DSA New Orleans 2020

Voter Guide

U.S. Senator

Six-year term; no term limits. Fifteen candidates, including incumbent Bill Cassidy (first elected in 2014), are battling it out for this seat.

Bill Cassidy was a gastroenterologist before entering politics. He was a two term state senator and US Rep before becoming a U.S. Senator. He chairs the subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth and the bipartisan Senate Finance committee working group on paid family leave.

Cassidy has sided with Trump about 92% of the time and voted against impeachment. He favors oppressive immigration policies, voted for funding the border wall, and supported Trump's executive order that suspended most entry into the US for seven Muslim-majority countries, denied refugees from Syria indefinitely, and suspended our entire refugee admissions program for a third of a year. Cassidy has voted to repeal many environmental protections. He supports “cleaner burning natural gas” but seems to see little urgency in the environmental crisis despite acknowledging that Louisiana loses a football field of land every 100 seconds. He has voted against abortion rights, against net neutrality and the Iran nuclear deal, but for protecting the NSA’s surveillance of Americans. He has voted against funding preschool services and against LGBT+ protections and benefits for LGBT+ veterans and their families.

He proposed the Graham-Cassidy Healthcare bill to repeal the ACA , put Medicare in the hands of the states, and reduce funding. The plan would have kicked tens of millions off their healthcare plans. Though he himself had Covid-19, his response has been lukewarm at best and harmful at worst, though he has often been seen wearing a mask. He did not support extending the 600 dollar extension for people who were out of work due to COVID, but did vote for the Republican plan for a much smaller monetary amount.

He is pro-death penalty and signed a bill making the assault of a first responder an aggravating factor in death penalty cases. He spent most of the time after this year’s first presidential debate touting Amy Coney Barret’s qualifications and “Louisiana values.”

Cassidy is very pro-military and loves spending money in this corner of government (apparently not where he feels the waste is). He says helping veterans is a high priority, and his first major campaign ad focuses on veterans, though it is quite vague in terms of actual plans (perhaps because some of his challengers are veterans). He is pro-veterans choice programs a.k.a. privatization. He has an A rating from the NRA and sponsored a bill to allow concealed carry across state lines.

Bill Cassidy’s record clearly demonstrates his hostility to public health and the working class. If only an opposition party cared about unseating him...

Antoine Pierce is a progressive candidate, generally considered one of the two Democrats with any kind of chance of beating Cassidy, though it is very unlikely. He supports Medicare for All, universal basic income, the federal jobs guarantee, the Green New Deal, and legal medical and recreational marijuana. He wants to end qualified immunity, and supports expungement for non-violent drug offenders, “banning the box“ (asking people if they have ever been incarcerated on job applications), and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Pierce opposes the incarceration of immigrants in detention centers, especially here in Louisiana. Pierce supports economic reparations for indigenous Americans.

Pierce supports abortion rights, universal childcare and pre-k, student debt relief and debt elimination. He wants to raise the minimum wage to more than $15 an hour and give tax cuts to the poor and middle class, while raising taxes on the wealthy. He wants to repeal “right to work” laws and strengthen unions. He wishes to end Citizens United. As Senator, Pierce would increase voter protections, expand mail-in voting and help support the U.S. Postal Service. He says we need to pass the Voting Rights Act and the Elections Act.

Antoine Pierce has a 100% voter funded campaign endorsed by Andrew Yang, and enjoys the support of the local chapter of the Sunrise Movement. His campaign has been a grassroots effort, traveling around the state for years to get to know the needs of the people here. He served on a sub-committee for the office of community development in Baton Rouge, on the advisory board for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention for Edwards, as a delegate of the Urban Congress on Africann American Boys in Baton Rouge, and as a fellow in the fifth cohort of the Urban Leadership Development Initiative. Pierce founded the Better Boys Initiative, an arts non-profit that works with young men in underserved populations. He was raised in a lower middle-class home as one of seven children.

