Jul 122018

Lawyer and activist Megan Kiefer, pictured with her uncle Chris Kiefer, believes that younger voters will change politics. (photo by Danae Columbus for UptownMessenger.com)

Danae Columbus

Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

As President Trump continues to reshape American politics, millennials like New Orleans personal injury lawyer Megan Kiefer, 34, are no longer willing to sit on the political sidelines. A married homeowner living in Bywater, Kiefer is a passionate advocate for issues she believes important and recently played a leadership role in defeating the proposed Sun Yard hotel project. “People want to live comfortably, happily and want a government that will allow them to do that,” said Kiefer.

According to Pew Research, U.S. Census Bureau population projections indicate that in 2019 millennials – individuals between the ages of 20 and 35 – will become the largest segment of the population, surpassing the Baby Boomer generation. Millennial population growth has been fueled in part by the influx of young immigrants, while Baby Boomers are starting to die off. Yet millennials do not have a strong registration or voting record in local or national election. In New Orleans, millennials have always underperformed in our local elections, especially in non-presidential elections. Yet campaigns are increasing their efforts to attract millennial voters. As Trumpism continues, younger, more progressive voters are also starting to better organize and become more involved in issues.

Several of the younger candidates who are expected to qualify next week for municipal offices have the ability to connect with millennial voters through social media and targeted events. Local demographers will be closely tracking voter turnout to determine if those efforts prove successful.

Organizations like Bernie Sanders’ Our Revolution and Netroots Nation – which is holding its national convention here in New Orleans August 2-4 – have successfully increased political participation. That change is being fueled in part by the unexpected primary success of democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York and other young people running in the mid-term elections across the nation.

Though Kiefer has never contemplated being a candidate, she is the part of a prominent political family. Her grandfather Ignatz “Nat” Kiefer served almost two decades in Louisiana’s Legislature. He was a major supporter of Charity Hospital and instrumental in the construction of UNO’s Lakefront Arena which was named for him after his death. Kiefer lost the 1977 race for mayor against Dutch Morial by a mere 242 votes. “My grandfather passed away when I was two years old. I learned about him from other people’s memories,” Kiefer said.

Though not willing to accept the democratic socialist label, Kiefer says that voters like her believe in many of the same issues. “There are so many young people doing what society has told us to be successful, but instead they are struggling,” Kiefer explained. Issues that Kiefer and others are grappling with include the high cost of a good education, a living wage, immigration, and affordable health care. “We are issuing a battle cry that our concerns must be heard.”

Kiefer believes that all people should be able to live the American Dream, have a family and send their children off to college. “Families should not have to choose between buying food or health care,” she said. “On many issues, including racial disparities, we are not seeing the response from our elected officials that we want to see. Who would have thought that in 2018 we would be facing a possible reversal of Roe V. Wade, families being separated, and LGBTQ laws under attack? People my age obviously care about these issues and thought they were well settled. Who would have thought the pendulum of our political fabric could swing so abruptly in ways that are so colorfully played out in the last few years?”

Though many of Kiefer’s friends still do not vote on a regular basis, Kiefer believes change is coming soon. “We are mobilizing a lot of young people to vote in ways that will be very surprising,” she concluded. Millennials can change local and national politics if they register and vote. America’s future depends on it.


Marie Williams (submitted photo)

Attorney Marie Williams went to Glamour Shots in Oakwood Mall yesterday to get a new photograph for what could be her seventh run for office. Williams has told sources she will enter the race for Clerk of First City Court next week. She has run unsuccessfully for Civil, Criminal, Juvenile and Second City Court. Williams received 11.28 percent of the 2017 vote in a race won by Judge Rachel Johnson. As a resident of Algiers where Second City Court is based, Williams will not be able to vote for herself, but she still has the legal right to qualify for the First City Court slot.

With Traffic Court Judge Stephen Jupiter’s recent decision not to seek the Civil District Court seat previously held by his deceased sister Judge Clare Jupiter, former judicial candidate Omar Mason is moving forward with his plans for that campaign. The only other candidate currently expected to qualify is Richard Perque. Consultants believe another major candidate with his or her own source of funding could still jump in.

The field might also not be firm in the race for Clerk of Civil District Court. At his kickoff fundraiser earlier this week, Councilmember Jared Brossett told attendees that he has been elected by the voters four times and has the legislative and budget experience to manage the office. Acting CDC Clerk Chelsey Richard Napoleon has already begun her campaign. Though the last four clerks have all been lawyers, a law license isn’t a requirement. Brossett is not a lawyer but Napoleon has a law license. Several other lawyer and non-lawyer potential candidates are still considering their options.

In the race for the U.S. Congress, 2nd Congressional District, former professional boxer and now entrepreneur Fouad Zeton is contemplating jumping in against Congressman Cedric Richmond to bring attention to failed U.S. policies in the Middle East, especially Syria where he was born. Zeton is the owner of the Magnolia Mansion, a frequent location for many political fundraisers. A Muslim, Zeton recently held a dinner to signify the end of the month-long fasting period known as Ramadan that was attended by Sheriff Marlin Gusman, Assessor Errol Williams and Councilmember Cyndi Nguyen. Earlier this week, the New York Times referenced Richmond as one of the younger lawmakers thought to be interested on rising up in the House leadership ranks if Nancy Pelosi no longer heads the House Democrats.

Danae Columbus, who has had a 30-year career in politics and public relations, offers her opinions on Thursdays. Her career includes stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board and former clients such as District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, City Council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, City Councilwoman-elect Helena Moreno, Foster Campbell, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.

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