2019 Louisiana Democratic Socialist Voting Guide

State Senate District 8

South Jefferson Parish to Grand Isle

4-year term, limited to 3 terms

Evading term limits as a State Representative, Patrick Connick is running unopposed for this State Senate seat. His claims to fame include calling for the removal of tolls on the Crescent City Connection as well as familial connections to former Orleans Parish District Attorney Harry Connick and his famous singer/actor son Harry Connick, Jr.

Patrick Connick has a 100% anti-abortion legislative record in the House, but he also drew praise from the Louisiana Environmental Action Network for fighting against HB615, the Pollution Secrecy Act, earlier this year.

State Representative District 79


4-year term, limited to 3 terms

Three of four candidates for House District 79 dropped out shortly after qualifying, leaving us with Debbie Villio (R). She touts “30 years of experience in public service and law,” which actually breaks down to a decade as an assistant district attorney, followed by a decade in Jefferson Parish government, and then private practice since 2010. She received support from Jefferson Parish Councilperson Dominick Impastato and Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn, as well as the National Federation of Independent Business PAC. This is her first elected office, having lost a 2010 Jefferson Parish judicial race.

State Representative District 80


4-year term, limited to 3 terms

We are truly sorry to say this district is currently represented by Polly Thomas (R) and likely will be again. Thomas, the incumbent, is a retired UNO professor and former Jefferson Parish School Board member who voted against teachers getting raises in this year’s legislative session. In addition to selling out her fellow teachers, she also voted for the six-week abortion ban. Thomas is endorsed by just about every oil and gas or industry association active in the state, and it shows in her abysmal environmental record (25/100 on our legislative scorecard). Thomas was rated an “all-star” by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), the most powerful conservative business lobby in Louisiana.

Thomas is running against John Mason (R) who doesn’t have a website or a Facebook page. However he has been writing blogs for The Hayride (the Breitbart of Louisiana), on topics such as “taxes are bad” and “the Louisiana Legislature should stop legislating so much.” Mason also favors term limits for U.S. Congress members.

State Representative District 82


4-year term, limited to 3 terms

Charles Henry (R) does not appear to have a campaign website or even a Facebook page for his candidacy. He does have a personal page that features a blurry picture of him and two-time Secretary of Defense and unprosecuted war criminal Donald Rumsfeld. But, based on his political allies and the former Republican reps from the area who want to pass this district on to him, we presume his agenda aligns with theirs.

Henry’s brother, John Cameron Henry, has been term-limited out of the position and is running for state senate. Cameron Henry has been a far-right voice in the state congress and an ally of Senator David Vitter. Both brothers have worked for U.S. Rep Steve Scalise, who previously represented this same district. The Henry brothers are endorsed by the Jefferson Parish GOP and have received endorsements and contributions from the Louisiana Committee for a Conservative Majority, a PAC run by Attorney General Jeff Landry and U.S. Senator John Kennedy.

Lawyer Trey Mustian (D) is similarly quiet in promoting his campaign, but he’s said he is a Democrat “because [he] want[s] government to work for the middle class and not just for the upper 1%” and that he “believe[s] in a society that is caring and promotes fairness and prosperity for all." Mustian’s practice represents injured workers, and he has advocated for fairer workers compensation laws. He wants greater scrutiny for the Industrial Tax Exemption Program that supports big business at the expense of taxpayers. Mustian supports term limits for U.S. Congress and has pledged to only serve one term if elected.

State Representative District 83

Marrero, Westwego, Bridge City

4-year term, limited to 3 terms

The incumbent, Democrat Robert Billiot, is term-limited.

Kyle Green, Jr. (D) previously challenged Billiot in 2011 and 2015 and is running on a platform of criminal justice reform, job creation, and increasing pre-K education in the state. He is an ally of Gov. Edwards and the Democratic Party establishment, serving as Assistant Attorney General and Vice President of the Louisiana Democratic Party. He is endorsed by the AFL-CIO.

James Simmons (D) is a pastor, military veteran, and former Sheriff. He supports maintaining the Medicaid expansion, “controlling” corporate tax breaks, increasing tax breaks for small business, and law enforcement. He supports a living wage, gun control, and restricting solitary confinement in prisons and jails. He is also a charter school darling, receiving the endorsement of Democrats for Education Reform (an organization that lobbies to get the Democratic Party to support charter schools).

