New Orleans election guide 2021: Candidates, dates to know before heading to the polls
Campaign fliers are in mailboxes, yard signs endorsing candidates are popping up on lawns and phone banks are dialing every 504 phone number they can: it's election time in New Orleans.
Hurricane Ida delayed the elections by five weeks, with state officials voting to make the new election day Nov. 13.
Early voting begins Saturday, just two weeks before Election Day. While voters can expect to see some new names on the ballot, they can also find some familiar Louisiana politicians running for office. Topics of interest to voters include guiding the city back to its standing prior to COVID-19, crime, Hurricane Ida recovery and preparing infrastructure for future storms.
The city is juggling matters of funding and public health as it attempts to control COVID-19 and tries to crawl out of the economic hole caused by the virus. Health officials are now reporting case numbers and positivity rates low enough to bring back fall events, such as Krewe of Boo, the first official parade to roll in 19 months.
The cancellation of two Jazz Fests, 2021 Mardi Gras and countless other events have slimmed the profits of businesses, while many residents have said the city should focus on the health and quality of life of its people over the tourism dollar.
Another issue to come out of the pandemic is a rise in crime, especially violent cases. A survey released in early 2021 showed a 22% drop in residents who thought the city was safe.
Residents grew extremely frustrated with the city after Ida's strong winds decimated the city's power grid, and many residents went more than a week without power. The city council, which regulates Entergy New Orleans, is now questioning the provider on why the company's infrastructure has not improved over the years, despite the company recording profits.
Another utility company that drew residents’ ire after Ida was Metro Service Group, a waste removal company responsible for half the city. Metro, in some cases, took well over a month to collect residents' trash and has not been fined for neglect of contract by the current Mayor's office. Cantrell was quick to point out, as the trash built up around the city, that Former Mayor Mitch Landrieu signed Metro to a seven-year contract before she took office.
Listed below are dozens of candidates and statewide amendments to know when showing up to the voting booth:
DATES TO KNOW
October 30-November 6: Early voting held from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
November 9: Deadline to request an absentee ballot
November 12: Deadline to receive a mail-in ballot
November 13: Election Day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell (D), the incumbent, is expected to stroll easily into a second term despite spending her first four years on a rocky path. Her opponents vary from political newbies to outsiders that were hamstrung by COVID, which eliminated many in-person fundraising events. Cantrell, who served as a Councilmember for six years before becoming Mayor in 2018, has the recognition needed to outperform her competitors with very little campaigning.
Cantrell has been battle-tested through the past four years with tragedies like the Hard Rock Casino collapse, COVID-19 and the city's failures after Hurricane Ida. One of the post-hurricane failures includes trash pickup, which the mayor’s office is in charge of handling. Most residents of the city went weeks after the storm without a pickup. The Cantrell administration recently announced that trash collections will now go from bi-weekly to once-a-week pickup.
In the past year, her decision to move City Hall to Municipal Auditorium in Louis Armstrong Park generated fierce opposition from Treme residents and the City Council. The council attempted to end the move by creating a zoning ordinance and a measure to allow the council to regulate any movement of City Hall.
After New Orleans became an early COVID-19 hotspot, she was one of the first mayors in the country to shut down a city, enforce a mask mandate and require proof of vaccinations at certain businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.
Byron Cole, no party, is a grassroots community organizer and ran for mayor in 2017.
In May, Seventh Ward resident Cole was in a video that circulated rapidly on social media in which he asked a block party to move their cars and stop blocking North Dorgenois Street, leading to a vulgar confrontation with a neighbor responsible for throwing the party. Comments in the video focused on race and gentrification in the city.
Belden “Noonie Man” Batiste (D), self-employed, has frequently run for political office since 2017 but has not succeeded in getting elected, including in early 2021, when he ran against 14 other candidates to replace U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond in the 2nd Congressional District. He lost to U.S. Rep. Troy Carter.
