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. They also are 38% White, 53% Black and 9% Other, which includes Asian, Latino and Native American.
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Tammy Savioe has already announced her candidacy. A clinical psychologist and native New Orleanian, Savioe previously ran a long-shot campaign against U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise in 2018 and against incumbent state Rep. Stephanie Hilferty for the House District 94 seat in 2019. Savioe was elected to Louisiana’s Democratic State Central Committee. “Hard work and determination have always driven me and that’s the representation our new district deserves. District 23 is in the heart of New Orleans; where everyone wants to live and no one wants to leave. I’m eager to represent our new district in Baton Rouge. I’ve prepared my whole life to be present for this moment. I will work tirelessly for the good people of District 23,” Savoie said.
Personal injury attorney Shaun Mena is also eyeing the race. The son of Honduran immigrants, Mena grew up in New Orleans during the 1990s, when crime was also endemic. At a young age he was intrigued by the program “Meet the Press.” Before attending law school Mena worked as a policy analyst for then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco and with the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency. Mena has ties to labor through his father, who worked as a union stagehand at the Morial Convention Center. “I am strongly considering a run for HD 23. For now I am meeting with neighborhood association groups to get a feel for their needs. I am also talking with my wife and family,” Mena said. He is prepared to personally seed his campaign if he runs.
Rounding out the list of probable candidates is former City Council President Arnie Fielkow, who is once again eager to serve in government. From 2017 through 2022, Fielkow was chief executive officer of the Jewish Federation of New Orleans. He previously held the position of president and CEO of the National Basketball Retired Players Association. Fielkow also served as executive vice president of the New Orleans Saints. He could not be reached for comment due to Passover. But friends believe the HD 23 race is of interest to him because it is a new, open seat with no history or incumbent. Fielkow is expected to make a final decision in late April or early May.
Another race with an open seat and no incumbent is shaping up at Civil District Court Division G, where attorney Elroy James has announced his candidacy to replace the retiring Judge Robin Giarrusso. James lost a 2020 race for Civil District Court Division I to Judge Lori Jupiter. In this election, James has jumped out first and is lining up the major endorsements in an effort to clear the field. A graduate of John F. Kennedy High School, Southern University and Southern Law Center, James also received a master’s law degree from Georgetown Law Center. The president of the prestigious Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club, James is on leave from his position as an assistant attorney general in the Louisiana Department of Justice.
“I am excited about the opportunity to extend my career of public services to the people of New Orleans as Judge in Civil District Court. The people of New Orleans deserve a judge who is committed to the community he serves and who will work hard to bring cases to a speedy trial and who also be both fair and compassionate to those moving through our judicial system. I am no stranger to hard work. I have prepared myself academically to serve. And, my diverse 22-year civil practice, which includes litigation, uniquely prepares me to serve. I am proud of the vast support I have in the legal community,” James said.
HANO’s general counsel Dianne Alexander is being urged to run for the open seat in First City Court which will be available because Judge Marissa Hutabaret won a position at Civil District Court Division B. “Lots of people have been talking to me and encouraging me to enter the race for First City Court,” said Alexander. She has yet to make a formal decision. Alexander formerly served as general counsel of the Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors. In 2020, she lost a race for Civil District Court Division E to incumbent Judge Omar Mason. Alexander is a graduate of Southern University at New Orleans and Loyola University’s School of Law. She was also a former Assistant District Attorney.
First City Court Judge Monique Barial has also announced her candidacy for Civil District Court Division D, a seat Judge Nakisha Ervin-Knott will leave to move up to Louisiana’s Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal. “Since my election to the Civil District Court bench in 2014, I’ve been dedicated to upholding the values of integrity, compassion and fairness in everything I do,” Barial said in her campaign biography. Prior to becoming a judge, Barial practiced family law and estate planning. She served as a law clerk for Judge Roland Belsome and later as a minute clerk for Judge Chris Bruno. Barial might not draw a major opponent. She does not have to resign her current judgeship to run for this position.
We’ll explore other races next week including what will be an interesting competition between state Rep. Mandie Landry and newcomer Madison O’Malley.
Danae Columbus, who has had a 30-year career in politics and public relations, offers her opinions on Thursdays. 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.