State Representative District 84

Harvey, Marrero, Lafitte

4-year term, limited to 3 terms

Tim Kerner (R), the mayor of Jean Lafitte, has all the endorsements: AFL-CIO, Alliance for Good Government, and various Republican and conservative groups. Kerner was profiled in the New York Times for his Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser-esque approach to climate change and flood control: prioritizing elaborate public development projects like auditoriums and baseball fields in the hope that the federal government will spend its money on new levees to protect fancy buildings that nobody seems to use.

Kerner is raising big money through his connection to Connick and Connick, the law firm of state representative Patrick Connick, who is the nephew of Harry Connick Sr. and cousin of Harry Connick, Jr. After 30 years in office, Kerner switched party affiliation in 2018 “out of respect for [his] late father” who was a “yellow dog Democrat.”

Don Carmardelle (R) is running about as far to the right as one could on “faith, family, and community.” He’s anti-abortion, anti-gun control, and believes Planned Parenthood is in the business of selling baby parts.

Like other wealthy candidates before him, Chris Breaux (R) is fond of saying that if elected, he will donate his $16,800 annual legislative salary to charity. After 20 years at an industrial company, Breaux co-created a medical waste company but now works for Edward Jones, a financial advising company. Despite having his own money, he has invested none of it in his campaign and is instead relying on a small number of individual donations.

All four candidates are Republicans, but Rusty Autry (R) is one of the only conservatives in the state who filled out our candidate survey. While many of his views are as unacceptable to us as those of his partisan peers, he does believe the public defenders should be fully funded and that the oil and gas industry should pay for the majority of the coastal master plan. Autry advocates for raising the minimum wage (but only to $9.25) to keep younger workers from moving away. He says he wants to save our coast and specifically calls for the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversions to be expedited, which would likely put him at odds with some of the fishermen in the coastal parts of his district.

State Representative District 85

Gretna, Terrytown

4-year term, limited to 3 terms

Joseph Marino (No Party) is the incumbent by virtue of having won a special election in 2016 unopposed. He runs unopposed again now. Marino is a criminal defense attorney specializing in drug and property crimes. Marino was deeply involved in shaping the 2017 criminal justice reform package, often pushing back against law enforcement interests opposing the reforms. He also voted against a Republican-backed bill that would “punish sanctuary cities” and sponsored a 2019 bill that would reduce the cost of record expungements. An interesting candidate with a nuanced view of the criminal justice system and reform.

State Representative District 92


4-year term, limited to 3 terms

Incumbent Joseph Stagni (R) is running unopposed after easily winning a special election in 2017. He had formerly served on the Kenner City Council. In 2011, it was revealed Stagni had sent pictures of himself in his underwear to a woman he had an “inappropriate” relationship with who was a fellow city employee. There were calls for him to resign, but obviously he’s still here. As Republicans go, Stagni holds some relatively moderate positions. He has supported unanimous jury verdicts and restoring voting rights to ex-felons. He opposed a bill to stop New Orleans from taking down its Confederate monuments. However, he adheres to strict right wing anti-tax orthodoxy and is staunchly anti-abortion, having voted for the bill passed this year that practically outlaws abortion altogether.

Jefferson Parish President

4-year term, limited to two consecutive terms, with exceptions

John Young (R) is a former prosecutor and former JP President who left office in 2015 to run against Billy Nungesser for Lieutenant Governor. Young lost to Nungesser in the primary by a single percentage point in a nasty and personal race. Although the Parish President has no direct control over the police, these candidates are making crime the top issue in the race. Both Young and his opponent, Cynthia Lee-Sheng (R), are touting their expertise in adding to Louisiana’s bloated prison population. Both are extremely pro-business.

Lee-Sheng, a forensic accountant, is the daughter of famed JP Sheriff Harry Lee, who for more than 28 years oversaw a famously aggressive and brutal sheriff's department. During Katrina, Sheriff Lee was involved with the roadblock on the Crescent City Connection where officers fired warning shots over the heads of New Orleanians attempting to flee to higher ground. Lee-Sheng started her career as an officer with the Department of Justice and went on to serve on the Jefferson Parish Council.