During his congressional run in February, Batiste and City Councilmember Jay Banks, who is running for reelection, were involved in a screaming match on Batiste’s front lawn.
He streamed the video of himself explaining the situation to the police on his Facebook page.
Eldon Anderson (D), night club promoter: This candidate has also run for political office before but without success. He was previously a State Rep. candidate in 2018 but lost to Rep. Royce Duplessis.
Luke Fontana, attorney: Running on an anti-vaccination platform.
Leilani Heno (I), owner of X-Trainers LLC: Heno has criticized Cantrell, saying the coronavirus protocols she has put into place have hurt businesses in the city.
Vina Nguyen (R), CEO of Global Tech Payment Solutions, is the only Republican candidate running in the mayoral race. She has publicly stated that she is unvaccinated and has also criticized Cantrell for her COVID-19 restrictions.
Joseph Amato (I), works in property management: Amato has stated that he thinks the city should be following “advice from healthcare professionals, but we also need to consider people’s personal freedoms and the economy.”
Manny “Chevrolet” Bruno, no party, an actor: Has previously run for New Orleans mayor without success.
Matthew Hill (I), restaurateur: Hill ran for mayor once before unsuccessfully.
Johnese Smith (D): Mayoral candidate in 2017.
Douglas Bently I (I): Served in the U.S. Navy.
Nathaniel Jones (I): Jones has worked in transportation and hospitality.
Reginald Merchant, no party
Marlin Gusman (D), incumbent: Gusman, who ran unopposed in 2017, is serving his fourth term as Orleans Parish Sheriff. While in office, he launched a regional re-entry program for incarcerated people returning to their communities in southeast Louisiana and the Day Reporting Center, which offers a variety of services to individuals on probation and parole. Both programs are aimed at reducing recidivism.
Gusman oversaw the construction of a new jail facility, the Orleans Justice Center, in 2015. Much of Gusman’s tenure has been plagued by concerns with the jail. Since 2013, the jail has been under a federal consent decree, brought on by a lawsuit over jail conditions filed by people incarcerated in the facility. The decree outlines several criteria that the facility must meet in order to be brought into compliance with the United States Constitution. The Orleans Justice Center was built as part of that decree.
In 2016 Gusman lost the operational authority over the jail — a sheriff’s main duty — after an independent monitor reported a lack of progress in reforming the facility. In an agreement with the Department of Justice, final authority was given to an independent jail compliance officer.
For several years, Gusman has been pushing to build a separate 89-bed psychiatric jail facility, called Phase III, on the Orleans Justice Center campus, which would house detainees with acute mental health needs. The consent decree requires the jail to improve its mental health care. While the Department of Justice and the plaintiffs in the lawsuit that resulted in the consent decree are in favor of the new facility, criminal justice advocates argue that the building is unnecessary as it will increase jail capacity at a time when efforts are being made to shrink incarcerated populations.
Before serving four terms as Orleans Parish Sheriff, Marlin Gusman served as Chief Administrative Officer and Chief Financial Officer for the city of New Orleans under Mayor Marc Morial. He also served two terms as City Council representative for district D. Gusman was recently endorsed by Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Susan Hutson (D) spent 11 years as the independent police monitor for the New Orleans Police Department, which has been under its own consent decree after police violence in the wake of Hurricane Katrina drew outrage and scrutiny. Hutson has said that her office has pushed for accountability and transparency within the NOPD.
Embraced by criminal justice reformers and progressives, including the newly formed PAC For Justice, Hutson is pushing to end all recording of calls between attorneys and their clients behind bars, improve sexual health care care for people incarcerated at the Orleans Justice Center, employ gender-affirming housing for trans and non-binary detainees and institute free phone calls between people behind bars and their family members, who now must pay hundreds of dollars per month to speak with their loved ones.
