Viewpoint: Old and new faces are showing up for fall elections

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Danae Columbus

Voting machines are loaded onto trucks ahead of the November 2020 election.

There were few surprises Wednesday (July 20) during the first day of qualifying for Louisiana’s mid-term elections, which will be held Nov. 8.  As expected, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy led the pack in his run for re-election. In addition to Democrats Luke Mixon, Syrita Steib and Gary Chambers — whose names have been frequently mentioned in connection with the race against this popular incumbent — several other Senate candidates qualified yesterday, including Vinny Mendoza and Beryl Billiot, who both ran previously. Newcomers in the race include “Xan” John, Thomas Wenn and W. Thomas La Fontaine Olson. Olson (no party), who resides Uptown on Milan Street, chose not to disclose a gender and listed race as “other” on official documents.

U.S. Troy Carter also qualified for re-election. Carter has not drawn an opponent so far and should have an easy path to victory in the Second Congressional District. In the First Congressional District, which includes a sliver of Uptown and some of the Lakefront, U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise drew two opponents: Katie Darling, a Democrat, and Howard Kearney, a Libertarian are both North Shore residents. 

Danae Columbus

Rep. Royce Duplessis qualifies for the state Senate race July 20 accompanied by his wife, Krystle Ferbos Duplessis.

In the District 5 state Senate race, Rep. Royce Duplessis and Rep. Mandie Landry qualified yesterday as expected. Both candidates are thought to have done a good job of representing their district’s constituents and hold the same views on many issues. Yet they will be trying to differentiate themselves with voters. For example, Duplessis and Landry support a woman’s right to choose. Landry will argue that she would be the only pro-choice female state senator, which she says would give her extra leverage on the issue. The winner of this race will complete Karen Carter Peterson’s unexpired term and serve only one year before having to run for re-election. Currently, less than 50 percent of the district’s residents are Black. Next year, with new district boundaries, the percentage of Black voters will increase to slightly more than 50 percent. 

Danae Columbus

Rep. Mandie Landry qualifies for the state Senate race July 20 accompanied by her mother, Cynthia Landry.

In the judicial races at the parish and state level, most incumbents are getting a free ride. First City Court Judges Monique Morial, Marissa Hutabarat and Veronica Henry as well as First City Court Clerk Austin Badon are, for the moment, running unopposed.  Two Civil District Court judges, Rachael Johnson and Nakisha Ervin-Knott, along with Criminal Court Judge Karen Herman all qualified for open seats on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal. It’s possible that the three will draw no major opponents, which would open the door to three exceedingly rare open-seat races next spring to replace them. 

Attorney Bobbie Smith, an Army veteran, is the only candidate to have qualified for Municipal and Traffic Court (Division E), an open seat. Smith has put together a sizable campaign team and appears to be ready for a full-fledged campaign. Municipal and Traffic Court judge Steven Jupiter (Division G) is another jurist who may run unopposed. Municipal and Traffic Court Judge Mark Shea (Division D) was not so lucky. Shea is being challenged by first-time candidate Derek Russ, who says he recently stepped down as Minute Clerk at Municipal and Traffic Court to run. Shea has been on the bench since 2009 and practiced civil and criminal law for 24 years. A former city attorney, Russ began practicing law in 2005. 

Danae Columbus

Municipal and Traffic Court Judge Steven Jupiter is joined by his wife Tonya and daughters Kali and Celeste on July 20. He is running for re-election to his Division G seat.

Another interesting race will be for District 3 seat on the Louisiana Public Service Commission. Lambert Boissiere III has held the seat for 17 years and qualified yesterday for his fourth six-year term. He is being challenged by the Rev. Gregory Manning, the leader of Justice & Beyond, the grassroots coalition that is involved in many environmental and criminal justice issues. Manning said he is running because Louisiana has one of the highest cost burdens for electricity in the country, a sentiment also echoed by the Alliance for Affordable Energy. “We spend more time in power outages than any other place. We’re more vulnerable to climate change, but we’re not doing anything about it. The Public Service Commission has the authority to change those things. It’s time we use that power,” Manning said. Though Manning has many relationships with grassroots voters up and down the district’s river parishes, he has never run for office.  Boissiere enters the race with a sizeable war chest and the support of many elected officials. His campaign did not submit a statement prior to deadline.

Qualifying continues through Friday at 4:30 p.m. at the Secretary of State’s office in Baton Rouge and at Orleans Criminal District Court Clerk Darren Lombard’s office, 2700 Tulane Ave.

The Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee will hold a candidate reception Friday beginning at 5:30 p.m. at The Building, 1427 Oretha Castle Haley. The reception is free and open to the public.       

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.

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