After entering the race later than any other major candidate, Adrian Perkins, the current mayor of Shreveport, quickly won support from the state Democratic Party and several notable figures, including Barack Obama, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams, and Cory Booker at the national level, as well as Mary Landrieu, Ted James, Royce Duplessis, Karen Carter Peterson, Jason Williams, Helena Moreno, Jay Banks, Kristin Palmer and John Bel Edwards closer to home. The Louisiana AFL-CIO, Independent Women’s Organization, VoteVets, and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers have also endorsed him. He is generally considered the leading Democratic candidate in the race.

Perkins is only 18 months into his mayoral term. As mayor, he participated in the recent Black Lives Matter protests, issued orders to ban chokeholds, and amended the use of force policy to include a duty to intervene and provide medical treatment. Perkins advocated for more training on mental health and providing body cameras. He believes that a switch to alternative fuels can keep people at work (especially in Louisiana) and make the world more livable. He wants an infrastructure deal to move towards carbon-neutral (though he does not specify a date). This plan includes roads, bridges, subsurface infrastructure and an improved system of public transit. In the meantime, he wants the federal government to give more money and training to municipalities to deal with the effects of climate change that are already happening. Perkins specifically cites his experience in Shreveport, which is under an EPA consent decree that is hard for them to monetarily handle, so he asks, "Why is the federal government not helping to alleviate this burden?” He proposes that, while we transition to alternative fuels, the workers who are currently being laid off in the oil industry can be hired to clean up the abandoned wells. Perkins also entered Shreveport in a privately-funded UBI program.

Perkins' COVID plan involves extending the $600 of unemployment benefits, plus a larger relief package and, what should be self-explanatory, to listen to medical experts. He says he believes that healthcare is a right, though he does not support universal healthcare. His proposal is simply to strengthen the ACA, making sure that people with pre-existing conditions stay covered, lowering the cost and extending coverage to people who cannot afford it, as well as improving quality. He calls for the Lower Drugs Costs Now Act to cap prescription drug costs for seniors on Medicare. He prioritizes protecting social security, Medicare and Medicaid. He opposes the privatization of the VA, supports expanding the services (including mental healthcare), streamlining the bureaucracy, and programs to help veterans transition back to the workforce.

Perkins believes minimum wage needs an immediate increase that then adjusts automatically based on local economic conditions. Perkins hopes to employ people through national service positions, with 250,000 immediate openings (to help get us out of economic crisis post-COVID) and up to 1 million over the next 5 years. The goal of these jobs is to reduce the spread of COVID and try to deal with its effects, the effects of climate change, and to produce unity amongst the many more who will now be in civil service. For Louisiana specifically, he suggests that post-oil our main industries would be seafood, agriculture and renewable energy. He believes teachers too deserve better pay, and care for children starts with giving parents paid family leave and investing in early childhood education and including more STEM programs as well as universal pre-k. Perkins thinks we must expand vocational programs and job training, as well as life skill programs and financial literacy. He believes “nobody succeeds alone.”

Despite Perkins’ impressive array of institutional support, his late entry into the race makes his election an extreme long shot. Regardless, that institutional support makes him one to watch in the future.

David Drew Knight is a progressive Democrat who supports Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, an increased minimum wage, eliminating “right-to-work” laws, and increasing union membership. He thinks we should have had a more complete shutdown and quarantine at the start of the COVID crisis, and has called for much more support for the people of our country, noting everyone should have gotten a ten thousand dollar stimulus at the start of the pandemic. Knight supports abortion rights, protections for LGBT+ people, and expansion of social security.

Knight is not afraid to call Louisiana “[A] racist state with terrible laws directed at people of color.” In the fight for racial justice and reforming the criminal justice system, he has a wide-reaching perspective, speaking of ending qualified immunity for police and the lack of accountability for criminal prosecutors. He wants to end the war on drugs and demilitarize the police, lessen penalties for non-violent offenders, and legalize marijuana.

