Danae Columbus: More than 50 candidates sign on to run for parish, state offices

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Robbins Graham was the only candidate to qualify yesterday for First City Court.

A mixture of seasoned elected officials and political newcomers wanting to make a difference streamed into Criminal District Court yesterday, Jan. 8, to qualify for parish and state political committees and a lone judgeship in First City Court.

As expected, attorney Robbins Graham, who retired from the state’s Office of Family and Children’s Services earlier this week, became the first candidate to file for the open seat at First City Court. Graham had been planning for run for Civil District Court later this year but moved up his timetable when this vacancy suddenly occurred.

Graham might get an almost-free ride. No other major candidates have indicated they will seek the seat. 

Lloyd Harsh was the first Republican candidate to qualify yesterday. He is running for re-election to the parish executive committee. (Photos by Danae Columbus, Uptown Messenger)

Republican Parish Executive Committee member Lloyd Harsch was the first from his party to qualify yesterday. Overall, Republican turnout was low because of a pending GOP court challenge to a 1980s law that would alter how the party selects its state leadership, forcing some incumbents to run against each other.

Other well-known Republicans who did qualify for parish committee include attorney Stephen Gele, chairman of the Pelican Institute; former U.S. Senate candidate Abhay Patel; Patio Planters past president Stephen Swain; former state ethic board member Steve Lemke; health care official John Cook IV; Archdiocese of New Orleans leader J.T. Hannan; and small business owner John Grillot.  Cook said “we should all pay attention” to what is going on nationally and that numerous friends encouraged him to run. Grillot said he wanted to get more involved after campaigning for a legislative candidate last year.

Avis Brock, left, delivered qualifying documents on behalf of City Councilman Jay Banks. Also pictured are election officials Anicia Cheri-Charity, Jeanine Aubry and Michael Darnell, who reviewed the documents.

City Council President Helena Moreno, City Councilman Jay Banks, and state Democratic Party Chair Sen. Karen Carter Peterson were standouts among the Democrats who signed up yesterday.

Both Moreno and Banks qualified by proxy, which is becoming more popular. Peterson accompanied former State Senator Diana Bajoie, one of the parish’s longest serving Democratic leaders.

In the most interesting race so far, Moreno, who qualified for state central committee from her legislative district, will face off against Emerge graduate and first-time candidate Megan Snider as well as BOLD official Avis Brock. Brock had arrived with Banks’ proxy affidavit just after 8 a.m. to signal his interest early and ward off potential challengers. By the time Brock returned to complete her paperwork, both Moreno and Snider had qualified for the state slot she coveted.

Other Democratic elected officials who signed up parish or state committee include State Rep. Royce Duplessis and incoming state Reps. Aimee Adatto Freeman, Matt Willard and Mandie Landry.

Marguerite Green, former candidate for Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry, reviews qualifying documents before signing up for parish committee.

Several individuals who previously ran for office also decided to begin again at a more grassroots level. They include former legislative candidates Adonis Expose, Allen Borne Jr., and Eugene Green; Marguerite Green, who sought the state agriculture and forestry commissioner job; recent BESE board candidate Shawon Bernard; former City Council candidate Eldon Anderson; perennial candidate Kenneth Cutno; and artist and philanthropist Carlos Zervigon who says he was “born into politics” and is ready to “get back to work.”

In an unexpected turn of events, Louisiana’s National Democratic Committeewoman Deborah Langhoff is being challenged for her state committee seat by Hope Phelps, an under-30 Sher Garner attorney.

Phelps was one of a surprising number of fresh faces who qualified yesterday.  They include attorney Michael Foley, son of former Clerk of Court Dan Foley; engineering firm owner and Cantrell insider Iam Christian Tucker; up-and-coming criminal defense attorney Diedre Pierce Kelly; Sheriff’s Office official Isidore Marshall Jr.; Democratic Socialists of America member Sophia Kunen; community organizer and cyclist Yasin “Frank” Southall; volunteer canvasser Tony Grana; Borne law clerk Simon Levitsky; courts official David Flemings, brother of Judge Tracey Flemings Davillier; and Beverly Richard, sister of millionaire businessman Alvin Richard and aunt to Clerk of Court Chelsey Richard Napoleon.

Cantrell insider Iam Christian Tucker qualifies for the Democratic State Central Committee, District 97.

Dozens of additional candidates are expected to sign up before qualifying ends tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. The last day for a qualified elector to file an objection to a person’s candidacy is Friday, Jan. 17. The election will be held on April 4.

Danae Columbus

Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

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. She can be reached at swampednola@gmail.com.

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