchisement? In the publication “Voting is Not Harm Reduction,” the group Indigenous Action writes: “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.” It is certainly discouraging how elections—particularly national ones—not only siphon energy and resources from longtime organizers but also co-opt language and ideas (only to abandon it all when it’s no longer politically useful). Election cycles and the corresponding media coverage paralyze the political imagination of the public at large.
History—including the immediate past—teaches us that social change is not linear, that it exists at the whim of natural and man-made (or exacerbated) disasters, and that it is not solely dictated by elected bodies. In the months between when this election was originally scheduled and now, we have seen the calculated neglect of a public health crisis on state and federal levels. We have seen the extrajudicial murders of people—particularly Black people—by the police. And we have seen the public rise up to demand a better world—outside the polling booth, largely propelled by people who aren’t even allowed in, and not just symbolically: the youths who have been putting their bodies on the line at protests all around this country.
With that fire in our hearts, we offer you this guide on another mode of civic participation. While there are no perfect candidates, there are lesser evils. Grassroots organizers often frame voting as selecting the candidate you think you can most successfully push to support your goals and movement.
Voting is an imperfect, absurd response to an imperfect, absurd social system. Ultimately, what we want is to build a new world with you. Our survival depends on it.
This Louisiana election season, we will be voting in the presidential primary, electing a judge, and electing people to the Democratic and Republican parties in the state. If you are a registered Democrat, your ballot will include elections for both the Democratic Parish Executive Committee (DPEC) and the Democratic State Central Committee (DSCC). If you are a registered Republican, your ballot will include elections for the Republican Parish Executive Committee (RPEC). Due to a pending lawsuit involving redistricting and gender representation, the election for Republican State Central Committee (RSCC) is cancelled. There are two DSCC seats in each state legislative district, one designated for a male and one for a female (a gesture toward equity that undermines itself by reinforcing the notion of biological essentialism. Where do trans people fit into this binary, antiquated approach to gender parity?) and 14 seats in the DPEC.
Parish Executive Committees run party affairs at the parish level. They endorse local candidates and work to build up voter registration and political participation in their communities. The DSCC oversees the DPECs and runs the Louisiana State Democratic party. The DSCC works to elect Democrats, raises money, endorses candidates, and conducts the Democratic National Committee delegate selection process. These representatives will put forward and support candidates who share the same ideals as their own. Locally, this is an opportunity to elect people who share our ideals, and who will in turn hopefully champion candidates who also espouse those values.
Looking at the voter guide and your sample ballot, you’ll notice that this is a huge field of names, and that several people are elected at once to the Parish Executive Committee seats. The candidates range from people who have never held or run for any political office, to people who have held many or are even holding them simultaneously, to people who are part of local political dynasties. Some of these candidates have taken the effort to campaign or put information about themselves out there. Others have limited or no public presence—and there’s not necessarily a correlation between the person’s background and their campaigning presence. Those without an active campaign presence may just be relying on word of mouth or clout; others may just be shooting their shot.
This election cycle, we created a survey of our own and shared it with every candidate we could locate. Our survey focused on decriminalization of sex work, approaches to drug use, food insecurity, housing, and incarceration in Louisiana. These are issues often considered too controversial for candidates to speak out on during election cycles. They are also some of the most pressing issues facing our communities.
Though the pandemic and election reschedule negatively impacted our response rate, and our sample size is too small to make broad generalizations, we are intrigued by the near-unanimity on certain questions. For example, 100% of respondents supported creating legislation that allows, promotes, and funds supervised drug consumption sites—a harm reduction measure usually framed by politicians, mainstream media, and nextdoor.com types as far too radical to even consider. All but one supported decriminalization of drugs, and their explanation? That predatory drug manufacturers ought to be prosecuted. All but one respondee favored the decriminalization of sex work, with the dissenter favoring legalization and regulation instead.
When it came to incarceration, respondents overwhelmingly identified themselves as being in favor of ending cash bail, ending the incarceration of youths, and exploring restorative justice models as an alternative. Eliminating jail time for non-violent convictions was endorsed by more than half of respondents (Please note that we wrote this survey before the recent uprisings shifted the discourse on reform versus abolition significantly).
We believe that more people are open to radical change than the establishment would have you believe, and we look forward to building on this survey for future guides. Let’s dive in!
PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE DEMOCRATIC PARTY
Joseph R. Biden
Michael R. Bloomberg
Cory Booker (withdrew)
John K. Delaney
Bernard “Bernie” Sanders
Wow, remember the Democratic primary? Feels like several years ago at this point. Despite running a campaign with such passion that supporters earnestly referred to it as a movement, despite championing one of the most popular policies in our lifetimes (Medicare for All), despite being scandal-free (a true anomaly in our national politics), Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign. Whether you blame boomers, the DNC, or other reasons, we hope you’ve made peace with it by now.
One crucial detail of the presidential primaries is that when we cast a vote for a primary contender, we are really voting for the delegates that each candidate sends to the Democratic National Convention. The candidates that clear 15% of the vote get delegates allocated to them on a proportional basis. These delegates then vote to nominate a presidential candidate, but they also help craft the party platform and set the rules for the next convention. In other words, though the nominee is effectively a foregone conclusion at this point, a vote for, say, Bernie could serve other purposes. At the 2016 Democratic National Convention, rule changes pushed by the Bernie delegation curtailed the role of superdelegates in the primary process.
Though former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign had initially seemed like a longshot, he is now the presumptive nominee. Biden supporters are notoriously hard-pressed to name a single policy of his that they are excited about. But we do know a few things he’s not into. Biden doesn’t believe in universal health care. He’s not going to challenge wealth disparity in any meaningful way. In response to the increasingly mainstream call to defund the police, Biden has taken the position that actually this highly-militarized, lavishly-funded armed wing of the State needs more money (although he did offer a modest proposal that protestors should be merely maimed, not killed, for participating in dissent). Perhaps his most interesting campaign talking point has been telling people not to vote for him.
Biden’s main selling point is that he’s not Trump (he’s the other guy who has a rack of credible accusations of sexual assault). Biden’s record (on mass incarceration in general and pushing Reagan to increase criminalization in particular, reproductive justice, affordable housing, public humiliation of Anita Hill, revisionist and/or delayed support of queer rights, unpopularity among environmental activists, support of Israeli apartheid, role in launching the opioid crisis, passionate hate of parties and drug users, participation in imperialist foreign policy, etc.) offers little comfort.
The Obama administration laid the groundwork for Trump’s genocidal immigration policies, and while Biden says he would do better this time, it’s hard to ignore all that blood on his hands, and voting for him will be a joyless act come November. Biden’s campaign—his entire vibe—can best be described using the title of his 2002 anti-rave bill: Reducing Americans’ Vulnerability to Ecstasy. If Trump loses and actually cedes power, a Biden presidency would in no way signal the end of the fight for a livable world. Remember, the race for president is the contest to see who becomes the next biggest war criminal.
Summary: The primary still has an impact in terms of delegates. A vote for Bernie could help accrue delegates who could (in theory) help push the party platform further left at the DNC.
DSCC Member 91st District “A”
The 91st District runs from Hollygrove down to the Lower Garden District and includes Gert Town, Central City, parts of Broadmoor, Uptown, and the Irish Channel.
Diana Bajoie began her political career in the ‘70s as a State Representative. In 1991 she became the first Black woman elected to the Louisiana State Senate. Bajoie, a survivor of breast cancer, has long been an advocate of health care expansions and reproductive rights. At the local level, she helped secure funding for the “revitalization” of the Oretha Castle Haley Corridor. Currently serving as the director of community relations for the LSU Health Sciences Center, Bajoie has had her hand in numerous public health non-profit initiatives, and used the fingers of that hand to cut checks to her friends, family, and former senate coworkers.
Sure, Bajoie has her nepotism-fueled money scandals, which is basically a rite of passage for any seasoned New Orleans politician. Valerie Bustamante hasn’t had the chance (yet). New to politics and new to New Orleans, there is little to no evidence that Bustamante is running to win, as she has no real campaign presence. She hails from Miami, where she and her husband organized immigrant workers and co-wrote a children’s book (Manny and the Mango Tree) that tackles xenophobia at a reading level appropriate for 4-8 year olds.
Summary: Vote Bajoie (but read Bustamante’s book to your kids).
DSCC Member 93rd District “A”
Avis M. Brock
Helena Moreno (withdrew)
The 93rd District comprises portions of the Lower Garden District and Central City Tulane/Gravier, the CBD, the Tremé, the French Quarter, the 7th Ward, and St. Roch.
Avis Brock is Councilman Jay Banks’ Director of Community Affairs, Secretary of DPEC, and elected member of the Black Organization for Leadership and Development. And while we don’t expect those who work for city council to be outright critical of anyone within the sacred administration, Brock’s personal Facebook is resplendent with praise for Cantrell (who recently said that she doesn’t care if people in jail get COVID-19).
Attorney and first-time candidate Megan Snider is a 2019 graduate of Emerge, the Louisiana organization that trains women to run for office. As a member of the Louisiana Coalition for Reproductive Freedom, Snider fights restrictive abortion laws. Reproductive justice is clearly important to her: in her spare time Snider volunteers with Lift Louisiana and Plan B NOLA. Another pet cause is transparency in government. She wants to educate the public about what DPEC and DSCC are, because they are part of a bewildering, obscure process that seems designed to exclude most people—including those who have no clue that they might actually want to give a damn. Snider wants you to have a clue and give two damns (because she is running for both committees). She also shares a list of bills she plans to support. Snider walks the walk.
Summary: Vote Snider. Brock has a wide sphere of influence already, and we’re not fans of where she directs it.
DSCC Member 93rd District “B”
The entry for this candidate has been updated from the print version. 1The print version for this candidate entry begins with the following: Cyrus Cooper is new to the political scene, better known to locals as a comedian at the New Movement, a controversial club with a slew of sexual misconduct allegations (and a boycott). We couldn’t locate any public disavowal of those misdeeds, and he seems to have performed there recently, so that’s the biggest blemish on his record.
