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New Orleans runoff elections 2021: See candidates, millages on the ballot

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Ryan Nelsen
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New Orleans voters will find themselves inside a voting booth for the second month in a row this December, with two millages and six runoff races to decide on.

The quick turnaround from the Nov. 13 election coupled with the holiday season could produce some upsets that would potentially reshape the City Council or even give the city its first female sheriff.

Early voting for the election begins Nov. 27, and Election Day is Dec. 11.

Sheriff

Marlin Gusman (D), incumbent: Gusman, a 16-year incumbent, has not had a serious competitor face him since 2014 where he easily defeated his predecessor Charles Foti, who was sheriff in the city for 30 years.

In the primary election, Gusman showed no animosity toward the pack of four other candidates, but once pinned solely against Hutson in the runoff, he produced several attack ads claiming Hutson is sympathetic to far-left advocates.

"I ran against a network of radical extremists who have invaded our city. These people are funding and owning my opponent, an individual who has never managed more than a dozen people," Gusman said in an advertisement.

Gusman lost control of his primary duty as sheriff, controlling the New Orleans jail, in 2016 when an independent monitor reported the facility unfit to keep prisoners. Gusman regained authority over the jail in 2020, but observers said the jail's reform has declined since then.

During his tenure, the jail has also been under a federal consent decree, which former Mayor Mitch Landrieu agreed to in 2013. Under the agreement, the city is to build a separate facility to house inmates with mental illnesses, called Phase III.

Gusman has remained adamant about the need for the facility but has found resistance from the City Council and Mayor LaToya Cantrell's office on the issue. The council refuses to allocate any money for the build and will wait for the decree to expire.

The decree requires the city to have started on the Phase III facility by the end of the year, and if the city doesn't comply a federal judge will rule on the matter.

Gusman almost claimed victory in the primary with 48% of the vote to Hutson's 35%.

The primary also showed Gusman winning primarily Black districts compared to Hutson's victories in white districts. Both candidates are Black.

Susan Hutson (D): Hutson, an independent police monitor, is running a campaign based on reforming the office that has found itself steeped in controversy.

After pushing Gusman to a runoff, Hutson gained a key endorsement from District Attorney Jason Williams. The progressive official, who won his seat in a runoff against Keva Landrum in 2020, complemented Hutson on her promise to not add another jail if elected and her pledge to audit the office severely.

Hutson is a favorite of progressives in the city and is pledging to send deputies into high-crime areas to lower the city's crime rate. Williams said Hutson could end the cycle of generational incarceration in the city.

Hutson has not served as law enforcement before but brings a wealth of knowledge about federal consent decrees, with working for the past 11 years in Orleans Parish and with having experience in Los Angeles.

If elected, Hutson wants to promote women to deputy positions and change how the office treats prisoners.

"I will transform the Sheriff's Office into one that actually follows the constitution, the laws and best practices," Hutson said.

District B

Jay Banks (D), Incumbent: In District B, the incumbent City Council member Jay Banks didn't draw enough of the vote to prevent a runoff with Lesli Harris, an entertainment lawyer. Banks drew 45% of the vote to Harris' 37%.

Banks is 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 City Council members Dorothy Mae Taylor and James Singleton.

Lesli Harris (D): Harris, an entertainment lawyer, attempted to discredit Banks during the primary by distributing fliers that said his former job as a lobbyist for Entergy prevents him from performing a key role for the Council in upcoming years by regulating the city's energy company.

Harris' former jobs include representing the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans as well as Chief of Staff for Loyola University. She loaned her campaign $28,700 of her own personal money.

District C

Freddie King III (D): In District C, Freddie King III, a former Orleans Parish Public Defender, nearly won the election outright but found himself just short of the 50% threshold. King took 44% of the district's vote.

King gained endorsements from seemingly every Democratic politician in Louisiana, including Gov. John Bel Edwards. King runs a law firm in Algiers.

Stephanie Bridges (D):  Bridges, the New Orleans Council for Community and Justice president, received 16% of the vote. Bridges is also a former city attorney.

District D

Troy Glover (D): The youngest president in St. Roch Improvement Association history, Troy Glover took 12% of the vote. Glover was raised in the Calliope projects and was arrested at the age of 17, an occurrence that he said gives him a unique look into the justice system in the city. Glover gained the endorsement of the majority of the candidates he beat out in the primary, including Mariah Moore, Morgan Clevenger and Kevin Griffin-Clark.

Glover also received an endorsement from Mayor LaToya Cantrell.

Eugene Green (D): The president of Nationwide Real Estate Corporation, Eugene Green received 35% of votes for the District D seat, competing in a field of 14 candidates that spread the votes out.

Green served as the head of economic development for former Mayor Marc Morial and has campaigned for various offices before without ever having success. Green, who is considered more moderate than the progressive candidates he faced, was endorsed by the Times-Picayune.

