Viewpoint: New political season begins next week with qualifying for fall elections

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Gary Chambers, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, Luke Mixon and Syrita Steib

In the middle of this hot summer, we’re getting ready for an even hotter election cycle. Qualifying for almost a dozen races — from U.S. Senate to clerk of First City Court — starts next Wednesday (July 20). The election will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 8. 

With inflation increasing daily, 2022 is a hard year for newbie challengers to raise money. That means incumbents who have not made glaring errors generally have a good shot at getting re-elected. Flush with a cash-on-hand campaign kitty of more than $13 million, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy appears unbeatable. That’s not stopping three Democrats – pilot Luke Mixon, activist Gary Chambers and nonprofit leader Syrita Steib — from throwing their hats in the ring. Rev. Tony Spell, a Baton Rouge area pastor, is also considering the contest.

It’s hard to compete with Kennedy’s statewide favorability in the polls and his  ability to flood the airways, mail and social media with ever-changing messages. It also doesn’t help that Kennedy is the down-home darling of many national media outlets who have given him plenty of free air time.

Still, Kennedy’s opponents are pushing back as resources allow. At the last reporting period, Chambers had $138,000 in available dollars, having raised $1.3 million. Steib raised $121,000 and has almost $16,000 remaining. Mixon brought in $1.1 million and still has close to $600,000 in the bank.  

U.S. Rep. Troy Carter

Look for Rep. Troy Carter to have an easy re-election as well in the 2nd Congressional District. Elected in 2021 after Cedric Richmond resigned to join the Biden administration, Carter seems to truly enjoy his work in Washington and is regularly out in the district trying to solve problems.

Lambert Boissiere III

District 3 Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Lambert Boissiere III may also be easily re-elected to his fourth six-year term because of a lack of opponents. No one ran against Boissiere six years ago. In response to a question posed in last week’s column which asked Boissiere’s position on Entergy’s proposed Grand Gulf refund to customers, Boissiere said on Friday that it was too early to comment because commissioners had not yet been briefed by their attorneys. Boissiere agreed he could do a better job of communicating with the public but said he has accomplished much for ratepayers in his district. Boissiere reported $158,756 cash on hand in May and has held several recent fundraisers.

Rep. Mandie Landry

It appears that two capable and popular state representatives — Mandie Landry and Royce Duplessis — will duke it out to fill the unexpired term of former state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, who resigned last year and is expected to plead guilty to federal charges. State Rep. Aimee Adatto Freeman was also considering the race but decided otherwise. Landry has championed women’s issues for many years and is currently involved in reproductive rights. If elected, Landry would be the only pro-choice woman in the Louisiana Senate. Landry had a little more than $12,000 cash on hand at the end of 2021 and has been holding numerous fundraisers including one on Tuesday (July 19) at the Pythian, 234 Loyola Ave. 

Rep. Royce Duplessis

Duplessis resides in Central City, but his House district includes the CBD and the French Quarter, giving him access to a significant base of donors. Duplessis reported $67,686 at the end of 2021 and is raising money steadily.  State Senate District 5 had a Black voting majority 10 years ago when the last maps were drawn. Through the past decade, the district’s population shifted and is now less than 50 percent Black. During this year’s redistricting, the lines were redrawn to give Senate District 5 a Black majority. Landry, Duplessis and anyone else who qualifies for  next week to fill the final year of Peterson’s term will run in the district’s current configuration, which could favor Landry. In 2023, the district’s voters will select a senator for a new four-year term in a majority Black district, which could favor Duplessis, if he is not successful in this year’s election.

Austin Badon

Austin Badon, clerk of First City Court, was originally elected to the position in 2018 and is seeking re-election. Badon lost a race for Criminal District Court Clerk in 2021 to Darren Lombard. Badon has drawn a tough opponent in Donna Glapion, who recently served on the City Council for almost one year after Jason Williams left his at-large seat to became district attorney. Most recently, Glapion has been working as chief deputy in Algiers’ Second City Court under Clerk Lisa R. Diggs.

Over at Traffic and Municipal Court, Judge Mark Shea is seeking re-election. Personal injury attorney Bobbie C. Smith is seeking an open seat on the Traffic and Municipal Court bench. It has been rumored that former Assistant City Attorney Demetrie Ford will oppose Smith; Ford did not return a call prior to deadline. Smith posted on social media that he has been a close friend of Rep. Troy Carter since childhood, which could lead to an endorsement.  

Judges Karen Herman, Rachael Johnson and Nakisha Ervin-Knott

      Three District Court judges — Rachael Johnson, Nakisha Ervin-Knott and Karen Herman — are seeking open seats on Louisiana’s Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal. It seems that none of the three will face strong opposition. The daughter of former Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson, Judge Rachael Johnson has enjoyed robust fundraising and will officially kick off her campaign Tuesday (July 19) at Dooky Chase Restaurant.

Judge Herman has amassed a sizable campaign committee of more than 100 members — from Neil Abramson to Chris Zainey Jr. Also on the committee are Rep. Carter, City Councilman at-large J.P. Morrell, state Rep. Stephanie Hilferty and DA Jason Williams. Though her current term at Civil District Court does not end until 2026, Judge Ervin-Knott seems determined to serve at the appellate level. A fierce competitor, Ervin-Knott has been touching all the bases in preparation for the fall election.

Also next week political players and probably the rest of us will be tuning in to the highly anticipated federal trial of DA Jason Williams, which begins Monday (July 18).  Williams’ attorneys will be working overtime to convince the jury that Williams was unaware of his accountant’s actions. Williams’ former wife, Bridget Barthelemy, daughter of former mayor Sidney Barthelemy, might tell a different story. Barthelemy is thought to have brought Williams’ tax indiscretions to the attention of federal authorities.

OPDEC TO HOLD ANNUAL MEET AND GREET RECEPTION FOR CANDIDATES AFTER QUALIFYING ENDS

The Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee will bring together new candidates and elected officials at a meet-and-greet mixer Friday, July 22, just after qualifying closer. The event will be held at The Building, 1427 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., from 5:30 until 7:30 p.m.  All candidates and interested members of the public are invited to attend this free event.   

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 former District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, former 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 is a member of the Democratic Parish Executive Committee. Columbus can be reached at swampednola@gmail.com.

This column was revised on July 16. 

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