It has since come to our attention that Cooper did indeed disavow his relationship with TNM, stating recently on Twitter, “I have not performed there ever since the allegations first came out… I definitely had no idea that my name is still associated with events from TNM online, but suffice it to say I have had no relationship at all with them since early 2018.” We recognize that our initial search of Mr. Cooper’s association (or lack thereof) with TNM was insufficient, hence we produced some poorly worded language and made an erroneous assumption that he was still involved with TNM. ANTIGRAVITY regrets the error.
Cyrus Cooper is new to the political scene, better known to locals as a comedian. A gamer/podcaster type, he also has a Twitch TV show and is a member of comedy troupe Dean’s List. Though the layers of satire characterizing Cooper’s Twitter (he has no campaign website) can make his positions a little hard to pin down, he seems to believe that housing is a human right and the pharmaceutical industry is dangerously dishonest. Cooper is sincerely radical enough to raise money for protestors’ bail, but isn’t savvy enough to know that the Bail Project is a nonprofit that imposes limits on how many people they’ll actually bail out (community/grassroots bail funds are far more effective, in need, and deserving of your support).
State Representative for District 93 Royce Duplessis earned quite a list of endorsements, including those from the Black Organization for Leadership Development, the Independent Women’s Organization, the United Teachers of New Orleans, and Step Up Louisiana. Duplessis served as chair of the City Planning Commission and worked to impose stricter regulations on short term rentals. As a state representative, Duplessis collaborated with The First 72+ to promote bills aimed at ending solitary confinement and reducing recidivism. His legislative support of literacy programs and increased pay for teachers no doubt helped endear him to UTNO.
We found no evidence that Jerome Johnson has an active campaign.
Summary: As far as politicians go, Duplessis advocates for issues mostly aligned with our values.
DSCC Member 94th District “A”
The 94th District encompasses a sliver of Mid-City and Bayou St. John, the City Park neighborhood, and the Lakefront areas of Orleans and Jefferson Parish. The district is 73% white, with a majority of residents above the median household income for the state. Historically a Republican district, the 94th has seen a shift away from that trend in recent years.
Deborah Langhoff’s blood runs blue. Langhoff is a DNC committeewoman, current member of both OPDEC and DSCC, and was a superdelegate for Hillary Clinton in 2016. She is the founder of LARoots, a “grassroots” database and network that supports Democrats nationwide, inspired by the campaign of John Kerry (a phrase one imagines hasn’t been uttered much), with visions of flipping Louisiana. While she talks in broad strokes about Democratic ideals, she has been effective in shifting her district toward more progressive politics over the past 15 years. In 2007 she was the first Democrat in over 20 years to qualify for the state rep race. Langhoff is heavily invested in electoral politics, but to her credit she is also involved with Justice & Beyond, a Black-led, anti-racist weekly forum for progressive social change.
If we gave out grades for the survey we sent out, Hope Phelps would receive an A+. According to her responses, Phelps is in favor of legalizing supervised injection sites, decriminalizing drugs and sex work, working to reduce rates of incarceration through numerous measures, and a $15 minimum wage. Member of the local Democractic Socialists of America chapter, 29-year-old Phelps is a first time candidate. A tour through her Twitter makes clear her belief in removing symbols of white supremacy, defunding the police, and shows a true condemnation of the NOPD’s violence at the recent protests. Not to mention her pivot from once canvassing for Bernie Sanders to now showing her dismay at his reactions to recent protests (i.e. Sanders not calling for defunding the police). A Democratic Socialist that doesn’t hold Sanders as their lord and savior? We’ll take it!
Tammy Savoie has a history of campaigning against Republicans (including Steve “David Duke without the baggage” Scalise in 2018), which has resulted in her own politics being more to the center of left. In November she lost the race for state representative of District 94 to Republican Stephanie Hilferty. Savoie’s military background as a clinical psychologist leaves us less than enthused, but she continues to campaign on increasing funds for education, opposing gerrymandering, improving infrastructure, and increasing the minimum wage (but only to $9).
Summary: Hope Phelps.
DSCC Member 94th District “B”
Richard Duplantier Jr.
Michael Andrew Foley
Yasin “Frank” Southall
Wisconsin native and retired editor of the Detroit Free Press, Paul Anger now resides in Metairie where he flexes his 50+ years of journalism experience by occasionally contributing articles to local publications and blogs. Anger has only been in the greater New Orleans area less than five years, which gives us pause, as does his Facebook claim that while he is a registered Democrat he “understand[s] and often agree[s] with Conservative or Libertarian views on specific issues.”
Richard Duplantier Jr. is a senior partner at one of New Orleans’ fancy law firms (Galloway) dealing in cases of professional liability. In 2018, Duplantier ran in hopes of becoming a judge on the Orleans Parish Civil District Court, but had to drop out after two citizens revealed that he was running as a Democrat but registered as a Republican. Duplantier claimed that he had registered as a Republican back in 2008 in order to vote for Republican candidates in elections that were closed to Democrats. But, still being registered 10 years later as Republican is, at best, a strange oversight.
Michael Foley, whose father is a former court clerk and current Biden delegate, is running for a position once held by his mother. He is an attorney and has volunteered on various campaigns of Louisiana Democrats. Other than that, and because none of his actual political views can be found, we must assume he’s relying on family ties to propel his campaign.
Mainstay of the local tenant rights scene, Yasin “Frank” Southall is the lead organizer at Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative, a housing advocacy nonprofit that promotes affordable housing policy, develops affordable housing in a community land trust, monitors eviction courts, creates definitive reports on short term rentals and evictions, and constantly provides resources and space for low-income homeowners and tenants to organize. At Jane Place, Southall launched the Renters Rights Assembly, which provides legal counseling and support in hopes of preventing evictions.
Summary: Southall somehow finds the time to show up for every community meeting, protest, and event. We’re going to show up for him.
DSCC Member 97th District “A”
Deborah Violet Chapman
Sandra Green Thomas
Diedre Pierce Kelly
Iam Christian Tucker
The 97th District contains Gentilly, and an intestine-shaped little chunk of Mid-City, including strips of Esplanade, Orleans and Canal, carefully drawn around City Park Avenue.
Deborah Chapman is a local community leader who advocates for drug reform, prison reform, and youth mentorship. She served as the coordinator for the New Orleans International Drug Policy Conference. In her speech, she called for reduced criminalization of marijuana and spoke against incarceration as a means to curb drug use. It would be interesting to know if her philosophy would carry over to more stigmatized drugs. Unfortunately, she did not respond to our survey.
Sandra Green Thomas is a current member of the OPDEC District D. This position is similar to the DSCC chair she’s running for here, but operates in a more local capacity (Orleans Parish), instead of at the state level. She endorsed and campaigned for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary, and represents a branch of the Democratic party, just left of center, whose politics are useless placations in our current social, economic, and political climates.
Sophie Kunen is a member of the New Orleans Democratic Socialists of America. She is a host and director at WTUL 91.5FM. Her Twitter timeline is full of retweets of Bernie Sanders and the New Orleans Workers Center for Racial Justice. She doesn’t just talk the talk either, having worked previously with the Louisiana Bucket Brigade and on the Louisiana Medicaid Expansion Campaign.
Diedre Pierce Kelly has worked as a New Orleans attorney and a legislative assistant in the Louisiana House of Representatives and Senate. She is running concurrently for a DSCC seat and an OPDEC seat. She has a more visible campaign than most of her opponents—and she provided more straightforward information about the duty of DSCC members than even the Louisiana Democratic Party’s own website. However, her campaign is light on actual policy or any indication as to the values she would look for when endorsing potential candidates. It doesn’t exactly help that she’s already entrenched in the current Louisiana Democratic establishment.
A savvy observer might put their money on Iam Christian Tucker to win this race, due to the reach of her voice and access to more donations and powerful people. Tucker is the founder and CEO of a New Orleans civil engineering firm, which specializes in sewer and drainage design. She served as part of Mayor Cantrell’s transition team, overseeing civil and structural engineering, as well as construction management activities. Ambitious and connected people can seem like inevitable winners. But this type of low-level, grassroots election is exactly the place to begin undermining that assumption.
At press time, there was no evidence of an Angele Wilson campaign.
Summary: Demographically, District 97 is predominantly Black. While we think Sophie Kunen is a strong candidate from a values standpoint, Kunen is also white; so if it’s important to you that representatives reflect their constituents in that way, that’s something to consider. If that’s the case, Deborah Chapman, who served as treasurer for the New Orleans NAACP, is certainly qualified. We are with her on the decriminalization of drugs and prison reform, and her established community ties would surely help her effectively represent the interests of this district.
DSCC Member 97th District “B”
Robert “Bob” Crowley
Arthur A. Morrell
David Gregory Nowak
Carlos John Stich
Councilmember Jared Brossett, of recent viral DWI video infamy, has served on City Council since 2014. He helped write legislation instituting New Orleans’ first living wage law, which requires all employees and contractors on projects contracted by the city to receive a wage of at least $11.19 per hour and seven days of paid leave per year. He helped create the Equal Pay Advisory Committee and contributed to legislation prohibiting City contractors from conducting credit checks on employees. He also accepted a substantial donation from developers of the Hard Rock Hotel.
Bob Crowley is a writer and photographer, who previously organized a Louisiana teachers’ union. He was pro-Bloomberg, now he’s pro-Biden, but above all he seems to be anti-Trump. We’re reaching for a bar a bit higher than that.
Arthur Morrell is a former Louisiana House Rep and the current clerk of Orleans Criminal District Court. At the beginning of the year, Morrell threatened to furlough the entirety of the court’s staff in a hold-out for an increased budget from the city. This would have left many individuals in prison with no way or chance to bail out, and a complete stoppage on criminal proceedings. The City eventually caved to Morrell’s demands and paid him what he wanted, so the court never shut down, but Morrell’s willingness to use people’s lives and freedom as bargaining chips for his office is about all you need to know about his priorities.
