State Sen. Wesley Bishop’s surprise announcement last Friday that he would not seek re-election has set the stage for a power struggle between two former Zulu kings — 2017 Zulu King Adonis Expose and 2016 Zulu King Jay Banks, a popular member of the New Orleans City Council and powerbroker of the BOLD political organization. After Bishop’s decision became public, State Rep. Jimmy Harris — whose current house district overlaps portions of Bishop’s Senate District 4 — staked his claim on Bishop’s seat rather than running for re-election in House District 99.
Expose, a businessman and community organizer, quickly stepped up for what could have been an easily, winnable contest against L. Jameel Shaheer, a former firefighter with limited resources who had previously declared his candidacy to “help the community.” Instead, lawyer and long-time government operative Candace Nikeia Newell arrived at qualifying with several member of the BOLD political organization including Councilmember Banks. Clearly the battle lines were drawn.
Wait, readers might say. BOLD has always operated in Central City. Why are they involved in a campaign in the East? That’s been the traditional territory of several other groups. Some political handicappers believe that Banks made a strategic decision to expand BOLD’s reach and it stable of elected officials. In addition, one BOLD leader is managing a legislative race in Gentilly. Women candidates are hot this year. With Banks’ help, Newell will be a formidable competitor.
Expose, on the other hand, is no shrinking violet. To get elected King of Zulu requires years of hard work, leadership, artful negotiation and coalition building – all good skills for any legislator to possess. A graduate of New Orleans’ public schools, Expose has been a well-recognized player on the New Orleans scene for more than 25 years. After Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures, Expose served as HANO’s communications officer and helped bring public housing residents back to the city by providing timely, quality information.
Today, Expose is the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Compliance Manager for TransDev — the RTA’s premier contractor — where he recruits small businesses to bid on opportunities. He has been active with Zulu for many years and has also worked with Heart N Hands, Young Audiences of Louisiana and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeast Louisiana.
Newell is currently Manager of Board Relations for the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board where she puts her budgeting, analytical skills to good use. A 2016 graduate of Southern University’s Law Center, Newell previously worked as an Intake Specialist in Juvenile Court, a summer intern for Judge Harry Cantrell, a legislative assistant to Sen. Wesley Bishop and as a financial analyst at the city of New Orleans.
Shaheer is a graduate of St. Augustine High School and attended Delgado and Dillard, where he received a degree in Business. An accountant by trade, Shaheer served as a New Orleans firefighter for almost 12 years and is a member of the West Lake Forest neighborhood association.
Because Newell and Expose have not spent the last few months raising funds and campaigning, expect the candidates to get down and dirty quickly for what will be a fast and furious 67-day contest.
IN ONE SENTENCE, CANDIDATES ANSWER, “WHY YOU ARE RUNNING?”
House District 94 candidate Kirk Williamson arrived promptly at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday morning to grab the coveted number one spot in the line of those qualifying for the Louisiana Legislature. Williamson told me he was running because Louisiana is “increasing taxes on the poorest people to pay for the largest budgets in our state’s history that provides no better services to address crime, streets and flooding.” Senate District 3 candidate and current State Rep. Joe Bouie wants to “maintain continuity of effective leadership.”
House District 100 candidate Jason Hughes says he will “serve the people and deliver for New Orleans East.” State Sen. Troy Carter will “continue to fight for the people of Louisiana.” House District 98 candidate Ravi Sangisetty says he wants to “fight for all of us because everyone wants a place where they belong.” House District 91 candidate Mandie Landry refused to make a comment but sent a release outlining her campaign themes including that Louisiana is ready “for bold, progressive leadership.” House District 94 candidate Tammy Savoie wants to “bring new leadership to Baton Rouge.” House District 98 candidate Aimee Adatto Freeman says that she is a “problem solver in her home life and professionally” and wants to take that skill to Baton Rouge where “political posturing has gotten in the way of smart policies that serve the people.”
House District 97 candidate Matt Willard says his Gentilly district “needs a strong leader with innovative ideas and solutions who will do more for our people.” House District 91 candidate Carling Dinkler is running to ensure there is effective leadership in Baton Rouge to fulfill the priorities our community needs and deserves.” House District 97 candidate Ethan Ashley wants to “change lives by ensuring citizens are not just surviving but thriving.” House District 98 candidate Evan Bergeron is “tired of not having solutions to the same old problems we have been facing in this state for years.” Senate District 3 candidate and current State Rep. John Bagneris thinks he can best represent this diverse district and said “I am the best guy for the job.”
House District 91 candidate Robert McKnight wants to “set a new standard for change.” Senate District 4 candidate and current State Rep Jimmy Harris will “continue to work on behalf of the people.” House District 100 candidate Anthony Jackson Jr. says he will “move my community forward.” State Rep. Stephanie Hilferty says she has “accomplished a lot in the last four years” and wants to continue her work on state budget issues. House District 98 candidate Kea Sherman says she is running “for my daughter Hayden and all the other children in New Orleans and Louisiana so they have an equal opportunity to succeed in our beautiful city.”
State Senator Karen Carter Peterson will “continue to serve the people of Louisiana and move this state forward.” State Rep 97 candidate Eugene Green says he is a life-long resident of the district and wants to “improve education and help residents be safe in their homes.” House District 99 candidate Candace Newell says she will “ensure the district has adequate representation.” House District 98 candidate Carlos Zervigon he can help make New Orleans “the best it can be.” House District 98 candidate Max H. Chiz, a competitive fencer, wants to “give voters a choice of having something a little different.” House District 99 candidate Adonis Expose says he will represent the residents of his district “to the best of my ability.”
House District 97 candidate Durrell Laurent is “committed to serving the district’s constituents.” House District 98 candidate Marion Freistadt is running “to fight for climate justice.” State Rep Royce Duplessis wants to continue serving the constituents and by doing so “build a stronger city and state.” State Rep Gary Carter says he is “humbled to represent Algiers” and looks forward to continuing doing so. House District 91 candidate John Perry III is running to “strengthen the community which I grew up in with a familiar face.” House District 99 candidate Jameel Shaheer says the voters need to be represented by someone “who knows and understands them.”
It’s always heartwarming to watch the friends and family members of candidates – including many young children – as they qualify. While several candidates including Carlos Zervigon came alone, others like Aimee Adatto Freeman and Matt Willard came with multiple generations of family members. As of this morning, 28 people have already signed up for the local legislative races.
Qualifying ends today (Aug. 8) at 4:30 p.m., so it’s not too late to get in the game. The Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee (OPDEC) will hold a meet-and-greet from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. tonight for all candidates at the Magnolia Mansion, 2127 Prytania Street.
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 Councilman Jared Brossett, City Councilwoman-at-large Helena Moreno, Foster Campbell, former Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former City Councilwomen Stacy Head and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.