Knight believes election day should be a national holiday. He would like to stop the endless wars and conflicts that the US has been involved in for so long, and have our country become a leader in encouraging peace worldwide. He thinks teachers should be among the best-paid professions and we need to better fund our schools. He calls for tuition-free education and elimination of school debt, and access to free and healthy meals for our children attending school. Read Knight’s response to our survey.

Beryl Billiot is a Native American and a Marine Corps veteran, currently the business manager at ISO services, which sells insulated panels to chemical, paper, petroleum, and other industries. In 2015, he ran for governor. His primary slogan seems to be telling people he is “PRO-LIFE, PRO-GUN and PRO-AMERICA” (yes, in all caps). He wants to ensure we are putting God at the center of our lives and says we must strengthen our borders because there are people coming into this country who do not share our Christian values and who are threatening our freedom. According to Billiot, there are two reasons people come to this country, “to be like us or destroy us.” His top priority is the military. He maintains that we must take care of veterans’ mental health and ease their transition back into civilian life.

He supports business-friendly legislation and says businesses, not governments, create jobs. He wants to revitalize the oil and gas industry until we can transition to an alternative fuel supply. He will work to bring Louisiana and the U.S. to the forefront of research and development of clean energy. He mentions that in order to make Louisiana a better place for business, we must lower the crime rate. His innovative idea is a “tiered prison system” which allows a total suspension of human rights in the third tier.

He opposes single payer healthcare and believes in the magical power of markets to create “access to care”. He wants to take insurance companies out of the treatment process and relegate them only to the payment process. He also contends that emergency rooms should only be for emergencies, not for after-hours care or runny noses, though he does not specify how he will make this happen.

He says we must mitigate the “rampant abuse of our welfare system” and wants to institute drug tests for people who receive benefits from state-run programs. If you choose not to take the test or if you fail it you will be denied the benefits.

Finally, he refuses to debate on social issues, because in his words, “We must forget ‘Political Correctness’ and focus on the ‘TRUTH!’

John Paul Bourgeois is an epidemiologist, librarian, and a military brat born in West Germany and raised in New Orleans from the age of four. He is running as a candidate for “people, not party” with no party affiliation in his campaign and populist rhetoric that could theoretically appeal to the center of both parties. When it comes to COVID, Bourgeois says the federal response has been inconsistent and understated. He believes in common-sense measures for COVID prevention and extra money for schools to run safely. As far as the economy during and after COVID, Bourgeois says the government should pay companies to keep employees on their payrolls. He opposes increasing the minimum wage, but he says he refutes trickle-down economics and points out recent tax changes have been for the benefit of the wealthy.

Bourgeois wants to cut down on our bloated military budget and calls out defense contractors in his platform, though his main issue seems to be “administrative waste” in the budget. For veterans, his priority is healthcare and helping them reintegrate into society.

Bourgeois supports free preventative care for all, which includes preventative reproductive services, STD tests, access to birth control, and cancer screenings. While he does not come out and explicitly say his views on abortion, his platform says “All life is sacred and needs protection.” which suggests he is pro-life or cagily pro-choice and unwilling to give visible support.

Bourgeois has pretty progressive policies around issues of equality and the criminal legal system. He acknowledges that “systemic racism is part of our history that remains to this day” and urges us to listen to social movements pointing out inequality. To combat systemic racism, he thinks our nation must “...[C]reate programs that foster social mobility and economic opportunity: free vocational training, subsidized child care and... free preventative healthcare.” Asked about Louisiana's mass incarceration in our survey, Bourgeois pointed to “For-profit prisons; systemic racism; vilification of marijuana; economic stagnation; poor education.” He is against the war on drugs and for legalizing marijuana. Bourgeois wants to increase training for police departments and thinks police departments should hire counselors and other medical professionals to assist police in responding to situations involving mental health and/or domestic disputes. He sees poverty as the main driver of gun violence, so his solutions are economic policies, not gun control. He does not support the death penalty.