Hutson is against construction of the Phase III mental health jail facility. Instead she has borrowed the term “help not handcuffs” from advocacy group Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition and is in favor of bringing mental health and substance abuse intervention to community members to deter incarceration.
If elected, Hutson would be New Orleans’ first female sheriff.
Janet Hays, no party: A longtime advocate for mental health care reform, Hays is seen as a long shot for the position of Sheriff.
Hays founded and sits on the board of non-profit organization Healing Minds NOLA, which conducts research on mental healthcare needs and outcomes and lobbies lawmakers to implement policies that address serious mental illnesses.
Hays has said that she aims to reduce over-reliance on the jail as a mental health treatment provider, given that, according to advocates, roughly 80% of people living inside the Orleans Justice Center have some form of a mental health need.
If elected Sheriff, Hays would be the first woman to hold the position.
Christopher Williams (D): Another longshot is Williams, a military veteran originally from New Orleans’ 9th Ward with extensive experience in law enforcement, including as Orleans Parish Deputy Sheriff. Williams seeks to empower Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office staff with an advisory board and salary increases and promotional opportunities. He has proposed agreement between OPSO, NOPD and the Louisiana State Police to bolster crime-fighting in New Orleans and is in favor of a review of OPSO’s programs aimed at fighting recidivism.
He would like to establish a program with the New Orleans business community that can train and hire people released from incarceration.
Quentin Brown (I): The landscaping business owner is also a native New Orleanian. Brown has previously run for sheriff, mayor, city council and governor. He has listed “God” as his campaign manager.
In a survey conducted by Ballotopedia, Brown listed his campaign’s key messages as “crime, no more BS in prison and weekly reports for the public to view.” He said he is passionate about the safety of Orleans Parish residents and of detainees at the Orleans Justice Center.
AT-LARGE POSITION I
Helena Moreno (D), incumbent: Councilmember Moreno looks to be the clear front runner after passing or standing behind a number of issues that have been popular among New Orleans voters.
Moreno spent eight years as State Representative before assuming her current role. In August, she authored legislation that came "as close as possible," to legalizing marijuana. The measure grants anyone caught with the plant an automatic pardon. Moreno said the move was to strengthen trust between the NOPD and the city residents and give more time to officers to track down violent crimes.
Her measure also retroactively pardons over 10,000 possession cases. However, the move does not allow residents to smoke marijuana in public spaces, as they could be fined by the city's Smoke-Free Act.
Moreno also took charge in regulating New Orleans Entergy after all eight of the providers' transmission lines collapsed during Hurricane Ida. The New Orleans City Council is one of two cities in the country that regulates an investor-owned energy company, the other being Washington D.C.
Kenneth Cutno (D): Moreno will face Cutno for a second time, who both ran for the seat in 2017. Cutno only took home 5.99% of the vote in that election, while Moreno earned 65% of the vote.
AT-LARGE POSITION II
JP Morrell (D), former State Senator: Morell, a progressive Democrat, served as a state Senator from 2008 to 2020. Before that, he took over his father’s State Representative chair for two years after a 2006 special election.
During his time in the State House, he authored bills for medical marijuana and to end the pink tax.
Kristin Gisleson Palmer (D), New Orleans councilmember: Palmer is termed out of her divisional position as the city councilmember for the French Quarter and Algiers neighborhoods. Like Morrell, she is a progressive Democrat who co-authored legislation with fellow councilmember Jared Brossett on bumping the minimum wage to $15 an hour for city workers.
She has spoken out against gentrification in the historic Treme neighborhood and appeared at a Save Our Souls Coalition protest over the issue.
Palmer is also related to a former Louisiana politician, a New Orleans federal prosecutor.
Jared Brossett (D), New Orleans councilmember: While not technically a candidate, Brossett will still be on the ballot and able to receive votes. Brossett was arrested for a drunk driving offense on Oct. 18 and suspended his campaign. A former state representative, he has been arrested three times for drunk driving, two of which have been in the past 16 months.