Currently working as the foreman of a film industry equipment rental company, David Gregory Nowak is a vocal supporter of Medicare For All and defunding the police. He supports the decriminalization of sex work and drug use. He values strong community organizing and fellowship as a means to undermine harmful and inequitable systems of power. In his response to our survey, he supported raising the minimum wage to as much as $20 an hour in New Orleans. Nowak advocates for reallocating NORA as public housing for the houseless population. He supports substantive prison reform, from ending cash bail and youth incarceration, to early release initiatives and eliminating jail time for nonviolent crimes. He adds that early release initiatives “do not go far enough if there is no basic monthly assistance and free vocational training provided.”
Carlos John Stich does not appear to have any kind of campaign presence.
Summary: Nowak easily outshines the others in this race.
DSCC Member 98th District “B”
Timothy David Ray
Andre Mayer Stolier
Carlos L. Zervigon
The 98th District comprises the majority of Uptown west of Washington, including the Tulane and Loyola areas, south to the river and north to Claiborne.
David Alvarez is a former teacher and academic coordinator who now heads a consulting firm for Louisiana schools and businesses. He ran previously for Orleans Parish School Board on a platform of undercutting competition of charter schools by having the city run and standardize schools. Online, he supports BLM and the unionization of teachers.
Timothy David Ray is an attorney and political consultant. He served previously as an interim first city clerk of court. Recently, he worked on Mack Cormier’s 2019 campaign, helping flip that legislative seat from red to blue. In his responses to our survey, he voiced support for decriminalization of drug use and sex work. He provided some thorough and nuanced dissections of food insecurity in our communities, calling for increased state funding of programs like SNAP and the School Lunch program, while simultaneously incentivizing the establishment of fresh markets and fresh food sources in lower income neighborhoods. On houselessness, he proposes repurposing publicly-owned land like abandoned buildings to transitional or permanent housing, highlighting the importance of public transit restructuring as crucial to confronting this issue. At the end of his stint as clerk of court, Ray was caught up in a money mishandling scandal, when it was revealed he’d cut three checks from a City account for questionable or unfilled services.
Andre Mayer Stolier doesn’t seem to have much of a campaign presence. On social media he has expressed support for Black Lives Matter and defunding the police.
Carlos Zervigon comes from a political, activist-oriented family with a long civil rights legacy. He’s the secretary of the Keller Family Foundation. He supports the decriminalization of sex work and drug use, medicaid expansion, a living wage, reproductive freedom, marijuana decriminalization, and LGBTQ rights. He wants to improve access to non-carceral drug treatment. However, he does not support ending incarceration for nonviolent crimes.
Summary: Timothy David Ray’s ideas are solid, if we take him at his word according to the survey results. And he clearly has experience in the political sphere (which might be read as connections, as well, for better or worse). However, mishandling public funds bums us out. Zervigon isn’t perfect either, but a strong candidate.
DSCC Member 99th District “A”
Jeanne “Jon” Jackson
Raquel Greenup Richmond
The 99th District includes areas to the east and west of the industrial canal—the Marigny, Bywater, the Florida/Desire Area, the Venetian Isles, Holy Cross, and parts of New Orleans East. The district is majority Black (around 79%).
Cynthia Cade served on the Orleans Parish School Board from 2004 to 2015 and was a union ally and opponent of charter schools. However, she was barred from running for reelection in 2016 because she failed to file her taxes.
Jon Jackson, daughter of state Representative and late ‘80s/early ‘90s city councilmember Johnny Jackson Jr., has a minimal online campaign presence. She runs a local foundation named after her father. The youth-oriented programming includes “shop with a cop,” which frankly sounds like entrapment. On her personal Twitter page, Jackson has re-posted sentiments about supporting guiding Black youth into careers in law enforcement, as well as other posts supporting both BLM protests and policing reforms. So, in short, an aspiring legacy politician and centrist.
Kaitlin Marone is a field organizer with Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) who co-founded their brake light clinic, which provides a needed service, shares skills, and addresses the use of “broken brake light” as a common cop euphemism for Driving While Black. Marone is also a comedian who once ran for U.S. Senate as a semi-satirical protest candidate with an earnestly progressive platform. DSA supports defunding the NOPD, supporting Medicare for All, supporting the striking sanitation workers, and reallocating money from the Convention Center’s reserve fund to support hospitality workers.
Raquel Greenup Richmond is married to congressman Cedric Richmond, but she herself has minimal online presence. She is a real estate agent, but what is her platform and why exactly is she running?
Summary: Vote Cade or Marone. Cade’s defense of public schools, and by extension New Orleans’ Black middle class, is laudable, especially considering that school board races have faced influxes of outside cash propping up “reform” candidates. However, we respect Marone’s organizing too. Both seem like good choices.
DSCC Member 100th District “A”
Lisa Marie Manning Ambrose
Alicia Plummer Clivens
The 100th District encompasses a part of New Orleans East, north of Chef Menteur, and mostly east of Crowder Boulevard. The district is majority Black (87.6%), and the next largest demographic is Asian (7.5%).
Lisa Manning Ambrose has served in the DPEC and is in favor of Medicare expansion and criminal justice reform, according to her messaging. She attended both the Emerge Louisiana training (for women who want to run for Democratic office) and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute. None of the available materials give much detail about her political vision.
Alicia Plummer Clivens is a veteran Democratic Party campaigner, real estate broker, and public health nurse who has run for both the city council District E seat and for the LA House of Representatives. In her campaigns she has advocated for greater investment in both New Orleans East and the Lower 9th while working to rebuild homeownership in that neighborhood. In her Louisiana house race, Clivens was endorsed by the AFL-CIO, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, UTNO, the Independent Women’s Organization, and The New Orleans Tribune.
We found no online campaign presence for Jenn Johnson.
Summary: Alicia Clivens.
DSCC Member 100th District “B”
Austin Badon is the current first city court clerk, an office for a court responsible for small claims, most eviction filings (for rent under $3,000), and civil lawsuits with claims up to $25,000. He has previously held office as a state representative from 2004 to 2016. In 2014 Badon sponsored a bill meant to keep pregnant women on life support, regardless of their family’s wishes, in order “to preserve the life of an unborn child.” (You may remember this as an actual plot line from the show The Handmaid’s Tale.) Badon has also shown a troubling impulse to expand policing—asking then-governor Jindal in 2011 to send the National Guard into Central City to quell gun violence. At a forum in 2010, Badon once promised to have the NOPD “kicking in at least four doors a day.”
Willie Jones held a seat on the OPDEC, and ran unsuccessful campaigns for Louisiana House of Representatives in 2015 and Lieutenant Governor in 2019. He is also a former member of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club. He does not have much of an overt campaign message and his platform running for Lieutenant Governor was similarly nebulous, with unsubstantiated lip service to increasing tourism outside of the main Louisiana hubs and providing tax incentives for the film industry. He ran against Republican Billy Nungesser and was endorsed by the Louisiana Democratic Party.
Kenya Rounds is an attorney who serves on the Zulu board of directors as well as practicing personal injury, contract, and criminal law. He was accused of attempting to cover up a sexual harassment complaint against a Zulu member in 2018. Also in 2018, he represented Edgar P. Harney Spirit of Excellence Academy’s Board. Former Principal Ashonta Wyatt claimed that Rounds denied Wyatt’s request for a public meeting when the board convened to discuss firing her, after she criticized board spending. She claims that he denied her request in a possible violation of open-meeting law, though he disputes this account.
Summary: None of these choices are particularly exciting. Both Badon and Rounds’ records are disqualifying. Jones doesn’t have the glaring red flags, but his actual politics remain unclear.
DSCC Member 102nd District “A”
Roberta B. Brown
The 102nd District includes Algiers and New Aurora.
Delisha Boyd is the DPEC incumbent for District C and a real estate agent at her own business. Her strong business background and connections with other DPEC members have strengthened her ties in the Louisiana political scene, but we have concerns about someone who has a vested interest in the rise of housing prices also having a say in the legislature (of course, a great many people in positions of power fit that description).
Roberta B. Brown is the founder and executive director of Concerned Citizens for a Better Algiers, a non-profit that provides services to low and middle income families. Brown is also the jury commissioner at Orleans Criminal District Court, but not much else is available to the public in terms of her political values.
Summary: Vote Boyd or Brown.
DSCC Member 105th District “A”
Vanessa Turner Billiot
Lisa Ray Diggs
The 105th District includes the east bank of Plaquemines Parish, the west bank of Jefferson Parish, and a small portion of Algiers.
Vanessa Turner Billiot is a resident of Plaquemines Parish, the rest is a mystery.
Lisa Ray Diggs is a current member of the DSCC for her district and was previously endorsed by Congressman Cedric Richmond. Diggs, who recently announced she will be a Joe Biden delegate at the Democratic National Convention, was on Team Joe since before the fall of the more progressive candidates, so it is clear her politics are hardly left of center.
Summary: Diggs, as she seems to be the one in politics here.
DSCC Member 105th District “B”
Darren P. Lombard
Burghart H. Turner
Darren Lombard is the current Chair of the DPEC and has been a court clerk for years. Most notably, Lombard navigated the logistics of post-Katrina elections and has been praised for his management skills. In 2018, Lombard was elected to serve as clerk of the second city court which deals in small claims, civil lawsuits, and evictions with rental fees under $3,000 a month.
Burghart Turner has had three unsuccessful runs for Plaquemines Parish President. Could it be his confusing campaign announcement that stated his philosophy of “Do no harm, do all you can, and find ways to make government work for the people. If government doesn’t work for the people, then it doesn’t work.”? Could it be his ties to Chevron that interfered with his service on city council?
DPEC Member(s) District A
14 to be elected
Aimee Adatto Freeman
Kristin Artigues (withdrew)
Allen H. Borne Jr.
