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. Despite the cries from the conspiracy theorists, Louisiana elections are safe and secure.
“The vast majority of Louisiana’s voters know that our elections are secure and accurate, and it is shameful and outright dangerous that a small minority of individuals have chosen to denigrate the hard work of our elections staff and spread unproven falsehoods,” Ardoin wrote in a statement released Tuesday.
A small group of legislators from across the U.S. who were in New Orleans several weeks ago for their group’s annual convention asked to see the parish’s voting machines and learn about Louisiana’s election process. Attendees couldn’t wait to step behind the curtain and “cast” a vote. Several legislators from Kansas said that their state had outlawed the machines Louisiana still uses. Yes, Louisiana’s voting machines are outdated and should be replaced — but not with a paper ballot system. It will be up to the next Secretary of State to create and supervise that bid process.
Ardoin was frequently berated by conservative legislators who wanted him to toe the party line. Fortunately, he always held fast to the truth. Ardoin does deserve some criticism for the number of inactive and deceased voters who remain on the rolls in Orleans and probably other parishes. Depending on who is elected to replace Ardoin, the rolls could shrink considerably.
With Ardoin out of the way, the floodgates have opened to a plethora of candidates — currently all Republicans — who are chomping at the bit to take over the office, which in addition to elections oversees business filings and several museums.
House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, who is term-limited, announced Wednesday (April 12) that he would seek the position. First elected to the legislature in 2011, Schexnayder could be the strongest and best known candidate. He has probably doled out plenty of favors, which could translate into a sizable base of support statewide.
Public Service Commissioner Mike Francis, a wealthy former Republican Party chair, will be making his second bid for the seat. He ran and lost in 2006 to Jay Dardenne. Francis was elected to the PSC in 2017.
Election fraud theorist Brandon Trosclair, an Ascension Parish grocery store owner, has also declared his candidacy for the position. Republican state Rep. Barry Ivey, from Central in East Baton Rouge Parish, is also giving the race full consideration.
Hopefully a Democrat will enter the competition. With Shawn Wilson running hard for governor and former state Senate candidate Dustin Granger committed to the race for state treasurer, a moderate, experienced Democrat with access to funding and a south Louisiana base of support would be a welcome addition to the Democrats’ 2023 team.
Meanwhile, Ardoin still has several elections to supervise before his retirement. They include the runoff in Criminal District Court Section A between Simone Levine and Leon Roche on April 25. Also on the ballot that day is a surprise millage increase sought by Sheriff Susan Hutson. Only sketchy information has been made public about exactly how funds from the additional millage would be spent. The Bureau of Governmental Research will be releasing its research on the proposition next week.
MADISON O’MALLEY SEEKS HOUSE DISTRICT 91 AGAINST MANDIE LANDRY
Democrat Madison O’Malley, who moved to New Orleans to attend college and fell in love with the city and her fiancé, Blake Corley, has entered the race for Louisiana Representative District 91. That seat is currently held by Democrat Mandie Landry, who has already announced her campaign for re-election. After losing a contentious race for the state Senate late last year to Royce Duplessis, Landry briefly became an Independent but rejoined the Democratic Party in March.
“I am running for state Representative because Louisiana needs strong leaders to push a bold, progressive agenda. District 91 deserves a representative who is ready and able to do the work to get legislation passed that actually makes everyday Louisiana’s lives better,” said O’Malley. The daughter of a Teamster dad and part-time waitress mom, O’Malley is the first member of her family to graduate from college. She hold a B.A. in history from Loyola University and a B.S. in biological sciences from UNO.
After working as a health care consultant and patient care coordinator, O’Malley founded Capital Disaster Services, where she assists with property and other insurance claims after natural disasters. While a college student, O’Malley interned with the Orleans Public Defender’s Office and later worked in the emergency room of a local hospital during the Covid-19 pandemic. “My passion has always been fighting for equity, equal opportunity and economic security,” O’Malley said.