Bourgeois has promised to defend LGBT+ rights and those of the disabled. While he doesn’t yet support universal healthcare, his policies are almost there: he thinks employer-based healthcare is a bad system, wants free preventative care, and for the government to negotiate more aggressively to lower the costs of a system bloated by insurance and pharmaceutical company greed.

As far as immigration, DACA kids are Americans and must have an easy pathway to citizenship. He does not think that people overstaying their visas should be granted amnesty from prosecution or deportation but says if an employer is hiring undocumented people to do a job that could be filled by an American than it is not primarily the undocumented people who should be punished, but the employer. There needs to be a system for refugees (in fact he says we have a moral obligation to them), though they must provide evidence of persecution and while their applications are reviewed we owe it to them to take care of them. In order to reform the system, he proposes a merit-based point system including evidence of proof of funds to support family members (this system would not apply to refugees).

Finally, he believes climate change is an important issue we are facing. Louisiana may be invested in oil, but we face some of the worst impacts of climate change, and so he proposes we transition to sugar cane, which we have a lot of, to create alcohol-based fuels. On the national level, the US must become self-sufficient with renewable energy resources. Read Bourgeois’ response to our survey.

Reno Jean Daret III is a former school teacher, national guardsman, tour guide, blackjack dealer (on a riverboat), fireman, and eagle scout, currently working as a real estate broker. He is running as a member of what he has deemed the “Everybody Eats” party. Daret’s website has big third-party energy. He is not pro-life (and supports Roe v Wade) but claims that he has a plan to make sure that there will be “almost no abortions.” Other healthcare measures include free flu shots for everyone, possibly door to door. He believes in universal healthcare and wants to employ an “army of doctors” in a sort of civil service program. Similarly, he wants to have an army of teachers and guarantee their pay at $100,000.

His experience as a firefighter means he put a big emphasis on requiring smoke detectors in every structure and sprinklers for all high rises and hotels. He thinks the firefighters coming around to check the smoke detectors could also be a good opportunity for them to administer the flu shots. Other safety concerns he has involve requiring alarms for swimming pools to ensure people and especially children are not falling in and drowning. And to prevent drunk driving he believes all cars should be equipped with breathalyzers, which driver would have to pass in order to get their car to start.

When it comes to drugs, he believes that we should legalize drugs and fight the “war on drugs” through hospitals, treatment, doctors, and counseling. He wants to redesign prisons and turn them into mental health facilities and house the homeless. He says he would cut down the money spent per prisoner from $50,000 a year to $1000. He would do this by keeping prisoners in trailer parks, possibly on islands. These places would have to be in temperate climates as the people in them would have neither electricity nor running water. They would have water and food delivered to them by drones. They would not be allowed letters or visitors as these require too much extra paperwork. The sentencing process essentially has four options: prison for 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, or a death sentence to be carried out within a week with no method for appeals. These sentences would be passed down by juries of 5 million or more people, who would hear their accused plead their case in a 15-minute video broadcast online. Though he admits there might need to be more than one fifteen-minute session. He thinks if we trust 12 people, why not 5 million.

He believes we can stop illegal immigration by making everyone have a government-issued ID which is essentially how they would do anything, from buying stuff at CVS to getting a job. He supports programs to decrease the number of nuclear weapons in the world as well as buy-back programs for guns. He thinks we need background checks and finger-print technology to be placed on guns so only the buyer can use them. He has argued that the 2nd amendment, while important, was written in a time when guns had lots fewer bullets and so the right to bear arms should only apply to guns with an under 6 round capacity. He admits that this would potentially allow ordinary citizens to own bazookas.