Deborah Violet Chapman
Robert “Rob” Clemenz
Sylvia M. Crier
Robert “Bob” Crowley
Reuben DeTiege II
Richard Duplantier Jr.
Anthony “Tony” Grana
Edmond L. Guidry
Kathryn “Katie” Ives
Rose A. Lalanne
Elizabeth “Beth” LeBlanc
Natalie K. Mitchell
William “Will” Scott
David Lee Simmons
Jack Reno Sweeney
Thomas “Tom” Watson
Carlos L. Zervigon
District A is made up of the Uptown, Carrollton, Lakeview, Fairgrounds, City Park and Audubon Park neighborhoods. You’ll recognize some names from this list (Carlos Zervigon, Richard Duplantier Jr., Bob Crowley and Deborah Chapman) because they are also running for DSCC positions.
Aimee Freeman keeps running for office, and that means we are going to keep calling her out on her campaign for increased policing. Prior to her election to the Louisiana House of Representatives, she sat on the executive committee of the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation, and has advocated for more surveillance of people post-incarceration. We’ve got to do better than Freeman.
Incumbents Gizelle Banks and her husband Ryan Banks are both running for reelection. Mr. Banks is a graphic designer and elected member of the Black Organization for Leadership Development. Mrs. Banks is president of the Finance Authority of New Orleans, a housing and development financing agency geared toward low-income people. She recently reposted and applauded Cantrell’s open letter to protesters who had demonstrated outside the mayor’s house—a letter that sought to shame the protesters and undermine the organizers by misrepresenting their stated goals. We reject Cantrell’s bad-faith chiding, and Banks’ endorsement. We stand with the protesters and organized workers, the striking sanitation workers, Still Perkin’ baristas on the picket line: the people who Cantrell ignored in that letter.
Allen Borne Jr. lost the 2019 District 5 senatorial race, but is back running for a different position. In response to our survey, he said he would support the decriminalization of sex work “with credentials and testing.” He indicated he would not support the decriminalization of drug use, but would instead seek to prosecute abusive drug manufacturers. Unfortunately, this approach does nothing to address the discrimination of drug users trying to find work or housing, nor overpolicing and the prison pipeline.
Christian Bonin is an attorney, born and raised in Lakeview. His father is former judge Paul Bonin, who is being federally investigated for making legal decisions based on personal financial and political ties to a post-incarceration monitoring company, including threatening to put people back in jail if they fell behind on payments to the company. Bonin supported dad’s election on his own social media pages in 2016, and has been silent since these allegations came out. Complacency in the face of oppression is complicity.
Incumbent Mindy Brickman is an attorney, is involved in the New Orleans Pro Bono Project, and serves on the New Orleans Industrial Development Board. Most ongoing construction projects the board has given money to are hotels and CBD apartments, including one loft project that was exposed for converting units to short term rentals in 2017.
Cortney Busch, executive director at international fundraising foundation non-profit Chapel & York, previously worked for Tammy Savoie. Where Savoie worked for the military, Busch served as operations director for Reprieve US, a non-profit that works to free Guantánamo Bay detainees. We salute the latter but are wary of big finance conflicts of interest in the former.
Carling Dinkler is an experienced policy adviser with seven years in DC under his belt spent working under members of Congress. Two of his main focuses are redistricting and undoing gerrymandering, and restoring the coastline. Rob Clemenz is a hagiographer, who makes medals adorned with saints. He doesn’t have much of a political presence so far, but is anti-Trump online. Incumbent Sylvia M. Crier was a teacher in New Orleans for over 50 years. We salute her dedication to working with our city’s young people. However, in a 2016 interview, she placed blame on parents who “don’t have money to buy [their kid] a book… but are standing in line at the Nike store at 4 in the morning.” That’s a pretty reductive misrepresentation of the deepset poverty and education problems in New Orleans, and disturbing to hear from a longtime teacher.
Caroline Fayard ran for lieutenant governor and state senator, losing in both races. She is a lawyer from a wealthy family that was previously endorsed by the Landrieus. In her previous elections, she’s tried a kind of centrist approach, positioning herself as an outsider Democrat and hero of the young people—due to her radical ideas like closing the gender pay gap. However, she’s also in the pocket of big oil and panders to the right on topics like reducing state government and opposing the ACA.
In stark contrast to Fayard’s big money and powerful friends, Tony Grana is a grassroots candidate who advocates for unions and Black Lives Matters. He is an organizer who has been volunteering on campaigns since he was a teenager. Erin Huggins seems like another promising candidate. She supported Bernie, protested police brutality, and has experience with crisis intervention and treating sexual trauma and domestic violence survivors.
Emily Leitzinger hosts a radio show on WHIV dedicated to helping listeners learn about ways they can get involved in community initiatives around the city. Over the course of more than 85 broadcasts, Leitzinger has drawn attention to everything from Delta restoration to food insecurity, health care for musicians, and composting. Leitzinger has a track record of caring about this city and the people who live here, and now seeks to bring her mission of compassion and inclusion to the political field.
Simon Levitsy is an attorney promising “new perspectives and unbiased decision making.” If you can get past this blandly jargonistic babble you’ll find some decent signs, like supporting BLM and providing pro-bono help with filing unemployment claims throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Natalie Mitchell, also an attorney candidate worth a look, can be found online voicing her criticism of Louisiana’s youth incarceration and immigrant concentration camps. She has spent some time in City Hall as well, doing public relations and liaising with the business community (we don’t know how those two fit together either).
Irma Muse-Dixon was the first Black person to be elected to the Louisiana Public Service Commission, where she represented the 3rd District for 12 years. A former social worker, Muse-Dixon mentored a generation of Black politicians seeking leadership roles in the ‘80s. She is involved in the Urban League and Beacon of Hope charity, and currently serves as parliamentarian on the Louisiana Democratic Party Executive Committee. Dixon’s most recently articulated political priorities are the same inoffensive boilerplate agenda espoused by Dem centrists here and everywhere: better schools, better jobs, more affordable housing, a safer city. Her personal touch is also advocating for improved technology training—a field in which she built herself a career outside of public service.
In an outright campaign of bullying, Jason Napoli brought malicious personal criminal charges against public defenders. As a result of his tenaciously vexatious litigation, a judge once even (allegedly) called Napoli “Lucifer” after he harassed her on her personal cell phone. With Napoli as a top prosecutor in the notoriously nefarious, often outright malicious District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office, we can only imagine that the toxicity of that workplace ought to have earned it a designation as New Orleans’ second superfund site. In one instance of his pattern of abusive behavior, Napoli manipulated what was essentially a misunderstanding or bureaucratic error into a young public defender being held under $50,000 bail. Jenny Holzer’s axiom holds: abuse of power comes as no surprise. The last thing someone like Napoli needs is more power.
A former journalist for Gambit and The Times-Picayune, David Lee Simmons now works as Mayor Cantrell’s deputy communications director. He has called for conversations and dialogue about renaming city spaces and removing statues, and has praised peaceful protests. Though we appreciate Simmons using his platform in a positive way, agreeing that Confederate statues and police brutality are bad is pretty low-hanging fruit.
DSA-backed Jack Reno Sweeney works with the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, an organization committed to fighting environmental racism in Cancer Alley. Sweeney is a potential Sanders delegate and is in favor of at least a $15 minimum wage, Medicare for All, and shifting the budget from policing to community services. He is so committed to government transparency that he set up a Reddit Ask Me Anything for his campaign.
Sarah Usdin has moved through the Teach for America ranks, ultimately becoming the state director. Usdin then moved on to co-found New Schools for New Orleans, a nonprofit that launches and expands charter schools. We’re looking for the opposite of that.
Incumbent and attorney Mark Vicknair was previously a public defender in Orleans Parish. While Vicknair was a committee member for the Pro Bono Project, he also sits on the Police Community Advisory Board (PCAB).
Elizabeth Sangisetty is a pediatrician, member of the IWO, and married to lawyer and state rep Ravi Sangisetty. During his campaign, she published a letter in support of her husband, detailing the topics that come up at their family dinners such as racial disparities in health care, reproductive rights, and reducing the number of ICE detention centers in Louisiana.
Bishop Tom Watson founded The Family Center of Hope and once ran for mayor, neither of which went well. The center (still yet to be built), which received $2.7 million of public funds, has been the subject of six lawsuits. Money mishandling aside, if finally built, the center would provide programming for teens convicted of crimes as an alternative to the juvenile detention center. All sounds great until you realize that the center won’t accept teens who have substance abuse issues, mental health crises, or have prior convictions for crimes deemed too violent.
Summary: YES: Dinkler, Sangisetty, Zervignon, Grana, Huggins, Leitzinger, Sweeney. MAYBE: Borne, Busch, Levitsy, Muse-Dixon, Mitchell, Simmons. NO: Freeman, Banks (both), Bonin, Brickman, Watson, Crier, Crowley, Fayard, Napoli, Usdin, Vicknair.
DPEC Member(s) District B
14 to be elected
Olander “Butch” Bajoie
Avis M. Brock
Joseph “Trey” Caruso
Ronald C. Coleman
Isidore Marshall Jr.
“Ed” McGinnis III
Timothy David Ray
Ronald Sholes Jr.
Jonathan B. Stewart
District B includes the Irish Channel, Uptown, Broadmoor, Central City, and the CBD.
You’ll recognize some names from this list (Diana Bajoie, Avis Brock, Valerie Bustamante, Carlos Stich, and Timothy David Ray) because they are also running for DSCC positions.
The first in the Carter trilogy is Karen Carter-Peterson, Louisiana Democratic Party and state Senate member. Carter-Peterson served on Obama’s task force developing the Affordable Care Act and has been pushing for health care expansions in the state Legislature. Her husband Dana Peterson is the deputy superintendent of external affairs at the Recovery School District; and while the guiding principles of our group require us to be firmly anti-charter, Peterson and his team are slowly returning control from board to parish. Carter-Peterson’s sister Eileen Carter is also running. Carter is the radio show host of The Good Life Radio Show and is also Cantrell’s social media manager.