O’Malley believes that the district needs an unwavering Democrat who is rooted in the values of the party. “I am a young pro-choice woman whose rights have been taken away because of the abortion ban in this state. In fact, my generation is the first to have fewer rights than our grandmothers,” she said.
O’Malley said Louisiana needs legislators who are willing to dig in and tackle the toughest challenges – public safety, the rising cost of living and access to affordable healthcare. She vows to be a “fresh voice in Baton Rouge on countless issues that our incumbent has ignored.”
O’Malley and Corley live in the East Riverside neighborhood with their poodle, Lindy Boggs, named for the first woman elected to Congress from Louisiana.
On the surface, Landry and O’Malley seem to have a lot in common. Both were raised in middle class households where their fathers were members of a labor union. Both received scholarships to complete their education. Both are passionate about what they believe in and are willing to fight to make things better for Louisiana’s citizens. The voters of District 91 have two highly committed progressive candidates vying for their support. A strong debate on important issues is surely on the horizon before the Oct. 14 primary election.
MANDIE LANDRY INTRODUCES FULL SLATE OF BILLS
State Rep. Mandie Landry has a full agenda for the 2023 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature, which began on Monday (April 10).
The most important legislation Landry filed this year is HB 266, which would essentially ensure that women who are pregnant would not be thrown in jail or sued because of miscarriage, abortion or self-managed abortion. “We want to ensure that someone who is suffering from potentially fatal hemorrhaging will not be afraid to go to the emergency room for care for of fear of arrest or litigation,” Landry said.
She has introduced HB 165, a constitutional amendment that provides for public initiative in the referendum process. “This would give voters the option of having a ballot initiative process, which exists in half of all states,” Landry said. “It allows voters to put an issue directly on the ballot.”
HB 168 would remove the fee that the courts charge to defendants for the D.A.R.E drug-abuse education programs. “This program has been proven to be a failure, yet we are still charging people for it,” she explained.
HB 247 would establish a $500 tax credit for anyone who purchases firearm safety devices such as a gun storage device or a gun lock. “Gun violence is endemic. This bill already seems to have bipartisan support,” Landry said proudly.
Submitted on behalf of the Coalition for Costal Restoration, her HB 255 would establish a tax credit for restaurants that recycle oyster shells to create reefs, which assist with coastal restoration. “I hope this legislation encourages more restaurants to participate,” she said.
HB 269 would expand the boundaries of the Delachaise Security District. HB 276 would increase fines for New Orleans building code violations from $500 to $1,000 which Landry believes would assist the city in enforcing its laws.
HB 351 would expand employment protections for employees who use medical marijuana. In 2022, Landry passed the first protection in Louisiana for employees and is now trying to expand these protections.
HB 310 gives the courts discretion to allow breweries and bars to remain open pending adjudication, which provides them fair due process. HB 370 would make for a quicker adjudication of slumlords. New Orleans has had a serious problem in recent years of large complexes renting out uninhabitable apartments to poor people. “It’s unconscionable and illegal, but current law allows the slumlord to drag out the process for a long time. This will shorten it,” Landry concluded.
FUNDRAISER SET SUNDAY FOR LUNG CANCER VICTIM WHO NEVER SMOKED
Many people active in political circles know Jimmy Triay as “Jimmy the Printer.” He has produced hand cards, mail pieces, campaign signs and T-shirts for hundreds of candidates over the decades. No matter how stressed out the candidate, Triay always arrives with a smile. Triay’s second love has always been rock ‘n’ roll music. As a musician, he and his band have performed in numerous venues over the decades and even opened for singer Ray Charles at a convention gig. Triary composed and produced the “Gumbo Coalition” song for Mayor Marc Morial’s second inauguration.
A non-smoker, Triay has been diagnosed with lung cancer and undergone numerous treatments in the U.S. and abroad. His friends in the music industry including Louisiana Leroux, The Molly Ringwalds, The Chee Weez, Bag of Donuts, Lost in the ’60s and Triage will be performing a benefit Sunday (April 16) at Rock ‘n’ Bowl, 3016 S. Carrollton Ave. Doors open at 3 p.m.
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 email@example.com.