Earlier this year, Young stood with a group of concerned citizens who successfully pressured the JP Council into revoking its approval for the expansion of the Cornerstone Cyanide Plant. Young showed up to a meeting to testify waving a gas mask to the crowd and later sent out a mailer calling Lee-Sheng “Cyanide Cynthia,” referencing her 2018 vote that initially approved the plant. Though Lee-Sheng shot back that Young had also voted for chemical plants in the past, Young has actually been a vocal advocate for coastal restoration at times. He sat on the Coastal Restoration and Protection Authority Board, and helped pass a resolution that was key in defeating the RAM Coal Export Terminal in Plaquemines Parish.

Lee Bonnecarrere (I) is running a Facebook-only campaign centered on not being a career politician, personally responding to constituent complaints, government transparency, and getting to the bottom of the noxious odor plaguing the parish. Bonnecarrere says he has “been persecuted by [his] local government which Young and Sheng has had a part in developing.”

Jefferson Parish Sheriff

4-year term, no term limits

This is a rematch between bitter political enemies John Fortunato (R) and Joe Lopinto (R). It was close between them last time until Fortunato expressed support for Parish President Mike Yenni while Yenni was under scrutiny for sending predatory, sexual texts to a minor. Fortunato later tried to walk back the comment, but it was too late. Also during the last election, Lopinto came under fire for reportedly asking one of his deputies to obtain surveillance footage of a coffee shop meeting between Fortunato and two other retired lawmen. Lopinto claimed the deputies were acting on their own accord. The deputies were forced to attend counseling as a result of the incident.

Fortunato was the longtime public face of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s office, serving for decades as the spokesman for Sheriff Harry Lee. If elected, he promises to increase police patrols in so-called “crime ridden” neighborhoods and to begin use of "predictive analytic" surveillance software. Elected officials who were strong backers of his in the last race are staying out of this race. The donors he does have this time around are primarily construction companies, contractors, and local gyms.

Lopinto was former Sheriff Newell Norman’s appointed successor, stepping in as interim sheriff until his election last year. Despite a number of high profile brutality cases, Lopinto has resisted calls to equip his deputies with dashboard and body cameras. He is endorsed by AFL-CIO, the Jefferson Parish Republican Party, and several independent business groups. A majority of Jefferson Parish politicians have also lined up on his side in this election.

The circus-like atmosphere that surrounded these two candidates last time has continued during this election. Lopinto has suggested that Fortunato offered to drop out of the race if Lopinto would support Fortunato’s bid to become Causeway Police Chief. Fortunato denied this allegation, called Lopinto desperate, and demanded an apology. In a released statement, Lopinto said he would “not apologize for reporting potential crimes in progress.”

Anthony Bloise (No Party), a retired Bridge City physicist and shipbuilder has also entered the race. He is a longshot self-funded perennial candidate with less than $1,000 reportedly on hand. Bloise complains that the Sheriff’s department improperly handles tax sales. He was disqualified in the previous election for making a false statement that he had paid state and federal income taxes for the past five years. He argued that he doesn’t make enough money to pay taxes.

Jefferson Parish Council At-Large (Division A)

4-year term, limited to 2 consecutive terms in the same seat

Ricky Templet (R) claimed his spot as one of JP’s At-Large Councilmembers when his opponent withdrew in mid-August. The seat was previously occupied by Chris Roberts, who resigned shortly before being indicted on 29 counts of fraud and tax evasion. Templet is a Gretna businessman and the founder of the Gretna Heritage Festival. He served as a Gretna City Councilmember from 2001-2007 and as a State Representative for District 85 from 2008-2011 . He has historically worked to increase funding for law enforcement and increase sentences for sex offenders.

Templet serves on the boards of the Coastal Conservation Society and of Ducks Unlimited-West Bank. Templet has prioritized environmental issues, most notably leading the charge to conduct an impact study on a proposed coal terminal that would have sabotaged the state’s signature land-building coastal restoration project, the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversions in 2014 (the terminal was never built, but a bigger and even badder oil export terminal and pipeline are being pursued with the help of the state in the exact same location).