And that brings us to a whole slew of these candidates who are part of the Cantrell administration. We’ve got Trey Caruso, Cantrell’s press assistant and John Pourciau, chief of staff who we only know through their statements on behalf of the governing “we.” Justin Boone is also a special assistant to the mayor and is on the board of the Broadmoor Improvement Association where Cantrell was once president. Representing Action New Orleans, Cantrell’s political action committee, is Kristine Breithaupt, who holds the role of director of communications. Breithaupt continues to lobby for the City to receive higher shares of tourism revenue.
After his loss in 2017 to Jay Banks for City Council District B, Seth Bloom is back on a ballot. Bloom came under scrutiny for his shoddy record of attendance while serving on the Orleans Parish School Board, and for his support of charter schools in general. On the other hand, Bloom continues to have a more humanistic approach to criminal justice, in part due to his own struggle with addiction involving opioids and his work with the Welcoming Project, which assists in reintegrating formerly imprisoned young people.
Councilmember Giarrusso’s land use and policy director, Katherine Baudouin, is also seeking a committee seat. Baudouin, who has a background working with Medicaid at the Louisiana Department of Health, pledges to prioritize school-based health care. On her personal Facebook page, Baudouin called NOPD’s use of teargas on protestors “not okay” which is an understatement to say the least, but stands out because among any politicians in this city, vocal critics of the police are few and far between.
Councilmember Helena Moreno is a mixed bag. Yes, Moreno has supported bills aimed at decreasing opioid overdose deaths, providing protection for victims of sexual assault, and decriminalizing marijuana. But Moreno (a devotee of “top cop” Kamala Harris) also proposed using unclaimed lottery winnings to fund increased state trooper presence in the French Quarter. Most recently, Moreno directed Entergy to provide forgiveness and credits to help out those in financial need during the pandemic (though the funding that Entergy is using is just money they were supposed to refund to people years ago but haven’t, plus some storm reserve money).
District 91 state Representative Mandie Landry has been a champion of reproductive rights, the legalization of marijuana, and authored the newly passed bill that enacted the first changes in over a hundred years to Louisiana’s solitary confinement laws. In a recent act of solidarity with protesters, Landry used her campaign Facebook page to share the letter written by health care professionals condemning the use of teargas by the NOPD.
Ronald Coleman is the new president of the board of the local NAACP and is tasked with helping the organization recover from the past few years of leadership turmoil and money mismanagement. Also on the Board of the NAACP is Gregory Phillips, who resigned from his position as CEO of James M. Singleton Charter School and Dryades YMCA after a standardized test cheating scandal.
New to politics is Ryan Gomez, whose platform centers around “progressive voices, anti-racism, worker dignity, and care-based society.” Though he self-identifies as being Warren-first Sanders-second this still places him further left than most of the other candidates. His website includes a directory of progressive organizations (and the list is not just full of nonprofits!) encouraging people to get involved. We appreciate the energy.
Then we have Eric Griggs, a.k.a. Doc Griggs, who you might recognize from his weekly slot on Fox 8 as the health educator. The “every man’s doctor” is adding politics to his laundry list of extracurriculars. At least one can hope he’d use science-based information to make informed public health decisions (looking at you, Avegno).
The Tulane crowd includes Rhys Gribbin, who graduated in 2019. A not-as-recent grad, Miles Tepper is a special assistant to Cantrell and co-founder of Sister District NOLA, an organization helping to elect progressive candidates. However, they recently supported Tammy Savoie, indicating that their definition of progressive is a $9 minimum wage. Another Tulane Sister District NOLA candidate is Noa Elliot, who also works for Millenial Voter Engagement (MoVE).
Robert McKnight, former Orleans public defender, maintains his commitment to reforming the criminal reform justice system and has previously earned an endorsement from Step Up Louisiana. Kea Sherman, proponent of all things girl power™, is a lawyer and previous candidate for state Representative whose political priorities have been coastal restoration and improvements to local infrastructure.
Steven Kennedy is the president of a real estate advisory firm and well-known for his involvement in and commitment to Justice & Beyond, a Black-led, anti-racist weekly forum for progressive social change.
The entry for the following candidate has been updated from the print version.2Founder of the pro-legalization of marijuana organization CommonSense NOLA Kevin Caldwell intrigues us. We applaud his pro-drug stance, but are disappointed that the majority of his focus is on the business aspect of marijuana and not on addressing the racial disparities in the carceral system or the legalized market.
We have since been able to clarify Mr. Caldwell’s positions, reflected below. ANTIGRAVITY regrets the error.
Founder of pro-marijuana organization CommonSense NOLA, Kevin Caldwell has consistently pointed to racist disparities in drug arrests, convictions, and sentencing, advocating for decriminalization as a remedy. He critiques the way legalization has reinforced those disparities by allowing white business owners to profit on the backs of Black entrepreneurship in informal economies. Caldwell’s knowledge of relevant legislative intricacies and local nuances, along with his argument for how (and why) social goods ought to be funded, demonstrates his devotion to the city. He has even considered how marijuana might fit into our pandemic/recession-era tourist economy.
Former editor at NOLA Family Magazine, Christine Harvey is an “obsessive planner and mom of two” who wants more police presence in her neighborhood. You might recognize incumbent Danae Columbus from her endless supply of deranged Uptown Messenger articles, the most appalling of which supports Trump’s false assertions on crime. Or you might remember when she was fired from her post as City Council spokeswoman after making a racial slur (and never apologizing for it).
Stacy Head was the only City Councilmember to oppose the removal of the Lee statue in 2017 and, perhaps not coincidentally, is also notorious for being particularly hostile to Black leadership. Political consultant Cheron Brylski, who is heavily involved in charter schools, has also been caught playing some bizarre race politics and tokenizing games for her clients that can only be described as… still racist.
Summary: YES: Baudouin, Caldwell, Coleman, Gomez, Landry, Kennedy, Peterson, and McKnight. MAYBE: Elliott, Phillips, and Griggs. NO: Brylski, Columbus, Harvey, and Head.
DPEC Member(s) District C
14 to be elected
Joseph Broussard Jr.
Roberta B. Brown
Troy A. Carter
David Daniels II
John Davillier Sr.
Lisa Ray Diggs
Kenneth P. Garrett Sr.
Kristin Gisleson Palmer
Freddie King III
Darren P. Lombard
Jordan Hunter Mitchell
Zachary “Zach” Monroe
District C is a widely diverse area, containing parts of the French Quarter, Marigny, Bywater, Tremé, plus Algiers and a bit of the Westbank. The ballot reflects the diversity of the district, in terms of the wide range of candidates and their backgrounds.
Running for this district are some more established local politicians like Councilmember Kristen Gisleson Palmer and former Councilmember Nadine Ramsey. Palmer is one of the more progressive members of the current council (except when it comes to sex workers’ rights, unfortunately). She worked to increase regulations against short-term rentals, and supported construction of an affordable housing complex in the Bywater, part of her own district, despite pushback and NIMBY bigotry from some of her constituents. Her predecessor, Ramsey, had previously positioned herself against converting riverfront property into affordable housing.
We’ve also got some fresh young upstarts like Jihad Allen, whose community involvement includes youth mentorship and coordination of domestic violence conferences. You might remember Hashim Walters as the youngest mayoral candidate in the 2018 election at just 22 years of age. During his run, he advocated for local control of public schools, expanding housing for low-income people, and the expansion of City Council to include representation of New Orleans East.
The entry for the following candidate has been updated from the print version.3The print version for this candidate states: As for this freshman class, we prefer those two [Allen and Walters] over Tyler Russel, an urban planner who works under Mayor Cantrell.
Mr. Russell did in fact respond to our survey early in March, pre-pandemic; his answers were misplaced at the time and hence were not included in the print version. ANTIGRAVITY regrets the error.
Tyler Russell is an urban planner working in Mayor Cantrell’s office. According to the responses from our survey, Russell supports the decriminalization of drugs and sex work, as well as legislation to fund and support supervised injection sites. He is in favor of a $15 minimum wage and guaranteed paid family leave for all workers statewide. On criminal justice reform, Russell supports ending cash bail, eliminating jail time for nonviolent crimes, and ending the incarceration of youths, among other systematic overhauls. Russell believes housing is a human right, and has experience working on local housing initiatives. He advocates for the use of vacant public land to develop new affordable housing. We believe he is a strong candidate for DPEC District C, whose ideals and ideas can help guide the party in the right direction.
There are some red flags here as well. Chief among them is Marlon Defillo. At one time the second highest ranking officer on the NOPD, he retired in a hurry after blowback for his failure to investigate the cops who killed and burned the body of Henry Glover during Katrina. We’re also wary of attorney Edwin Shorty, who is a member of the Louisiana Constable and Marshall’s Association—the police have more than enough power and representation. Leslie Ellison earned a reputation serving on the Orleans Parish School Board, where she argued in support of a bill that would have allowed charter schools to refuse enrollment to gay students by claiming, verbatim, “There is no such thing” as separation of church and state.
Candidates like Delisha Boyd, a real estate broker, and Erika Edwards-Jones, who is on the board of trustees at a charter school, give us pause for their overlapping professional interests.
Kenneth P. Garrett Sr. previously ran for state Representative on a platform of balancing the budget. Zachary “Zach” Monroe is a consultant and former campaign manager for Mickey Murphy, former candidate for Senate who lost a runoff against Beth Mizell. Monroe previously had worked under Mary Landrieu and Cedric Richmond. Though there’s not much available in the way of Monroe’s own political leanings, his many years spent working behind the scenes in Louisiana politics make him a decent pick for the experience and practical insight he could bring to local elections. Kenneth Cutno formerly ran for the House, and supports criminal justice reform and raising the minimum wage.
Rhonda Findley owns boutique clothing stores in the Quarter and on Magazine. Noah Kessler is a corporate finance attorney. Merlin Jackson is a lifelong teacher who earned recognition from the state for his work with young people. One of these is not like the others.
