Nearly half-way through this year’s extended early voting period, 7,669 New Orleanians, including 2,275 white voters and 5,047 black voters, have already cast their ballots for presidential nominees, First City Court judge and political party committees. Almost half of those individuals voted by mail. Due to COVID-19, more citizens are meeting the early voting criteria — which, coupled with a longer voting period, will result in the largest early voting turnout in New Orleans history.
In the race for judge in Division B First City Court, five candidates have been struggling to remain visible at a time when voters are focused on staying healthy and earning a living. Marissa Hutabarat and Sara Lewis appear to be leading the pack in terms of endorsements, overall donors and money raised.
Hutabarat is the only candidate in this race who has begun airing a television commercial. She has raised the most funds, including from a personal loan, and has been endorsed by City Council members Joe Giarrusso, Cyndi Nguyen and Kristin Palmer as well as legislators Jimmy Harris, Royce Duplessis and Jason Hughes. Louisiana Human Rights Commissioner Richard Perque is also among her supporters.
Lawyer Bill Aaron, a former city attorney under Mayor Sidney Barthelemy, raised a few eyebrows recently when he posted support for Republican state Rep. Debbie Villio’s House Bill 321, the Truth and Transparency Act, which would make public the criminal records of juveniles over the age of 13 who commit violent crimes in Orleans and other large parishes. Several of Aaron’s social media followers, including former Judge Ron Sholes and former Criminal Magistrate Marie Bookman, disagreed and suggested the bill targeted juveniles only in majority-Black parishes and at too young an age.
A separate WDSU-TV news report Tuesday evening (May 30) pointed to the high percentage of Black homicide victims in New Orleans. Councilmember Oliver Thomas, who was interviewed for the story, blamed those murders in part on systemic racism and a lack of resources. Who is committing these crimes? More often than not, other Black males — many of whom start down the wrong path while still juveniles — are named as the perpetrators. Their crimes can be viewed as status symbols by their peers.
Let’s take for example 22-year-old convicted felon Kyron Keith Fazande, whom WWL Radio broadcaster Newell Normand labeled “a pure killer” during his on-air interview Wednesday (May 31) with Rafael Goyeneche of the Metropolitan Crime Commission.
I was more than a little envious this week of the millions of dollars Jefferson Parish Council members are doling out to pet projects mostly in their districts — from support for festivals, community centers and churches to cheerleader uniforms, swimming classes and tutoring. Jefferson’s council members, all up for re-election in the fall, enjoy broad leeway in making those discretionary selections. The allocations are available not only because of one-time dollars from the American Rescue Plan but from ongoing funding sources such as gaming revenue and hotel/motel taxes.
Jefferson’s council recently voted to give each district council member an additional $12.5 million and each at-large member $1 million of allocate. Surely the council could have voted instead to distribute those dollars to their transit system, which is having budget problems, or toward building secure housing with wrap-around services for Jefferson’s growing homeless population.
Fortunately for them, the Parish Council enjoys the luxury of significant discretionary spending because Jefferson has something that New Orleans hasn’t had in more than half of century – a fully-functioning vibrant economy with industry beyond tourism, a healthy retail tax base, and an infrastructure system that is not about to collapse into the Mississippi River. Sure, Jefferson Parish has potholes, streets that need resurfacing and new playgrounds to build.
Two like-minded bills that together will fundamentally redefine the recall process for Louisiana elected officials are working their way through the 2023 legislative session in Baton Rouge. Though the new laws, if ultimately approved, will bring Louisiana’s rules in closer alignment with other states, a political action committee associated with Mayor LaToya Cantrell is raising its voice in protest and soliciting funds to fight back. An email sent Tuesday (May 9) to supporters by Cantrell’s long-time campaign manager Maggie Carroll labels one of the pieces of legislation, House Bill 212, as “voter suppression.” Carroll further asks for assistance in gathering $250,000 for the Cantrell-supported Action New Orleans PAC.
In an interview, Cantrell said she knows nothing about the recall legislation and doesn’t care whether it passes. She also distanced herself from Carroll’s comments and current fundraising efforts. Carroll confirmed that Cantrell was not behind the PAC’s latest activities.
Political observers were not surprised Tuesday (April 11) when Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin announced that he will not seek re-election. In a state where former President Donald Trump is still revered by a large number of voters, overseeing elections as a living, breathing moderate Republican just isn’t easy.
