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Politics

Jason Williams Is Elected Next Orleans Parish District Attorney

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Jason Williams/Facebook
Jason Williams greets a voter at New Zion Baptist Church. Nov. 29, 2020.

Jason Williams’ outsider campaign to reform the top prosecutor’s office in New Orleans was validated by voters Saturday as the defense attorney and at-large council member defeated establishment candidate Keva Landrum — despite a federal tax fraud indictment hanging over Williams’ candidacy.

Williams’ victory represents a major shift from the old-school, “tough-on-crime” approach to criminal justice that has defined the top prosecutor’s office in New Orleans under outgoing district attorney Leon Cannizzaro and his predecessors. Cannizzaro, who had served three straight terms in office, announced this year he wouldn’t seek re-election as the DA’s office became engulfed in a scandal for issuing fake subpoenas.

Williams, who is set to become the second Black DA in the city’s history, said at an election night party Saturday that his campaign was “community driven” and powered by a diverse coalition of supporters.

“That same diversity ... is what we will use to reform the criminal legal system,” Williams told the cheering crowd. “I am so thrilled to have all of your voices to make sure that we reform this for every single neighborhood.”

Williams is set to become the second Black DA in the city’s history.

In the highly-competitive primary race in November against three other candidates — and once again in the Saturday’s runoff against Landrum — Williams positioned himself as the most progressive candidate in the race. During the campaign, he staked out more liberal positions than his opponents on issues like low-level marijuana possession cases (he wouldn’t prosecute them), the habitual offender law (he’d never apply it), and the death penalty (he’d never seek it).

Landrum, a former judge and prosecutor, racked up the endorsements of the city’s political establishments, including the mayor and several of Williams’ colleagues on the City Council. In the end, Williams’ progressive track record and policy prescriptions won over more voters in New Orleans, which becomes the latest big city in the U.S. to elect a reform-minded top prosecutor.

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