Summary: There’s more to be wary than to get excited for. About half these people will get seats, though, one way or the other. Harm reduction means voting against cops, bigots, and predatory capitalists as often as possible. YES: Palmer, Walters, Cutno, Russell, Jackson. MAYBE: Garrett, Monroe, Allen. NO: Defillo, Ramsey, Shorty, Ellison, Boyd, Edwards-Jones.
DPEC Member(s) District D
14 to be elected
Eldon Delloyd Anderson
Kenneth “Kenny” Bordes
Wayne Encalarde Jr.
Adonis C. Expose
Maple Richmond Gaines
Sandra Green Thomas
Lois “Pye” Hazeur
Jeanne “Jon” Jackson
Kevin “KJ” Jackson (withdrew)
Durrell L. Laurent
Arthur A. Morrell
David Gregory Nowak
Diedre Pierce Kelly
John Price (withdrew)
Brandon H. Robb
Mary R. Schultz
Maria Mercedes Tio
Iam Christian Tucker
Dominic Anthony Willard Jr.
District D includes parts of the Upper 9th Ward, Gentilly, Lakeview, parts of the Tremé and a small part of New Orleans East.
Eldon Delloyd Anderson is from New Orleans, and has worked for Take Fo’ Entertainment and Records (D.J. Jubilee, Katey Red, Choppa) for decades. We are happy to see more people in the music biz run for office, and Anderson seems to have strong ties to the community. Next up is Patrick Armstrong, whose abandoned blog took a detailed (if somewhat rambly) look at New Orleans politics. Not many people are out here writing about the consent decree, the Entergy stranglehold on New Orleans rate-payers, and City zoning overhauls, but it is a valuable service.
Ethan Ashley has a history of working with the charter regime in the school board, but has also worked for juvenile justice reform, and served as director of community engagement for the Urban League of Louisiana. In his unsuccessful run for state Representative, he backed gender-inclusive sex education, bail reform and ending fees for re-entry programs, and state-funded Universal Basic Income. Kenny Bordes is a civil rights and wage law attorney running on a platform to protect civil rights and workers’ rights, and to make the party more accessible. He also co-hosts a civil rights law show on WHIV.
Gretchen Bradford is president of the Pontchartrain Park Neighborhood Association, which has promoted COVID testing and provided mask and food distribution in their community. Since the national uprising against police brutality, Bradford has posted about Black Lives Matter on her social media. Similarly, Rachel Lockhart has a fairly progressive social media presence.
Leslie Bouie is heavily involved in different community institutions—a board member at the Preservation Resource Center, which has a history of racist directors, and is a board member of the Gentilly Terrace and Gardens Neighborhood Association. In 2016, Bouie served as board chair of the charter network New Beginnings, and approved a $175,000 salary for a CEO. At the time, the network had just four schools under its management, and last year, the same CEO was suspended with pay after multiple allegations of malfeasance.
Councilmember Jared Brossett is the recently disgraced representative of District D, after being charged with a DWI on the first night of bars reopening. Just prior, he refused to condemn NOPD for their use of tear gas and rubber bullets on nonviolent protesters who were kettled on a bridge on the interstate. As a rule we don’t find it helpful or kind to shame people for their relationship to substances, nor their encounters with the law. However, endangering the lives of others—the lives of your constituents, over whom you have some power—with reckless behavior is certainly unacceptable. Driving drunk is bad, but letting cops get away with tear gassing people makes you a SERIOUS menace to the public.
2017 Zulu King Adonis Exposé runs an event management business and works for the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) in communications. He is active in the community both professionally (recruiting small businesses to contract with RTA) and outside of work, collaborating with various youth groups and organizing within Zulu. Exposé ran for the Louisiana House District 99 seat in 2019 and has expressed support for charter school oversight and reform.
Brandon Gregoire previously ran for Louisiana State Senate in 2019. He is a Marine Corps veteran who was also a speechwriter for the Commandant of the Marine Corps. In his Senate run, he advocated for coastal restoration, education funding, and collaboration in government throughout the region to improve transportation and infrastructure. He is publicly uncritical of the military, and his stated aims are both uncontroversial and unspecific.
This brings us to Eugene Green who is on the City Planning Commission and the New Orleans Council on Aging, and founded Nationwide Real Estate Corporation, a property management company. He ran for Louisiana House of Representatives and City Council before, in 2019 and 2014, respectively. Considering his obvious interest in housing instability and disenfranchisement via the predatory real estate industry, we have a hearty skepticism of his candidacy.
On the other hand, we have gardener and small business owner Marguerite Green, who last year ran an inspiring but ultimately unsuccessful David vs. Goliath campaign for state agriculture commissioner. An active DSA member, Green ran on a platform of sustainability, environmental and food justice, and protecting Louisiana’s forests.
Next up we have incumbent Sandra Green Thomas, a delegate for Joe Biden. Thomas is a founding member of the GU272 Descendants Association, an association by and for the descendants of the 272 enslaved people sold by the Jesuits in 1838 and trafficked from Maryland to Louisiana. The group has courageously sought justice from Georgetown University—the institution that benefited from the sale of their ancestors.
Durrell Laurent is president of the Edgewood Heights Neighborhood Association and board chairman of Einstein Charter Schools. Under Laurent’s management, Einstein apparently failed to meet state guidelines when, in 2019, the school neglected to give over 500 students a state-mandated social studies exam, and failed in 2018 to provide transportation for students, arguing that giving them free RTA vouchers accomplished the same goal. Running for Louisianna State Representative, he then argued OPSB should pay for buses. He campaigned saying that partnerships with trade unions could help high school students find careers. While this is not an objectively terrible idea, we need to be cautious that such programs don’t funnel Black students into dangerous or underpaid jobs.
Maria Mercedes Tio worked for city councilmember James Gray, and says she wants to use the DPEC position to increase registration and turnout. Though Tio initially supported Kamala Harris, she has joined Women for Biden. In her professional life, she has worked in public relations for politicians including Mitch Landrieu during his time as Lieutenant Governor, and also for James Gray, former city councilmember.
Jared Munster led the City’s Department of Safety and Permitting and has been executive interim director of the RTA. He is now their chief administrative officer. He recently wrote an op-ed calling for Jared Brossett’s resignation after his DWI. David Gregory Nowak is a real one, as discussed previously (DSCC / District 97A race above).
LaTanja Silvester-Lewis is another Biden delegate, and a co-founder of the Les Femmes PAC, which helps elect female candidates to Democratic offices in Louisiana. She is also president of SEIU-Local 21, a service workers’ union that supports the rights of school staff in New Orleans to unionize.
Brandon Robb is a lawyer specializing in family law and LGBTQ civil issues in particular. Matthew Willard is a member of the state legislature (representing the 97th District). During his house race he was endorsed by the AFL-CIO, the United Teachers of New Orleans, and STEP UP Louisiana, an education and economic justice organization. He campaigned on fighting for lowered property taxes for seniors and paid maternity leave. He has also authored legislation to improve protections for long term care facility residents.
Summary: YES: Anderson, Armstrong, Ashley, Bordes, Cade, Green, Nowak, Silvester-Lewis, and Willard. MAYBE: Thomas, Kelly, Langhoff. NO: Brossett, (Eugene) Green, Gregoire, Morrell, Laurent.
DPEC Member(s) District E Judge
14 to be elected
Lisa Marie Manning Ambrose
Frederick M. Bell
Hattie M. Broussard
Alisha Lain Brumfield
Kimberly Lavon Burbank
Alicia Plummer Clivens
Brian P. Egana
Dent A. Hunter Jr.
Anthony Jackson Jr.
Ashton M. Jackson
Tymetrius “Tyme” Jones (withdrew)
Barbara Lacen Keller
Trecenia Conerly Lewis
Sabrina C. Mays
Chelsey Richard Napoleon
Raquel Greenup Richmond
Betty P. Stewart
District E comprises New Orleans East and the Lower 9th Ward.
You’ll recognize some names from this list (Jenn Johnson, Austin Badon, Alicia Plummer Clivens, WIllie Jones, Raquel Greenup Richmond, Lisa Marie Manning Ambrose, Kenya Rounds) because they are also running for DSCC positions (see above).
There are those already working in politics, such as incumbent Therese Badon, who is married to Austin Badon. She is VP of development of UNCF, an organization that raises millions of dollars each year for Black and POC college scholarships, as well as supporting HBCUs. While we are deeply skeptical of nonprofits, we also believe that supporting Black students and HBCUs is important. Given Badon’s profession, we know at the very least she is a skilled fundraiser. Another incumbent, Sheila Collins-Stallworth, is the current treasurer of the OPDEC, but other than that she flies under the radar.
Chelsey Richard Napoleon has been in the business for a while and is a member of both the League of Women Voters and the Independent Women’s Organization. During the pandemic, she has been working diligently to provide free online access to public records. Very good! Information wants to be free! Then we have Cynthia Willard-Lewis, a former member of the state Senate and House of Representatives. She served on City Council during the immediate years post-Katrina and continues to push for resources for New Orleans East.
There are also candidates working in City Hall or affiliated with the Cantrell Administration, such as Kelly Derbigny, who works for Cyndi Nguyen’s office as a special project director. She does not appear to be actively campaigning.
Trenton Butler actually has a Twitter explaining the functions and responsibilities of the office, a promising sign as accessibility is part of that. He is young, a Xavier grad, and has posted about dismantling structural racism within the Democratic Party. He is involved with the Cantrell regime, both her reelection campaign and Forward Together New Orleans.
Barbara Lacen Keller was a staff member for former Councilmember Stacy Head, which meant she was tasked with doing damage control for Head’s inability to self-censor. More than once, Lacen Keller was put in the beyond uncomfortable role of attempting to repair Head’s relationship with the Black community.
