Allan Katz and Danae Columbus: Candidates emerging for fall elections as August qualifying period nears

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Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

With fewer than 100 days until the mid-term Congressional and local elections, it’s no surprise that more than a few candidates and elected officials turned out Sunday for brunch and hobnobbing with Congressman Cedric Richmond.  While Richmond could face opposition again from Gary Landrieu, the mayor’s cousin who ran two years ago, Richmond is expected to be easily reelected.

In addition to Richmond, U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu and Congressman Steve Scalise (who represents only a small portion of Orleans Parish but it unstoppable as the new House Majority Whip), there are 41 additional races that candidates could qualify for. Because of difficulty raising money, most incumbents will not draw opponents. On top of those races, we should add various millage items and other local initiatives that will appear on the November ballot.

Richmond’s brunch attracted a wide spectrum of elected officials and business leaders including Councilmember James Gray and his wife Judge Ernestine Gray; Councilmember Nadine Ramsey; state Rep. Randall Gaines; Criminal Court Judge Frank Marullo; Civil District Court Judge Lloyd Medley; along with judicial candidates Desiree Cook Calvin; Janet Ahern and Tertrece Harrison.

All the judges in Civil District Court are up for reelection but few contested races are expected.  The largest race will be for former judge Michael Bagneris’ open seat (now a family court seat) which could pit Ahern again previous candidate Richard Perque, among several others.  Judge Medley was gearing up for a fight again Nakisha Irwin Knott who had a splashy well-attended announcement last week. Rumor now has it Irwin Knott might not oppose Medley. Political pundits are also wondering whether Mayor Landrieu will seek candidates to oppose Judge Robin Giarrusso, who ruled in favor of the firefighters, and current Chief Judge Kern Reese. While Family Court Judge Bernadette D’Souza could self-fund her re-election campaign, newcomer Tertrece Harrison who is expected to oppose her might also have difficulty raising money.

In Juvenile Court, Mayor Landrieu successfully lobbied the State Legislature to reduce the number of seats by two.  The new law takes effect this Friday. Judge Larry Lagarde Jr. is expected to retire, automatically reducing the seats by one. Indicted but not convicted Judge Yolanda King wants to seek reelection. King’s plans could change based on current charges she faces or any other developments.  If King is disqualified, that  judgeship could also be eliminated.  Attorney Cynthia Samuel who ran previously against King is weighing her options. Less certain to run is another former candidate Clint Smith who received wide cross-over support last time he ran.

Over at Criminal Court,  Judge Julian Parker is said to be resigning, and his seat will draw a crowd. It also appears that Judges Marullo, Ben Willard, Arthur Hunter and Laurie White may receive opposition.

Desiree Cook Calvin, a young attorney and member of the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee, could challenge Willard – depending if some fences are mended –  or could go for Parker’s seat.  Though an opponent against White has not surfaced yet, court insiders say that Mayor Landrieu is seeking a candidate. Previous  candidate Doug Hammel is looking to oust Judge Hunter.  Attorney Bridgid Collins, a protege of attorney Frank DeSalvo, could also focus on Parker’s seat.

Judge Marullo might be challenged by Graham Bosworth, a former prosecutor in Leon Cannizzaro’s office. But Bosworth could move to the Parker race as well.  Cannizzaro himself might draw a challenge from attorney Lon Burns who previously self-funded an unsuccessful judicial race. Burns would make Cannizzaro spend a portion of his war chest but would have a hard time beating him.

There is no love lost between Cannizzaro and Marullo, both strong-willed, hard-nosed Italians of Sicilian descent who often don’t see eye to eye.  Because of Marullo’s age, his candidacy could face a legal challenge.  But you would never know it watching Marullo move around in the community raising money and attending lots of events. Traffic Court Judge Mark Shea is also expected to draw Lawrence Galle who is campaigning on Facebook.

The only other hotly contested race will be House District 97, formerly held by Jared Brossett.  If State Senator Ed Murray wants the seat (he is term-limited in the state senate), it could well be his. Sidney Cates V, son of Civil District Court Judge Sidney Cates IV, is also talking about running either way.  Former school board member Jimmy Fahrenholtz is interested but won’t oppose Murray. Doesn’t former Judge Michael Bagneris also live in that house district?

A test on how incumbents and candidates are doing will come within a week. Sunday, July 27, ended the first fundraising heat for candidates in the November elections. Candidates have up to ten additional days to turn in their fundraising totals.  Judges are prohibited from personally asking for campaign donations.  They must rely on spouses, friends, and consultants to gather funds. Lawyers like Nat Kiefer Jr. and Darleen Jacobs have a flair for raising money for judges.  We also know several spouses of judges who are getting ready to crank up fundraising drives if necessary. “We’ll be ready if we need to be,” said one judicial spouse who runs a multi-million dollar businesses as his day job.


With the submissions yesterday by the two competing groups vying for the $546 Million airport contract, the all-important proposal evaluation process is the next step. While the Mayor’s new evaluation team has not yet been named, the community group Stand With Dignity — who were successful in interjecting themselves into the initial process — have now put together a broad-based community coalition that has invited the two teams to present their proposals tomorrow.  We don’t expect the bidders to attend but Stand’s analysis will be an important voice in the ongoing dialogue.


Parking is always at a premium for White Linen Night.  The parents’ group at the International High School, Louisiana’s only open enrollment charter high school to offer both French and Spanish immersion programs, will be parking cars in their Baronne Street lot across from Rouses to benefit the school’s ongoing funding needs.  It’s a great school that deserves community support.

Allan Katz spent 25 years as a political reporter and columnist at The Times-Picayune, and is now editor of the Kenner Star and host of several televsion programs, including the Louisiana Newsmaker on Cox Cable. Danae Columbus is executive producer of Louisiana Newsmaker, and has had a 30-year career in public relations, including stints at City Hall and the Dock Board. They both currently work for the Orleans Parish School Board. Among the recent candidates who have been represented by their public relations firm are City council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.

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