Jefferson Parish Council At-Large (Division B)

4-year term, limited to 2 consecutive terms in the same seat

There is an unwritten rule in Jefferson Parish that each side of the Mississippi River is represented by its own At-Large Councilperson. West Bank resident Ricky Templet is running unopposed in Division A so the Division B seat will, by tradition, go to an East Banker. This seat is currently occupied by Cynthia Lee-Sheng who has chosen to run for Parish President instead.

Paul Johnston (R) has represented Harahan in various capacities since he became a councilman there in 1995. He served as Mayor of Harahan from 2002 to 2010 and has been the District 2 Parish Councilman since 2015. Unsurprisingly, his campaign touts his many years of experience being, well, at least present as various economic development deals were cut for West Jeff Medical Center, Elmwood Shopping Center, and Avondale Shipyard. The fact that these are all examples of shuttered or failing facilities being repurposed for uses that employ fewer people under more tenuous conditions has as much to do with late capitalist economic trends and diminishing conditions for workers in healthcare, retail, and manufacturing as it does with Johnston himself.

Johnston’s most notable endorsements include the Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans, the Greater New Orleans AFL-CIO, a “victims’ rights” organization called Crimefighters of Louisiana, and the Jefferson Parish Republican Executive Committee. Johnston is also backed by a slate of area municipal and state elected officials too numerous to mention. Suffice it to say he appears to have the backing of a majority of the political establishment.

Earlier this year, Johnston was cited by the Inspector General for his frequent lunch meetings paid for by government vendors who also happen to be campaign contributors which could constitute a serious ethics violation. The meals also enabled him to accrue $491.02 in credits to his Copeland’s Lagniappe Club account which may constitute a violation of the Copeland’s code of customer conduct.

Scott Walker (R) is a communications consultant and donut shop owner who is best known for his prior career in local television news. Walker was a WDSU-TV reporter and anchor from 2009 to 2018. During his time there Walker also maintained a fairly popular social media presence receiving the prestigious Gambit Y@ Speak award for “Best Media Personality Twitter Account” in 2014.

Walker’s campaign is light on issues. His website and speeches are filled with blandly positive rhetoric about the great “quality of life” in Jefferson Parish which he says could be improved on by “addressing drainage issues” although he doesn’t specify how and “attracting new businesses” although, again, he proposes no specific policy. Mostly he talks about getting the Parish to do better customer service with regard to permitting and whatnot. He also suggests improving the parish’s website. He is endorsed by the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce.

Jefferson Parish Council District 1

4-year term, limited to 2 consecutive terms in the same seat

Former Judge Marion Edwards (D) appears to be the frontrunner in District 1. Edwards formerly served as an Assistant District Attorney, and is credited for advocating for criminal justice reforms, including starting the first drug court program in the state.

Sheldon Vincent Jr. (R) last ran for Jefferson Parish School board on a pro-corporal punishment platform but finished fifth in the primary.

Emmette Dumesnil III (No Party) This candidate appears to have dropped out. There is no website, no social media and he does not even appear to have filed a campaign finance report.

Jefferson Parish Council District 2

4-year term, limited to 2 consecutive terms in the same seat

Deano Bonano (R) has served in a number of different positions in Jefferson Parish, including as a top aide to the current Councilmember At-Large and to former parish president Aaron Broussard (though Bonano is careful to point out he advised his former boss against sending JP pump operators out of the parish before Katrina, a decision many blame for massive flooding). Though his platform prioritizes business, he also hopes to prohibit short term rentals in residential neighborhoods and implement an air quality monitoring program.

Bonano’s proposals for environmental legislation are noticeably less aggressive than Michael O’Brien (R), who has a history of running for parish council, first in District 1 in 2012 and then in District 2 in 2016. He believes the parish needs “a businessman, not a politician.” Despite his stated focus on business, O’Brien has a history of advocating for environmental protections within Jefferson Parish and advocates for mandatory air monitors at the edges of toxic industrial facilities.

Melinda Doucet (R) previously served as Jefferson Parish School Board President but lost her seat in 2018 when a judge ruled her ineligible to run for reelection due to technical discrepancies in her tax filings. Most of her funding this year comes from architectural firms.

Jefferson Parish Council District 3

4-year term, limited to 2 consecutive terms in the same seat

This is an open seat being vacated by Mark Spears who is termed out. It is the only majority black council district in Jefferson Parish and one of only two that crosses the river. Both of these factors tend to make the occupant of this seat a critical swing vote between council factions that almost always emerge from demographic and geographic factors.