From the New Orleans Education system, we have Shawon Bernard, with a background in teaching and educational administration, now practicing family and educational law. She ran for a position on the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to represent District 2 in 2019, though she lost. She was endorsed by the AFL-CIO and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and School Employees during her run for the BESE. Bernard advocated for a return to local governance for the schools, and an overhaul of the entire system rather than continuing to tweak the extractive system in place now, because students deserve better.
Next is Brian Egana, who works for NORD and is very supportive of the great work that they do in the community. A less positive note: he is also involved with the Louisiana Land Trust, an organization that “acquired” properties through the Road Home post-Katrina rebuilding and buyout program, which discriminated against Black homeowners. He is also on the board of a charter organization—Firstline Schools, and he is a charter apologist. Fellow candidate Eric Jones resigned from the Coghill Charter School Board after reimbursement disputes and directing teachers not to give students failing grades.
Then we have people running from backgrounds in other areas of government, such as Kevin Guillory, who ran for judge in 2016 and continues to work as assistant district attorney at Orleans Parish Criminal District Court. Guillory hopes to steer courts away from punishment and towards methods to decrease recidivism. Meanwhile, Jason Hughes, vice president of the City Planning Commission, cautiously oversaw the proposal for the Bywater mixed-income HANO development and STR regulation. Hughes wants to move school control back to the Orleans Parish School Board as well as invigorate business growth in the East.
Sabrina Mays is the coordinator for the New Orleans Black Mardi Gras Indian Co-Op, having retired from the public school system after 30 years as both a teacher and the homeless liaison and program Director for the Orleans Parish School Board. Mays created summer camps for the arts, facilitated workshops for government offices, and has leadership roles in the Umoja Committee, the Tremé/Seventh Ward Cultural District Committee, and the Tremé/Seventh Ward Arts and Culture Festival.
Youth advocate and actual youth (the 23-year-old ran for representative of the 100th District last year but lost to Jason Hughes) Anthony Jackson Jr. is very pro-cop—volunteering with the NOPD and Crimestoppers. No apparent familial relation but certainly ideological kin, Ashton Jackson, in May of this year 2020, had a pro-incarceration Facebook post AND is lead revenue accountant for Entergy. Pass. Then we come to Carl Haydel who is just literally a cop.
One of the most well-credentialed contenders is Hattie M. Broussard, currently a mediator working with the Orleans Parish Family Court Pilot Mediator Program. She has worked in various federal agencies: as assistant chief counsel for Customs and Border Patrol in New Orleans (she left in ‘95), as a field attorney for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and assistant United States attorney for the Eastern District U.S. Department of Justice (a federal prosecutor). She’s currently a commissioner at the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority.
Summary: YES: Bernard, Clivens, Mays. MAYBE: Badon, Butler, Napoleon, Guillory. NO: Egana, Anthony and Ashton Jackson, Jones, Rounds, Haydel.
PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE REPUBLICAN PARTY
Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente
Matthew John Matern
Donald J. Trump
In a reelection year, the presidential primary for the incumbent’s party is little more than a formality. Since presidential primaries became a thing, the incumbent has always received the nod from their party. Still, hollow gestures toward freedom and democracy are about as American as baseball and systemic racism, so by all means anyone can step up to the plate and waste a bunch of money running for the nom.
Bill Weld is currently in second place behind incumbent Donald Trump. By that we mean Weld has one delegate to his name compared to Trump’s… all the rest. Weld is a former Republican governor of Massachusetts. More recently, he was registered as a Libertarian before switching back to red to run in this primary. He endorsed Obama in ‘08 and Romney in 2012. He wants to do away with all tax deductions and loopholes and impose a flat rate, has supported legalizing marijuana since the early 90s, and says he would keep and build on the Affordable Care Act, alongside deregulating private insurers. On his campaign site, Weld offers ye olde laissez faire credo, “government should stay out of your wallet and […] your bedroom.” Counterpoint: Trump thinks Nazis are very fine people and is moving to close COVID testing sites as the number of infected continues to surge.
Also running is Rocky De La Fuente, who ran as a Democrat in 2016 and in 2018, entering nine senate races and losing them all. He denounces Trump’s immigration policies—which of course includes directing over four billion taxpayer dollars toward keeping people detained under inhumane conditions at the border. De La Fuente instead offers his own abstruse plan to “match immigrants with job shortage.” It’s unclear how literally that slogan should be taken, but his website amounts to repeatedly referring to immigrants as “assets.”
Matt Matern is an attorney and entrepreneur, and there is no way we can offer a more succinct and effective origin story than the one from the man himself: “Deeply impressed by Reagan’s stand against totalitarianism, Matt became a believer in the role of America as a champion of freedom and democracy around the world.” Ah, yes, following in Ronnie’s footsteps with plans to cut taxes and end homelessness by giving a $10,000 federal tax credit to anyone who takes in a person off the streets. Yes, that’s his actual policy proposal.
Finally there’s Bob Ely, entrepreneur and former investment banker. This self-described jerk previously ran against Obama, claiming he didn’t know what to do to fix the problems in our country except run for president, in a race he knows he’ll lose.
Summary: Who comes to the Harm Reduction Voter Guide in ANTIGRAVITY to figure out who to vote for in the Republican Presidential primary? If this is you, contact us. We’d like to get to know you. Weld seems the most qualified and serious of these candidates, and displays at least some understanding of basic human rights. It is almost impossible that he will get the 15% of votes required to secure delegates and have an impact at the RNC, though.
RPEC Member(s) District A
14 to be elected
John “Jay” Batt
Christine “Chrissy” Bruneau
James “Jeb” Bruneau
James T. “J. T.” Hannan
Francis F. J. Hebert Jr.
David Kepper Jr.
Charles Eugene Marsala
Eugenie “Gina” Palmisano
Allen Richard Jr.
District A contains parts of Lakeview, Mid-City, Hollygrove and Uptown/Carrollton. This is the only district where registered Republicans will get to vote on members to represent the Orleans Republican Party. In the other districts, all the candidates are running unopposed.
Jay Batt comes from an old New Orleans family who owned the Pontchartrain Beach theme park once upon a different lifetime. He served previously on the New Orleans City Council from 2002 to 2006. During Trump’s 2016 run, Batt was one of his more well-known Louisiana supporters and even served as Trump’s delegate at the Republican National Convention. More recently, he’s been Angry Online™ about “vandalism” at BLM protests and the Seattle autonomous zone, while remaining silent on police brutality.
A couple other big name local Republicans are on this ballot as well. Louis Gurvich is a third generation Republican and current chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party. He’s also an attorney and owns a large private security firm, New Orleans Private Patrol. Then there’s Phil Brickman, also an attorney, and chairman of GNOR, a local Republican PAC that endorsed Rispone last fall.
Adrian Bruneau is a former marine who transitioned to being a political consultant and equates running a political campaign to a military operation. He advised Trump’s campaign in Louisiana during the 2016 run. His wife Chrissy Bruneau and brother Jeb Bruneau are also running on this ballot. Chrissy is a construction lawyer and Jeb is CEO of the local branch of a national construction association, and surely there’s nothing fishy going on here. Certainly there couldn’t be any ulterior motivation from this trifecta with a blatant collective interest in who builds what and where in our city seeking political prowess and proximity to elected officials.
J.T. Hannan is the Director of Advancement for the Archdiocese of New Orleans Office of Catholic Schools. Kirk Williamson ran for the Louisiana House of Representatives in 2019 and lost, but not before getting involved in a shady smear campaign against his opponent.
Charles Eugene Marsala is an author, historian, and investment banker. If you had to choose someone off this list, Marsala might be the best bet, insofar as he seems the least like the bad guy from a ‘90s movie. It is worth noting, though, that he’s recently had a lot to say about racist statues coming down, defending some in a kind of thinly-veiled “well, here’s the whole story” way.
Summary: In a race like this it’s hard for us to say yes to any of these candidates. Instead, we’re saying definitely stay away from Batt, Brickman, Gurvich—who has enough political power—and the disconcerting Bruneau blob in the middle of the ballot. Williamson is also a no from us, and Hannan should be avoided if you value reproductive rights.
Judge 1st City Court
Jacqueline Gilds (withdrew)
Marissa A. Hutabarat
Scott Shea (withdrew)
This position became vacant after the untimely death of Judge Angélique Reed, the first Black judge to serve on this court. The First City Court of New Orleans’ jurisdiction covers civil lawsuits, small claims suits, and evictions—which is why this ballot item is arguably the most important of this election. Why? New Orleans had an eviction crisis long before the pandemic devastated our city’s residents and its economy. According to a report by Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative (JPNSI), in 2017, one out of every 19 renter households faced a court-ordered eviction (we’re making this distinction because extrajudicial evictions aren’t possible to count) at some point in the year. Between January 2015 and June 2018, around 24,000 people were displaced due to court-ordered evictions. Evictions disproportionately occur in predominantly Black neighborhoods, particularly in neighborhoods that were the victims of redlining and disinvestment, and particularly in neighborhoods that are more affordable.
The big picture? Our eviction rate is nearly double the national rate, and in the most vulnerable neighborhoods it can even be closer to four times that rate. JPNSI launched an eviction court monitoring project in September 2019. Based on six months of monitoring, their initial report found that renters who are evicted by court-order are mostly Black, mostly Black women, mostly evicted for owing just one month’s rent or even less, and that most appeared without the benefit of an attorney.
In April, a third of this entire country’s tenants couldn’t make rent. In May, unemployment in New Orleans hit 24%. The temporary moratorium on evictions did not include rent or mortgage cancellation, and eviction courts have just reopened (with new evictions going to court just two days after early voting ends). The accumulation of these circumstances—the existing housing crisis, the pandemic, unemployment, lack of adequate protections—will no doubt trigger a wave of evictions. In turn, this will destabilize lives and make it harder for people to find or hold down jobs, plus worsen public health, which will worsen the pandemic. In other words, a real feedback loop of preventable evil. Orleans Parish is predicted to be hit the hardest in Louisiana, and the state itself in the top three hardest hit nationally, according to the Center for Planning Excellence.