District E

Oliver Thomas (D): Former council member Oliver Thomas was once considered a "sure-thing" for the city's next mayor before a federal bribery charge in 2007 ended his political career. He was found guilty of accepting $15,000 from Stan "Pampy" Barre, who owned several French Quarter parking garages and wanted Thomas to renew business contracts with the city.

"This guilty plea is a body blow to a community that is already reeling under a wave of public corruption," said U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance in 2007 when she sentenced Thomas to 37 months. "If this city is ever to recover, we have to have an end to this type of venality."

Thomas 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 the Orleans Justice Center.

Cyndi Nguyen (D): Incumbent Cyndi Nguyen found herself trailing Thomas in the primary. She took 41% of the vote to Thomas’ 45%.

In her first four years, Nguyen has tried to control blighted properties and abandoned cars in her eastern district. She has also asked the NOPD to consider redrawing their patrol maps so her district could have more of a police presence.

Nguyen was endorsed by the Times Picayune and was the first Vietnamese-American ever elected to the City Council.

Clerk Criminal District Court

Austin Badon (D): In the primary, Badon took home 43% of the vote, trying to take over for Arthur Morrell, who had served in the position since 2006. Badon has served one term as the 1st City Court clerk, keeping records for evictions and small claims on the East Bank.

Darren Lombard (D): Second place in the primary went to Lombard with 30% of the vote. Lombard is the clerk for 2nd City Court, which keeps records on the West Bank. Both candidates running for the position pledged to modernize the office.

PW Prop. (Public Library) - 4 Mills - CC - 20 Years (Select 1)

To continue the expiring ad valorem tax dedicated to support the operations of the New Orleans Public Library System, which was authorized by voters on November 4, 1986 through December 31, 2021, shall the City of New Orleans (the "City") be authorized to levy a special tax not to exceed 4 mills ("Tax") on all taxable property within the City for a period of twenty years (beginning on January 1, 2022 and expiring on December 31, 2041 with an estimated collection totaling $17,498,020 for an entire year if the full amount of the Tax approved herein is levied by the City) for the purposes of constructing, improving, maintaining and operating the New Orleans Public Library System, including the purchase of equipment therefor, title to which shall remain in the public, provided that a portion of the monies collected shall be remitted to certain state and statewide retirement systems in the manner required by law?

Before his early resignation as director of the public library system in early November, Gabriel Morley sat before the City Council and told the dais that more than half of the library's $21 million budget relies upon this millage.

The millage would be a renewal that property owners have seen since 1986. The city is currently collecting 2.58 mills for the library, but the millage could rise to 4.00. The millage is proposed to grab over $11 million for the library system in 2022.

The money could help the department move the current Lower Ninth Ward Library to a new location. The Martin Luther King Jr. Library in that neighborhood currently shares a building with an elementary school.

Morley resigned two days after that discussion with the Council when WWL-TV inquired about his residence in the city, which is required for most city employees. Morley owns a home in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

However, Morley did lay out a plan for the libraries’ next 10 years, if passed, including expanding the libraries' early education programs and adult learning and workforce readiness programs.

The millage comes nearly a year after Mayor LaToya Cantrell authored a proposal to cut the library's funds by $7.5 million. The mayor's administration justified the cut by citing the library's large surplus budget, but the library responded by detailing a shift in funding after a 2015 millage created budget problems.

That 2020 proposal was voted down by Orleans Parish residents, with almost 57% of the vote.

Morley indicated that early polling showed positive results for the millage.

The Bureau of Governmental Research, a non-partisan policy group, supported this millage.

PW Prop. (Neighborhood Housing) - 0.91 Mills - CC - 20 Years

Shall the City of New Orleans, Louisiana ("City") be authorized to continue to levy a special tax of 0.91 mills on all property subject to taxation in the City ("Tax"), for a period of twenty years (beginning on January 1, 2022 and ending on December 31, 2041 with an estimated collection totaling $3,900,000 in the first year if the full amount of the Tax approved herein is levied by the City), to be deposited in, and used in accordance with the requirements of, the Neighborhood Housing Improvement Fund (City Code Sec. 70-415.1, et seq., as it may be amended from time to time) for the purpose of funding a comprehensive neighborhood housing improvement program and providing affordable housing in the City?

This millage renews a property tax that sends all proceeds into the city's Neighborhood Housing Improvement Fund, a utility fund serving multiple purposes.

The 0.91 mill, a 20-year tax, would extend what property owners are already paying.

Created in 1991 by New Orleans voters, NHIF's dollars help eliminate blight and improve housing around the city. NHIF has morphed over the years to help lower-income homeowners improve their homes to avoid code violations and help tenants facing eviction during the pandemic.

The city has also used the fund to incentivize private affordable housing developments and aid first-time home buyers.

The plan is praised by housing advocacy groups that aim for more affordable housing in the city. NHIF is currently funded by this millage and short-term rental fees.

The Bureau of Governmental Research did not support the renewal of this millage as the city did not list out precisely what they intend to do with the funds. The city responded by saying the fluidity of the funds can be helpful when most housing funds come with rigid codes.

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