Gregory Carroll (D) is a Kenner City Councilmember serving an unusual third consecutive term there. He was active in the district’s opposition to the proposed Cornerstone Cyanide plant expansion that threatened the health and safety of many West Bank residents. He also spoke out against Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn’s attempted boycott of Nike.

Derrick Shepherd (D) is a former State Senator who is hoping the public will forgive him for laundering almost $150,000 of public funds, for which he was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison. Shepherd’s presence as an apparent adviser to New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s transition team stirred controversy last year. His campaign slogan this year is “Everybody deserves a second chance.” Shepherd has a wide array of community-specific issues he hopes to address if elected, largely related to blighted property, street conditions, speeding, and lack of funding for recreation.

Cedric Floyd (D), was forced to step down from the Jefferson Parish School Board amidst accusations of harassment. He ran for the position again and was met with a restraining order after he allegedly made defamatory claims regarding his opponent. In addition to these scandals, he and a fellow board member ran up a $1,600 tab, paid by taxpayers, on hotel rooms and valet parking while attending a three day conference in New Orleans (fifteen minutes away from his home).

Jedediah Jackson (D) has served as director of the Jefferson Community Action Head Start Program for the last eight years, during which time he claims to have fought for funding related to early childhood education, energy assistance, housing assistance, elderly programming,and “other programs that give families a hand up and a pathway to stability and self-sufficiency.” Jackson is the son of New Orleans Baptist minister Rev. Robert Jackson.

Ricky Burns (D) is a registered nurse with decades of experience working in psychiatric units. She hopes to encourage business owners to raise their wages to at least $10 an hour, to address police brutality, and to remedy the lack of access to food. We looked for further detail on these priorities but the “platform” section of her website consists only of an embedded video with garbled sound.

Donald R Jones (D) is a pastor and business owner who served as the first black Jefferson Parish City Councilmember elected in 1991 and is seeking to return. He is prioritizing “access” to healthcare, education, a living wage, and employment opportunities.

Byron Lee (D) who succeeded Jones for this seat in 2003 is also seeking to rejoin the council. In the past, Lee has faced allegations that he misused public funds for personal benefit and allocated funding to organizations that benefitted his family members.

Kendall Bussey (D) is a former NFL running back and restaurant owner who, until recently, had been in the used car business. There is little information available about his campaign as of yet.

Kyle Mark Green Sr. (D) appears to have spent over $3,000 on direct mail marketing, but there is little publicity about his campaign. However, it is curious that Kyle M. Green Jr. is simultaneously a candidate for House District 83. Seems like some reporter would have gone after the human interest story there at least.

David J Williams (D) is even more mysterious. His campaign finance report is all zeroes.

Jon Mitchell (D) has definitely bought some signs and made himself a Facebook page. All of his materials just say he’s offering “Honest leadership for the community,” which does not at all sound like a lie.

Jefferson Parish Council District 4

4-year term, limited to 2 consecutive terms in the same seat

Dominick Impastato (R) is running unopposed after Al Morella was disqualified for not filing a 2018 tax return. Impastato won in a special election in 2017. He is an Independent but endorsed by the Republican Party. He won the 2017 race in part by portraying himself as “tough on crime.” Impastato was the only Councilmember to vote in favor of the Cornerstone Cyanide Plant expansion.

Jefferson Parish Council District 5

4-year term, limited to 2 consecutive terms in the same seat

Jennifer Van Vrancken (R) is the incumbent and has received the endorsement of the Republican Party, the Alliance for Good Government, and the New Orleans Metropolitan Alliance of Realtors (all right-leaning organizations). Van Vrancken is married to Stephen Dwyer, who is an associate in a powerful law firm that specializes in commercial real estate. Van Vrancken’s connection to her husband’s firm has been questioned by her opponent, and she has recused herself on a few votes in the past that involved her husband’s business.

Amey French (R) is challenging for the seat, and is running on the promise of not raising any form of taxes, including millage fees, as well as a vague promise for more transparency. French promises to pass a conflict of interest ordinance that would prohibit councilmembers’ immediate families from doing business with the parish (a clear stab at Van Vrancken and her husband).