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

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.

A message from Rep. Aimee Adatto Freeman: Join us Friday, July 22 (sponsored)

Dear Friends and Constituents,

Thank you for your support, partnership and encouragement. This is an especially consequential time in our nation and our state. The pandemic, inflation, mass shootings, anti-abortion laws — the list of challenges goes on and on. And many solutions lie in the state Legislature, where policies that most impact people’s lives pass – or fail. I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved together since I was elected as the Representative for District 98, especially the wins everyone else said were impossible.

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

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.

Viewpoint: It’s time to put that mask on again

Those readers who know me personally understand that I am very involved in the Greek Festival, which is returning Memorial Day weekend after a two-year hiatus. During a visit to the Greek church earlier this week, the festival’s long-time operations director, who comes in from Texas, said, “I see you are wearing a mask again,” to which I replied: “I never stopped wearing a mask.”

Just before Jazz Fest, I wrote about an out-of-town friend, a decades-long Fest enthusiast, who wanted to mask at the Fair Grounds even though he is fully vaccinated and boosted. Impractical, I thought, and way too hot to mask.  He recently flew home after two jam-packed weeks during which he attended the festival all seven days, consumed copious amounts of ice cold watermelon in the WWOZ tent, caught nighttime performances such as singer John Boutté at d.b.a., and dined with old friends at Peche, Brennan’s and Doris Metropolitan. On the way to the airport, he even grabbed an oyster po’boy at the Kenner Seafood Market. By the time his flight landed in New York, he had the dreaded Covid cough.

Viewpoint: Raised to serve, Judge Rachael Johnson plans to follow in her mother’s footsteps

It’s been a fast-paced and fulfilling five years since Judge Rachael Johnson took the bench in Civil District Court Division B. The daughter of retired Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson, Judge Johnson always knew her future lay in public service. She plans to qualify in July to run for  the seat recently vacated by former Judge Regina Bartholomew-Woods on the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, Division D.

“Service was always part of our lives. It was not optional. Of course I admire my mother and her life-long commitment to fairness, equity and justice, but she never insisted that I become a lawyer or judge,” Judge Johnson said. Her mother was the first African-American chief justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court, where she served from 1994 until her retirement in 2020. 

A graduate of McDonogh 35 High School and Spelman College, where she earned a B.A. in psychology, Judge Johnson went on to Smith College to obtain a master’s in social work.

Viewpoint: Early childhood education, on the April 30 ballot, can prevent crime

In what is predicted to be an extremely low-turnout election on Saturday, April 30, Orleans Parish voters will have the opportunity to support a unique property tax dedicated to early childhood education. If approved, the legislation could generate about $21 million annually — creating 1,500 early childhood education seats in New Orleans. According to the legislation’s advocate Yes for NOLA Kids, the owner of a $200,000 home should expect to pay an additional $5.20 per month in property taxes. An owner of a home assessed at $1 million might pay $26 monthly. Currently more than 8,300 low-income children in New Orleans under the age of 4 are unable to access an affordable, high-quality early childhood education program. 
“When more kids are participating in preschool programs, we won’t have all the crime that we have now.” Cynthia Hedge Morrell
 “We’ve known since the days of famed researchers Jean Piaget and Maria Montessori that early childhood education has always been essential to creating thinking, caring, socialized, well-rounded children,” said long-time educator Cynthia Hedge Morrell, retired teacher and principal of McDonogh 15 Elementary School who later served on the City Council.

Viewpoint: Political action committees made the difference in the runoff elections

It was no surprise that long-time criminal justice reform advocate Norris Henderson was standing right behind newly elected Sheriff Susan Hutson and her most powerful ally, District Attorney Jason Williams, at Saturday night’s election celebration. Most experts say Hutson would never be about to become the parish’s first female sheriff without the outside funds from political action committees operated by Henderson and others. “PAC funds are the new tool in everyone’s political tool box. Though the candidates cannot control them, PACs have become a very effective way to either support or attack a candidate,” said one consultant. PACs can receive unlimited contributions but cannot coordinate with candidates directly.

Uptown neighborhoods south of St. Charles Avenue hand Council B seat to Lesli Harris

In this year’s municipal elections, voters either went all in for their incumbents or they voted them out. Unfortunately for District B’s Jay H. Banks, he landed in the latter category. The council member lost his seat in the runoff election on Saturday (Dec. 11), and attorney Lesli Harris will be taking his place. Harris lost to Banks in the first round of voting in the November primary, but she got 57% of the vote in the runoff.

Uptown voters helped Susan Hutson beat 17-year incumbent Marlin Gusman in sheriff’s race

In a striking underdog victory, Susan Hutson beat incumbent Marlin Gusman in the runoff for the sheriff’s race on Saturday (Dec. 11), becoming the first woman ever elected sheriff in New Orleans and the first Black woman elected sheriff in Louisiana. 

Although Hutson came in second to Gusman in the primary race in November, she won the runoff with 53% of the vote. She garnered around 32,000 votes while Gusman, who has held his post for 17 years, got around 28,000. Turnout was 22.4%, according to unofficial election results from the Louisiana Secretary of State. While Gusman won the most precincts in the neighborhoods of Lakeview, New Orleans East and Algiers, Hutson managed to grab most of Uptown, Central City and Mid-City.