Let’s spell it out as clearly as possible: Black women and their families may be on the verge of getting kicked out of their homes in record numbers, during a pandemic that disproportionately impacts Black people, in the midst of a national movement demanding we value, protect, and defend Black lives.
The government should have cancelled rent and mortgages for the duration of the pandemic. Their failure to do so will result in preventable suffering and premature death. So anyway, where are the judges in all of this? The CARES Act provided additional protections to properties that participate in federal programs, and courts around the country have been trying to figure out how to navigate those provisions, given that many tenants don’t know if their landlords are covered or not, and some homeowners might not be aware that they qualify. New Orleans’ solution to that? Instead of extending the moratorium to match the end date of the CARES protections, they’ve decided to operate on an honor system where landlords have to swear they aren’t evicting in defiance of CARES rules. Landlords are totally notorious for being honest even when it’s to the detriment of their wealth accumulation, right? And how will the affidavits be verified? How will violations be discovered, enforced, or penalized? Will violations result in evictees being rehomed? (No.)
This scenario shares two crucial commonalities with business-as-usual in New Orleans eviction court: Judges will have some discretion (but many will pretend they don’t, or won’t exercise it). And also, judges will be limited because of decisions on the federal and state level (the state constitution significantly limits local autonomy on housing matters, e.g. property taxes).
This is the most clear-cut example of how voting could be considered harm reduction. Until we ultimately decommodify housing and achieve true liberation, we can reduce suffering by electing judges who are less likely to side with landlords (and by letting them know we’re watching). Which of these judicial candidates can we trust to use their powers of discretion to the fullest and protect the renters, the low-income, working class people of New Orleans? Who among them share the values most closely aligned with the guiding principles of this voter guide? Let’s get into it.
On the topic of housing, the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance (GNOHA) awarded Robbins Graham the highest score of all five candidates—95%. A former assistant district attorney, Graham has spent the bulk of his 30 years of practice in family law—as a child support attorney for the Department of Children and Family Services, and at the New Orleans Legal Assistance Corporation. However, we don’t know much about how that experience shaped his perspective on the law, or on his positions in general. In contrast, there is ample proof of Graham’s volunteer efforts. Photos of him helping out with food-distribution, participating in faith community events, NORD benefits, and more abound on his Facebook page. He also shared a video on the destruction of Black Wall Street—an act of white terrorism about which far too few people are aware. Unfortunately, he also shared dubious copypasta on COVID-19 prevention (don’t eat ice cream!) and a conspiracy theory video about how the virus is a Bill Gates illuminati plot to depopulate the earth. Though we have little trust in the world’s elite, being a public figure and using your platform to spread health misinformation could actually harm people, and demonstrates questionable judgement. So we don’t think he should be a judge.
A pro bono attorney at the Justice and Accountability Center, Hollygrove’s own Schalyece Harrison has also been out in the community, serving food, distributing masks, supporting local Black-owned bookstores—and sharing information about renters’ rights during the pandemic. It’s clear Harrison wouldn’t take her role in deciding eviction cases lightly. She noted in an interview that tenants in court are often “unrepresented single moms.” Harrison says she is best qualified because “we need a judge who is from this community and understands our culture and our traditions and who will treat everyone with dignity and respect no matter their race, age, or income level.” Eviction court is a circus of misery and cruelty and it’s crucial for any prospective judge to understand that. But Harrison’s views on other matters are less clear-cut. On one voting guide, she is opposed to ending cash bail and reducing the number of people held on remand. But she is also signatory on a letter demanding the end of cash bail. Her stated opposition to restorative justice tools, trauma-informed practices, and excessive sentencing is surprising and disappointing. So is her stated support for the school-to-prison pipeline. That seems disqualifying in a city that cages traumatized kids at an alarming rate. It’s disappointing—we would love to see Angélique Reed’s seat filled by a Black woman from Hollygrove.
Aylin Acikalin is the only candidate not to earn an A on GNOHA’s scorecard, and that’s no surprise—as a staffer for Nadine Ramsey, she participated in a pro-developer, anti-neighborhood effort to build the Sun Yard hotel (the neighborhood won). Also while working for Ramsey, she was on the tourist-developer side again in a scheme to push an unpopular zoning change benefitting properties owned by Acikalin’s own relatives. Her father was also a donor to Ramsey’s campaign, to the tune of almost $6,000. We know nepotism is as New Orleanian as potholes, but this behavior lends little credence to her promise that as judge she would “not consider political or special interests.” Acikalin refused to answer most questions on a voter education survey, using the broadest possible interpretation of Judicial Canon 7.B.(d) to dodge having to state any positions she could possibly be held accountable for later. That stringent code of conduct, however, does not prevent her from releasing tone-deaf liberal lullabies on her COEXIST-bumper-sticker-esque Soundcloud page. Lyrics like “I am Catholic / I am Buddhist / I am Black / I am white / I am a refugee child tonight” do actually help us understand why this white, blonde woman saw fit to represent herself as a “racially diverse” candidate (invoking her Turkish heritage).
Marissa Hutabarat has collected quite the roster of endorsements, including councilmembers, state Representatives, and the AFL-CIO. After clerking at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Civil District Court, she joined Glago Law Firm. Hutabarat says she is for “working families, ex-offenders, local businesses, and anyone else feeling locked out of the American Dream,” which seems substantiated by her volunteer work as a pro bono attorney for FIP-led reentry advocates The First 72+. The elusive (illusory) American Dream, and the legal stumbling blocks peppering the minefield defending it, play a major role in Hutabarat’s origin story. As a child she watched her father, an immigrant from Singapore, battle a predatory, xenophobic collections agency in court—and win.
Like other candidates, Hutabarat has been out in the community delivering food and visiting seniors throughout the election/pandemic, and her care for them seems genuine. She hasn’t remained silent on racial justice in the past month, sharing Black Lives Matter posts on her social media (but not discussing how the court system upholds white supremacy). The word that came to mind as we researched Hutabarat was electable—which takes on a new dimension of accuracy with her most recent (at time of printing) social media post depicting her alongside Joe Biden, both endorsed by the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee. That descriptor—invoking confidence, yet also a nervous tautology—can connote disdain, which we don’t have for Hutabarat. She seems extremely qualified, hard-working, and polished. We simply mean that she doesn’t seem to have made any mistakes, but also hasn’t taken any particularly tough positions publicly.
In responses to our survey, trilingual civil litigator Sara Lewis wowed us by being in favor of legislation that allows, promotes, and funds supervised consumption sites, decriminalization of drugs, and decriminalization of sex work. You might think these views would make Lewis an outsider or longshot candidate, but you’d be wrong—she won the New Orleans Bar Association poll in a landslide, winning 60%, 42 points ahead of the runner-up. Other lawyers love her, and she’s been endorsed by the Independent Women’s Organization, Alliance for Good Government, and the New Orleans Coalition. Regarding measures to reduce incarceration rates, she indicated support for ending cash bail, sentence reduction and early release initiatives, an end to youth incarceration, and implementation of restorative justice approaches instead of imprisonment. If elected, Lewis says she will establish a pro bono volunteer mediation process to resolve disputes, as an alternative to bringing civil cases to trial. Lewis is also in favor of ending the school-to-prison pipeline and using trauma-informed practices, perhaps informed by her stint as a domestic violence extern at Southeast Louisiana Legal Services. SLLS has been an essential resource for housing assistance during COVID, and Lewis has used her platform to highlight their foreclosure-prevention presentations during this time. Lewis tied with Harrison for second in the GNOHA housing scorecard (both still earning an A), and referred to our eviction rate as a “crippling burden.”
Lewis was also clear about pointing to the racial dimension of the housing crisis, noting that “in communities of color, 1 in 4 people will deal with an eviction in three years, compared to 1 in 24 for predominantly white areas.” Of all the candidates, Lewis made perhaps the most substantive statement about Black Lives Matter in the wake of the George Floyd uprisings, writing that “it is the duty of those of us who are beneficiaries of our systems of white supremacy to dismantle them.” The judiciary is, of course, one such system. Perhaps Lewis’ identity as the descendent of Holocaust survivors aided her in understanding that just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s not ultimately genocidal. We don’t trust any public officials (or nonprofits) who aren’t ultimately working toward the goal of making their job obsolete. We don’t know if Lewis shares our interpretation, but her words, policies, and record distinguish her from the other candidates in our eyes.
Summary: Sara Lewis publicly endorses the policies and values that do the least damage to New Orleanians. We’ll have to hold her to that. Marissa Hutabarat has offered fewer specifics but is a solid second choice.
This guide was compiled using information published by the Louisiana Department of State, for the parish of Orleans. Depending on where you live, your ballot may differ from this guide. Visit voterportal.sos.la.gov to view your ballot by your name or address. Saturday election voting hours are from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Vote early and vote often! If you are registered and don’t care to vote, please find someone who is currently incarcerated, on parole, undocumented, or otherwise disenfranchised from voting, but wants their opinions heard. You can vote for their interests.
We suggest you bring a photo ID to the polls, but if you do not have one you can still cast a ballot by signing a voter affidavit which vouches for your identity. The secretary of state audits all voter affidavits after the election to ensure that you are who you say you are.
If you have a disability, you are entitled to receive assistance to cast your vote. If your assigned polling place is not accessible, you can vote at the nearest polling place with the same ballot or at the Registrar of Voters Office. For more details on disability and voting, see the Louisiana Secretary of State’s voting information page (sos.la.gov).
As of press time, the deadline to register for this election has passed. Early voting ends on July 4. The last day to request a mail ballot is July 7 (other than military and overseas voters).
Early Voting Sites
1300 Perdido Street, Room 1W24 70112
225 Morgan Street, Room 105 70114
Chef Menteur Voting Machine Warehouse Site
8870 Chef Menteur Highway 70126
Lake Vista Community Center
6500 Spanish Fort Blvd. 70124
FURTHER READING AND RESOURCES
Candidate biographies and questionnaires
Equal justice and civil rights advocacy
all images public domain