Ardoin will have served five years when he departs at the end of the 2023. He first ran for the position after the 2018 resignation of then Secretary Tom Schedler, who was embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal. Detractors said at the time that Ardoin, as a long-time employee in Schedler’s office, should have been aware of Schedler’s misdeeds and supported the victim.
Ardoin might not have been the best Secretary of State Louisiana ever had — but he certainly wasn’t the worst. Generally speaking, the elections Ardoin and his team managed worked as well as could be expected.
Though qualifying does not take place until early August, candidates for legislative and judicial races are already making their interests known. Perhaps the most exciting race will be in the newly created Louisiana House District 23 — which includes portions of Mid-City and Bayou St. John along with the Hollygrove, Dixon. Gert Town, Esplanade, Tulane-Gravier and the Cemeteries neighborhoods. The voters in the new district are 67% Democratic, 6% Republican and 27% Independent.
Local Democratic elected leaders, small business owners and deep-pocketed donors eagerly lined up Monday night (March 27) to meet Shawn Wilson, who they hope will be the next governor of Louisiana. Wilson resigned earlier this month after seven years as Louisiana Secretary of Transportation and Development under Gov. John Bel Edwards to run for governor. He also worked as legislative director for former Gov. Kathleen Blanco. A native of Algiers, Wilson graduated from the University of Louisiana in Lafayette with a degree in urban and regional planning and completed a doctorate in public policy and urban affairs at Southern University.
More than 100 movers and shakers crowded into the venue Calcasieu for the chance to chat privately with Edwards and Wilson, who calls himself a “bridge-builder.” As DOTD chief, Wilson was responsible for the successful execution of $5.5 billion of transportation and infrastructure projects in almost every city and town in Louisiana. He’s relying on those relationships to create a winning statewide network of Democrats as well as some Independents and moderate Republicans.
The family of Linda Frickey visited her grave this week, a year after the 73-year-old was brutally killed in a Mid-City carjacking. “We want justice for our family member, but it’s not just for Linda. We want this for all elderly people. For all the victims of juvenile crime,” said Kathy Richard, Frickey’s sister-in-law.
Three of the Frickey Four — the teenagers who laughed in Frickey’s face as she bled to death on the North Pierce Street on March 21, 2022 — are expected to go to trial in April. Lenyra Theophile, one of the four defendants in the case, was found to be incompetent and too depressed to stand trial.
Many supporters of the campaign to recall Mayor LaToya Cantrell may have been surprised Tuesday (March 14) when the mayor and Lower 9th Ward activist Rev. Willie Calhoun filed a challenge to the negotiated settlement on the recall case. Because of the settlement, 25,000 New Orleans voters were temporarily moved to the inactive voter list, which eliminated them for the overall number of authenticated signatures needed to trigger a recall election. After all, the Registrar of Voters has until March 22 to review all the signatures. If the recall’s goal is not met, the recall campaign is automatically over.
Attorneys for Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin and NoLaToya.org had arbitrarily agreed to the 25,000 number when, in fact, the data consultant for the recall determined the number of voters who had moved away, died or are inactive is considerably higher. A quick look at voter turnout in recent elections illustrates that many New Orleanians do not prioritize voting.
Now that NoLaToya.org submitted 10 boxes of mayoral recall petitions to Registrar of Voters Sandra Wilson, the pressure on Wilson is mounting. She is responsible for the review and authentication of approximately 50,000 signatures, delivered Wednesday (Feb. 22), within 20 working days. Even if Wilson and her staff labor seven days a week, they would have to review of almost 1,800 signatures each and every day to reach their goal. As the result of a lawsuit filed by NoLaToya.org, Wilson will also have to defend the accuracy of the voting rolls she oversees in Civil District Court on Monday (Feb.
I have never been so proud of my country and my president, Joe Biden. I write these words after returning from a whirlwind trip to central Europe in order to lead an initiative helping Ukrainian youth, to try to get one of my daughters’ sisters out of Ukraine, and to enjoy my truly favorite part of the world. So why such gratitude and proudness? Because we in America — as well as our NATO allies — continue to do the absolutely right thing in supporting Ukraine and the Ukrainian people, including the recent decision to supply much-needed new tanks and ammunition to combat the criminal activities of Russia and its leader, Vladimir Putin. These tanks will allow the Ukrainian military to fight back against Russian aggression, and hopefully recapture Ukrainian land wrongly taken by Russia over this past year as well as previously with regards to the Crimea.