Brossett said he would serve out his term for District D.
Bart Everson, Green Party, Xavier University faculty: Everson said he is "running to bring focus to the urgent need for action on the climate crisis."
Joe Giarusso III (D), incumbent: An attorney, this candidate comes from a line of New Orleans politicians. His grandfather was an at-large council member for 18 years, retiring in 1994. His father served as a Criminal District Court Magistrate, and his mother Robin Giarrusso has been on the Civil District Court bench since 1989.
The name recognition alone should be enough to lift Giarrusso over his two competitors as he vies for a second term.
Amy Misko (L): Misko has listed her No. 1 campaign promise as ending all COVID-19 restrictions.
Robert "Bob" Murrell (D) is associated with the Democratic Socialists of America New Orleans and the Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition. He has listed out a “people first” campaign that focuses on bringing economic, housing, racial and ecological justice. He is involved with community theater and works as a software developer.
Jay Banks (D) incumbent: Banks is looking for his second term in District B. Well connected in the city, he’s on the board of directors for Zulu and a board member for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation. He has also served as the chief of staff for former council members Dorothy Mae Taylor and James Singleton.
But Banks has been criticized for his former position as a lobbyist for Entergy New Orleans from 2005 to 2008, which he has defended by saying his involvement with the company gives him greater insight into regulating it.
Lesli Harris (D): Harris, an entertainment lawyer that has represented the New Orleans Saints and the former Chief of Staff at Loyola University, is billing herself as a proven lawyer with “real plans for addressing crime and infrastructure.” During her campaign, she has taken shots at Banks.
Rosalind “Roz” Reed-Thibodeaux (I): In her campaign biography, Reed-Thibodeaux lists that her experience as a realtor allows her to see what "drives people into and out of the city."
Rella Zapletal (D): Zapletal says she has grown frustrated with Banks while working as the president of the Touro-Bouligny Neighborhood Association. Her campaign promises include improving NOPD retention rate and working to hold city departments and contractors accountable.
The council is guaranteed to get at least one new face on the dais, as District C has seven candidates that aren't incumbents or haven't already served.
Freddie King III (D) has gained endorsements from seemingly every Democratic politician in Louisiana, including Gov. John Bel Edwards. King runs a law firm in Algiers, and his campaign website said he is ready "to tackle violent crime ... so that our residents aren't plagued by fear." King also has served as a public defender in Orleans Parish for two years.
Stephanie Bridges (D): Bridges is the New Orleans Council for Community and Justice director, a justice and advocacy organization. Bridges is also a former city attorney.
Alonzo Knox (D), a former marine and owner of Backatown Coffee, has public service experience through his tenure as the director of community engagement for the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation.
Stephen Mosgrove (D): Mosgrove has been a behind-the-scenes politician since the early 2000s as a legislative aide to various Democrats at the state and local levels of government.
Barbara Waiters (D) served as Chief of Staff to former City Councilmember Troy Carter from 1994 to 1998.
Frank Perez (D): A local tour guide and author.
Vincent Milligan Jr., no party: Milligan is a cosmetologist.
The void left by term-limited Jared Brossett will bring a crop of 13 new candidates to the ballot.
Troy Glover (D), 31, was the youngest president in the history of the St. Roch Neighborhood Association at 25. Glover is also the site director of the New Orleans Center for Employment Opportunities, a non-profit that specializes in finding employment for individuals recently released from incarceration.
Morgan Clevenger (D): President of Fairgrounds Triangle Neighborhood Association and has been one of the vocal leaders against the mayor's attempt to move City Hall.
Mariah Moore (D) is the founder of House of Tulip, a community land trust that creates housing solutions for transgender and non-conforming people in Louisiana.
Chantrisse Burnett (D): Burnett worked as a youth specialist at Total Community Action, Inc. before running for the District D seat. The non-profit company addresses the needs of low-income citizens with direct assistance.
