It’s Twelfth Night. I rushed out this morning to the King Cake Hub’s annual Carnival Kick Off Party, held this year at Zony Mash Beer Project. As I surveyed all the offerings, I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of impact Mardi Gras will have on Covid and crime, both of which continue to break records. Carnival should be a record-breaking event as well. People are tired of being cooped up and want to celebrate.
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.
With the Dec. 11 runoff election just nine days away, the candidates and the political action committees behind them are wasting no time getting out their last-minute messages — mostly in the form of attacks. Though not officially on the ballot, the construction of an 89-bed special needs jail is at the heart of this year’s competition between Sheriff Marlin Gusman and former Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson. Gusman won 48% of the vote in the primary while Hutson ran second with 32%.
With the Sheriff’s Office still under the federal consent decree, U.S. District Judge Lance Africk’s posturing has made it clear: build a special needs jail from scratch and commit the resources to operate it or face the consequences. It’s hard to disagree in public with a federal judge.
Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman spoke with the Uptown Messenger about the changes that have occurred in his office and in the criminal justice system during his more than 15 years as sheriff as well as the challenges ahead. Gusman is currently a candidate for re-election and has four challengers: Quentin Brown Jr., Janet Hayes, Susan Hutson and Christopher Williams.
Danae Columbus: Tell us about your background. Where you were born, educated, degrees or certifications you may have received. Sheriff Marlin Gusman: I am a native of New Orleans, born on the West Bank and married a 7th Ward girl who continues to this day to be my best partner and friend. Renee and I have been married for 43 years, raised our family in Gentilly, where we continue to live.
With the primary election for City Council less than a month away, the candidates for the District B seat have spent more than $200,000 battling for a seat, according to the latest campaign finance reports filed with the Louisiana Ethics Administration Program. But it appears that several candidates have had to reach deep into their own pockets to finance an extra month of spending after election day was pushed from Oct. 9 to Nov. 13 due to Hurricane Ida.
Both incumbent Jay H. Banks and one of his four challengers, Rosalind “Roz” Reed-Thibodaux, have only a few hundred dollars left in cash on hand, while challenger Rella Zapletal, the biggest spender in the race, is relying on a $200,000 loan she made to herself.
Candidates Banks, Lesli Harris, Reed-Thibodaeux and Zapletal have received a total of $184,688.84 in campaign contributions in 2021, with more than half of that amount going to the Harris campaign.
In addition, Harris loaned herself $28,700 and Zapletal has loaned herself $200,000.
As of Wednesday morning (Oct. 20), the Louisiana Ethics Administration website did not show a campaign finance report for candidate Timothy David Ray, an adjunct professor at the University of New Orleans.
With less than a month to go until the primary election, the three candidates for the District A seat on the City Council have collected more than $285,000 in campaign contributions. Unfortunately for two of those candidates, nearly all of that money has gone to incumbent Joseph Giarrusso III.
The councilman raised almost $260,000 this year for his campaign and still has roughly $230,000 cash on hand, according to the latest finance reports candidates submitted Thursday (Oct. 14) to the Louisiana Ethics Administration Program. And he’s also spent over three times more than his two opponents, Amy Misko and Robert Murrell, combined.
Key contributors to Giarrusso’s campaign include political action committees that represent the real estate and hospitality industries and controversial landfill magnates Jim Ward and Fred Heebe. With the election coming on Nov.
Try new signature fall beverages and have your questions answered this October, at CR Coffee Shop on Magazine St. Owner Kevin Pedeaux is opening his Uptown space as a hub for candidates this election season to reach the community. The informal atmosphere is open to respectfully ask pressing questions, share ideas, or simply observe and listen.
Upcoming ‘Coffee with Candidates’ events include Leilani Heno for Mayor scheduled for Oct. 15 at 10:30 a.m., and JP Morrell for at-large City Council Division 2 scheduled for Oct. 19 at 8 a.m.; at CR Coffee Shop, 3618 Magazine St.
Speaking before a packed crowd of Second Amendment advocates, 14 candidates vying for various offices in New Orleans upcoming municipal elections shot from the hip (pun intended) at a live forum hosted Monday evening hosted by the Home Defense Foundation.
Clerk of First City Court Austin Badon described himself as a Black Democrat who likes to hang out in the woods with a rifle. Council candidate Kenneth Cutno acknowledged citizens’ constitutional right to bear arms. Candidates Quentin Brown, Janet Hayes and Christopher Williams all attacked Sheriff Marlin Gusman, and Gusman promptly fired back. Conservative talk show host Jeff Crouere started off the freewheeling evening at the Royal Blend coffee shop in Old Metairie by announcing that Mayor LaToya Cantrell was invited but would not be attending. “By not responding to our invitation, Mayor Cantrell shows obviously that she doesn’t want to engage with other candidates and voters,” Crouere said. The audience cheered as each of the four mayoral candidates who were present echoed Crouere’s remarks.
New data on Mayor Cantrell’s re-election prospects and local quality-of-life issues were released earlier this week. The post-Ida poll was underwritten by ACORN International, United Labor Unions Local 100 and A Community Voice.
Republican mayoral candidate Vina Nguyen was excited for the opportunity to address a group of supporters Wednesday night (Sept. 29) at a fundraiser in the French Quarter. “I promise to be a different leader — one who comes from a long road of obstacles that has taught me to be kind to others and listen to their concerns,” Nguyen told the packed crowd that included Republican State Party Chairman Louis Gurvich, entrepreneur Gregory Holt, Council District C candidate Stephen Mosgrove, and Juliet and Tim Laughlin, who hosted the event. “We can’t treat our citizens the way this mayor does, and I promise we will do better. We should show businesses looking to continue commerce here, or locate here for the first time, that the past four years of indecency are over.
In wide-ranging, almost hour-long remarks on Wednesday (Aug. 18), U.S. Rep. Troy Carter — who has yet to serve 100 days in office — touched on issues from the pandemic to the American Rescue Plan Act, the Child Tax Credit and support for small businesses. Throughout the Zoom speech to the Bureau of Governmental Research, he emphasized that common sense solutions can make a real difference.
“I want to be that bridge of reasonableness,” the New Orleans Democrat told the BGR. “When you’re building relationships, it’s policy over politics, people over politics.”
Carter said that Louisiana does not have the luxury of divisiveness. “We need to concentrate on things that bring us together — education, infrastructure, health care, safety, flooding.