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. “People aren’t really tuned in to this election,” said Baton Rouge pollster John Couvillon in a national interview with Politico.
During early voting, Republicans did a much better job than Democrats of getting out their faithful possibly because the majority of statewide and legislative candidates — and elected officials — are Republicans. Orleans Parish, with its strong Democratic voting base, is outside the state’s norm. And state Republican registration, as well as those registering an Independents, continues to grow each year as the number of registered Democrats declines.
According to new research by the Gallup organization, 42% of Americans view the Republican Party favorably while even fewer, 40%, hold a favorable opinion of the Democratic Party. The favorability of both major parties has dropped significantly in the past 20 years. Gallup’s recent polling also revealed that the GOP is more trusted on the issues of the economy and security. Furthermore, the public thinks that the Republican Party can better handle the problem they view as most important. President Joe Biden, Congress, and the direction of the economy all have big negatives.
With this level of national discontent, it make sense that Democrats have struggled in recent years — and will continue to struggle — to elect members of their party to statewide offices in Louisiana. All that said, Democrat Shawn Wilson had his work cut out for him when he decided to enter the race for governor. But that hasn’t deterred Wilson from fighting the good fight. As the only major Democrat in the race, Wilson has slowly worked his way around the state with staff support — but very little financial resources — from the state Democratic Party. Wilson’s platform is heavy on many issues that are warm and fuzzy to most Democrats but may not inspire non-Democratic voters. He is counting on stitching together an ever-expanding network of divergent groups like environmentalists and criminal justice reform supporters to carry him into the runoff.
Landry’s final campaign push across the state is an all-out effort to win in the first. Landry is always greeted by enthusiastic crowds and has a unique ability to connect with almost everyone he meets. None of the other candidates have those strengths or his networks. Locking down an endorsement from the state Republican Party early in the game certainly helped build his advantage. Landry has successfully fought to hold back his Republican opponents. His victory party in Broussard, near Lafayette, this Saturday will be a testament to his broad command of Louisiana voters whether or not a runoff campaign lies ahead.
In House District 91, Rep. Mandie Landry has dug in her heals against Madison O’Malley and has invested significant dollars on social media to stem the constant attacks by O’Malley who has run a strong race for a first-time candidate. It does not benefit the voters of New Orleans to see these two Democrats at each other’s throat.
At Criminal District Court, there is great contrast between the two candidates for judge. Each represents the prosecutorial style of their era. Melanie Talia has breathed new life in her race against Leon Roche by tagging him as someone who tries to keep those who may have committed crimes out of jail. Talia earned her chops during the “lock ’em up” era. Despite their respective rhetoric, both need crossover votes to win. Unless Black turnout is exceedingly low or White turnout exceedingly high on Saturday, Roche takes it.
Shaun Mena and Tammy Savoie still appear to be headed to the runoff in the new House District 23. Here’s another race the outcome of which will depend on turnout and crossover votes. Either candidate would make an excellent legislator.
The polls open Saturday at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Call 504-658-9000 or visit the Voter Portal with any questions regarding your voting status or where you are registered to vote.
DON’T FORGET TO VOTE ON THE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS AND OTHER PROPOSITIONS
The Bureau of Governmental Research has prepared a thorough overview of the local propositions on the ballot. The BGR is supporting the 20-year renewal of the property tax dedication to the preservation, improvement and capital repair of public school facilities owned by the Orleans Parish School Board.
“Renewing the tax is critical to sustain the quality of public school facilities, which is essential for students’ health, safety and achievement,” BGR wrote in their recent On The Ballot series of reports.
BGR also supports the effort to reorganize the city’s code enforcement. Blighted property certainly negatively impacts the quality of life in many city neighborhoods and also affects neighborhood vitality, economic development and public safety. This initiative will create a new stand-alone Department of Code Enforcement clearly defined in the City Charter.
Finally, BGR is in favor of the effort to extend the City Council’s annual budget review process. For those citizens who follow this process every year, it’s easy to get lost in the volume of information that is presently so quickly. Many similar-sized cities across the U.S. allow their legislative body more time to study the executive branch’s proposals.
Supporting all three proposals will make New Orleans a better place to live.
TWO TOP CONTENDERS FOR MAYOR OF NEW ORLEANS HOLDING FUNDRAISERS
Now that Mayor LaToya Cantrell has reached the mid-way point in her second term, fundraising is beginning in earnest for the two candidates who have already expressed interest in the election to replace her – City Council Vice President Helena Moreno and District E City Council member Oliver Thomas. Thomas is holding a fundraising this evening (Oct. 12) at Basin Street Station. Though his invitation does not include a committee with a large list of contributors, a big crowd of eager donors is expected. Thomas begins this fundraising cycle with $40,000 in his campaign account, according to his most recent filing with the Louisiana Ethics Administration.
With a long, well-established list of donors, Moreno already reports in excess of $250,000 in her campaign account. Her fundraiser is Tuesday evening (Oct. 17), at The Windsor Court. Moreno’s invitation boasts a large and influential committee, including Susan and Ralph Brennan, Karen and Henry Coaxum, Roger Ogden, Louellen and Darryl Berger, Stephanie and Peter November, Bill Hines, Cherie Teamer, Louis Lauricella, and Janice Parmelee and Bill Hammack.
Opinion columnist Danae Columbus has had a 30-year career in politics and public relations. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.