Timolynn "Tim" Sams (D) has 13 years of non-profit experience as the Neighborhood Partnership Network executive director, which coordinates communities with City Hall.
Eugene Green (D): Green has run three campaigns for various offices before, without ever having success.
Mark "Johari" Lawes (D) is a business owner and restaurateur.
Kevin Griffin-Clark (D): Runs a media production company.
Chelsea Ardion (R): Project manager in the health industry.
Robert Murray (D) works with various non-profits.
Keith Parker (D): Field agent for Criminal District Court
Dulaine Vining (D)
Kourtney Youngblood (D) helps run a family-owned cleaning service
Anthony Doby, no party: Works in real estate
The District E ballot is a combination of new names and several familiar ones.
Cyndi Nguyen (D), incumbent: In 2018, Nguyen was named as one of the "31 People Who Are Changing the South" in a Time magazine article. Nguyen is a founder of Vietnamese Initiatives in Economic Training, which works to develop economic and educational programs for minority residents in Louisiana.
The councilmember faced backlash after she commented in a Times-Picayune article, stating that she wishes she could control-burn down the excess blight in the neighborhood.
In the same article, Nguyen received criticism for saying residents in the district only want "greasy fried chicken" businesses in the Lower Ninth Ward.
Nguyen was speaking on trying to bring more businesses to the area. She later issued an apology for the statement.
John Bagneris (D) served as a state representative from 2015 to 2020. He attempted to take over JP Morrell's term-limited State Senate seat, which he lost to Sen. Joseph Bouie Jr.
Bagneris authored HB425 in 2019 while a state representative, which was signed into effect by Gov. John Bel Edwards. The law stipulates that no constitutional provision protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.
Oliver Thomas (D), former councilmember: Thomas is trying to return to the council after a 14-year absence. From 1994 to 2007, Thomas served as a council member for District B and in the At-Large position.
Thomas was widely considered a possible mayoral candidate until 2007, when Thomas resigned from the council and pleaded guilty to bribery charges. Thomas accepted almost $20,000 in bribes from Stan "Pampy" Barre, who was attempting to keep a French Quarter parking lot contract.
Thomas was released in 2010, but was arrested again in 2018 for driving with a suspended license and an outstanding warrant for refusal to appear in court three years prior.
The candidate also recently drew criticism for his role as a consultant for the Netflix series "Jailbirds" that filmed inside of Orleans Justice Center. Thomas refused to comment on the Times-Picayune story.
Aaron Miller (D) is a public school teacher and an assistant pastor at Mt. Moriah Baptist Church in the Florida Area neighborhood. This is Miller's first political campaign.
Michon Copelin (D), a mental health professional: Copelin lists her plans for the district on her campaign website, the first priority being the need to "Establish a Blight Eradication Task Force."
Vanessa Gueringer (D), non-profit sector: She is the founding member and current Vice President of the non-profit A Community Voice
CRIMINAL COURT CLERK
Austin Badon (D) will try to add yet another role in Louisiana’s state and local governments to his resume. Currently, Badon is the Orleans Parish 1st City Court Clerk, and prior to that, he was a State Representative from 2004 to 2016.
Darren Lombard (D): The Orleans Parish 2nd City Court Clerk is also vying for the position.
Patricia Boyd-Robertson (D), professor, owner of Appointed Financial Group: The candidate’s campaign site lists her as having over 20 years of experience in federal government accounting. She is also a math tutor for children and the author of the book “Be Strong.” The book, published in 2020, tells her story of navigating through challenges and abuse with faith.
Errol Williams (D), incumbent, has served as the city’s assessor since 2011.
Anthony Brown (D): Brown ran for assessor in 2017 but was pulled out of the race because of tax issues.
Andrew Gressett (D): This real estate professional has also run for the position before.
Carlos Hornbrook (D), managing partner of a law firm.
There's a guide for those too. Find it here.