Viewpoint: Saturday’s elections are important, but voters are not enthused

For the past month, the candidates still in the running for parish and statewide offices have been pulling out all the stops to encourage voters to cast their ballots in Saturday’s (Nov. 18) elections. Only 11,140 Orleans Parish voters took part in early voting last week, the vast majority in person. Orleans Parish ranked sixth overall in early voting turnout behind Jefferson, St. Tammany, Lafayette, East Baton Rouge and Caddo parishes, where more local races on the ballot.

Viewpoint: Does anyone really care about the Oct. 14 elections?

Saturday’s elections for statewide and parish offices along with a number of other ballot initiatives will be the culmination of many months of hard work and millions of dollar spent by candidates, their supporters and public and quasi-public agencies such as school boards. Yet there is a broad swath of voters who are likely to attend their favorite football game or fall festival and bypass the polls. Perhaps that’s why Shawn Wilson was greeting Democratic voters in Alexandria on Tuesday, why Jeff Landry is midway through a series of Diner Dashes in seven cities around the state, and why lieutenant governor contender Elbert Guillory borrowed a jet for a statewide tour this week. 
Early voting was off 42,000 people statewide in comparison to the 2019 statewide elections. The vast majority of those who did vote were 65 and older. On the other end of the spectrum, fewer than a thousand 18- to 20-year-olds made the effort to visit the polls last week.

Viewpoint: Candidates rally their supporters as early voting begins

With early voting set to start on Saturday (Sept. 30), it’s now-or-never time in this season’s campaign cycle. Many mainstream candidates in the race for governor campaigned in metro New Orleans on Tuesday (Sept. 26). Five candidates — Sharon Hewitt, Hunter Lundy, John Schroder, Stephen Waguespack and Shawn Wilson — participated in a morning forum sponsored by AARP in conjunction with The Advocate.

Viewpoint: Leading gubernatorial candidates make their pitches to voters

The three top contenders in the race for governor of Louisiana — Republican Jeff Landry, Democrat Shawn Wilson and Independent Hunter Lundy — recently visited the metro areas to spark enthusiasm for what is likely to be a lackluster, low-turnout election. This trio of candidates — along with State Treasurer John Schroeder, business lobbyist Steve Waguespack and state Sen. Sharon Hewitt — have been invited to participate in a statewide televised debate tonight (Sept. 9). With Attorney General Landry refusing to appear, the event will be informative but lack a clear comparison on important issues. 

Landry has no real need to face off against other candidates. All the polls, including one taken recently by Ron Faucheux, have him way out in front.

Viewpoint: Can the city fix its broken bureaucracy?

Most New Orleanians shudder at the thought of having to go to City Hall to get a permit — any permit. It’s not now, nor has it ever been, a quick, easy or transparent process. The requirements are hard to understand. A staff person might not be available to discuss or explain a puzzling issue, which can add more time and more cost to the already lengthy, expensive process. If citizens are able to actually connect with a live staffer in person or on the phone, that individual might be less than user friendly.

Viewpoint: It’s time to tear down Plaza Tower

Like many downtown residents, whenever I open my front door I catch a glimpse of the decaying Plaza Tower, once the grande dame of Loyola Avenue.  I see the blown-out windows, black netting and colorful graffiti that makes the building an ongoing eyesore. I’ve been in New Orleans long enough to remember when the Plaza Tower was the home or workspace to creatives types like urban planner and artist Bob Tannen and his wife Jeanne Nathan, who appreciated the building’s unique aesthetics. Current owner Joe Jaeger is trying to unload the asbestos-laden structure and the avoid hefty unpaid fines that have caught the attention of Inspector General Ed Michel. 

A 45-story 531-foot skyscraper, the Plaza Tower was the third tallest building in New Orleans when it debuted in 1968 but lost that distinction when the taller One Shell Square opened four years later. The Plaza Tower was designed in the modern style as an office building with a few residential spaces on the upper floors. By 2001, the building was suffering from leaks and deferred maintenance, which created a welcoming environment for toxic mold.

Viewpoint: Republican candidates make their pitches to voters at forum

More than a dozen contenders for local and statewide office addressed a packed house Wednesday (Aug. 16) at the Home Defense Foundation’s candidate forum. The gun-rights lobbying group attracted an array of Republican candidates, including gubernatorial candidates state Treasurer John Schroder, state Sen. Sharon Hewitt and state Rep. Richard Nelson; secretary of state candidate and grocer Brandon Trosclair; former U.S. Rep. John Fleming and state Rep. Scott McKnight, who are running for state treasurer; attorney general candidates state Rep. John Stefanski and former prosecutor Marty Maley; retired state Sen. Elbert Guillory, who is seeking the office of lieutenant governor; and legislative candidate Charles Marsala, who is running to represent House District 94. “I want to bring integrity back to state government. I recently went to a national conference where I got tired of hearing jokes about corruption in Louisiana.

Viewpoint: Fall elections are shaping up to be a spicy mix

Attorney General Jeff Landry made it official yesterday. He is one of 12 candidates already signed up for ballot’s top spot, with former LABI executive Steve Waguespack and state Rep. Richard Nelson expected to round out the field today. Landry, whose campaign is sitting on more than $9 million as well as a bucket full of endorsements and a giant lead in the polls, is planning a larger-than-life campaign kick-off in the coming days. It may be hard for any candidate to significantly narrow Landry’s lead. Landry is running a tight campaign.

Viewpoint: Parish and statewide candidates queue up for qualifying next week

Judge Monique Barial is ready to move up. For almost 10 years, she has handled family-law cases at Orleans Parish Civil District Court Division H, Domestic Section 2.  A graduate of Xavier University and the Southern University Law Center and a former attorney adviser for the U.S. Small Business Administration, Barial believes that she is well-prepared to take on new judicial challenges beyond the domestic arena. She recently announced her candidacy for the open seat in Division D previously held by Judge Nakisha Ervin Knott, who was elected to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal. Barial is one of the dozens of candidates who will begin qualifying next Tuesday (Aug. 8), for judicial, legislative, regional and statewide offices.

Viewpoint: The system is designed for New Orleans mayors to prevail

Critics of Mayor LaToya Cantrell have been having a field day recently with multiple incidents about which to complain. Yet it seems no matter how much venom is directed toward her, Cantrell manages to adroitly deflect every accusation like a sizzling fried egg sliding off a Teflon-coated pan.   

Case in point: U.S. District Court Judge Susie Morgan is demanding answers about the Public Integrity Bureau’s shoddy investigation of NOPD officer and Cantrell bodyguard Jeffrey Vappie. The good judge must know that it’s Cantrell who wields the big stick at the NOPD. Other than to extend the consent decree even longer, what recourse does the judge actually have?  Cantrell has already refused to allow her staff appear in Morgan’s courtroom. A long-awaited investigation by lawyers working for the City Council concluded that the informational mailer that Cantrell authorized during the recall campaign probably violated state law.