Derrick “Champ” Edwards is a lawyer in New Orleans, a board member for the Louisiana Housing Corporation (LHC), and a disability advocate. He was raised by a single mother who was a teacher. In high school, he suffered a severe football injury that left him paralyzed and in a wheelchair. His experience has ensured that he stands up for the rights of differently-abled people. On the LHC, he champions affordable housing that meets the needs of disabled veterans and individuals with special needs. In order to support affordable housing, Edwards would implement commercial fees on new commercial developments, these fees would be based on the need for housing that will be generated by that new business.

Edwards supports a $500 billion plan to fund small businesses in the wake of Covid, with small businesses defined as having an annual income of under $5 million per year. He wants to fix US infrastructure with a bill for $2 trillion that will improve roads, bridges etc. He believes doing so will create jobs. Edwards supports a minimum wage of $10.50 an hour, which is roughly half a livable wage. He supports limited relief for tuition and student loans, based on graduation within 4 years with a 3.0 or higher grade point average, to be funded by raising taxes on businesses and corporations.

He believes climate change is real and is opposed to our withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords. When it comes to voting rights, he believes (rightly) that voter fraud is a very minimal problem and that we must protect our elections against foreign influence. He has tools on his website to help with voter registration and to learn about your ballot.

Xan John is running as a candidate for the Gold party, which may be a party he created. He is from Crowley, LA, and worked in the oil and gas industries for 11 years. John says he “is a patriot, a constitutionalist, supports capitalism...” and is “passionate about justice and freedom.” He believes COVID is a hoax, a “weak, man-made patented” virus that is “part of an agenda to bring about more lasting government control.” He is, let’s say, a vaccine skeptic; not totally a conspiracist but headed there. He recognizes problems with a for-profit medical system, but his solutions are to repeal the ACA, get rid of the “UN’s power over the healthcare system.”

John wants to defund Planned Parenthood and is pro-forced-birth, except in instances of incest, rape, and when there is a serious health concern for the mother or child. He does not generally believe in the death penalty, though he said it could be used in rare instances. The examples provided were George Soros, Bill Gates, and Nancy Pelosi. He wants to get rid of for-profit prisons and feels that, in addition to kickbacks to judges, they contribute to the high incarceration rate in Louisiana. He says he would like to have a complete overhaul of the criminal punishment system, and, though he does not specify what this overhaul would look like, he says it would probably end up with him getting assassinated.

John does not seem to believe in a federal minimum wage (or at least answered N/A when asked about it) and emphasizes that we must protect the country from going towards a cashless society. He supports continued efforts to end human trafficking in the US and the world. As far as energy and the environment, John agrees we should move towards alternative fuels, but not abandon oil and gas entirely, and lessen our dependence on other countries for oil. He is concerned about the liberal media censoring conservative views. So, here they are. Read John’s response to our survey.

M.V. “Vinny” Mendoza is an organic farming researcher and Air Force veteran. He ran for governor against Edwards in 2019, but was disqualified because he had not filed state and federal taxes for each of the last five years. His agenda involves a 5 point action plan.

When it comes to COVID, Mendoza says the federal response has been awful. The response must be ruled by science and the CDC, not the gut feelings or personal ambitions of the president. He thinks we need easier testing access and access to the vaccine when it becomes available. The government must also provide support for individuals until they can go to work again, especially since they have provided it to corporations who do not pay taxes. Mendoza wants to reduce taxes for 99% of Americans and increase for the top 1%, political contributions should pay a 50% tax, 35% tax for corporations, and 10% tax for non-profits. In terms of campaign finance reform, corporations and PACs should be subject to the same rules as people and only be able to contribute $2,800.

Mendoza believes in Medicare for All and supports the Green New Deal, which could be funded by moving 10% of the funds out of the Defense Department, specifically citing “from War Profiting funding.” He says it would provide food security and bolster our economy. Louisiana is facing high environmental concerns, we are the biggest polluters within the US and have contaminated air, soil and water. We cannot go into our public lakes and rivers because they are chemical waste dumps and we pollute our waterways with fracking. He is also developing an Agrarian Reform Plan. Finally, the last item of Mendoza’s plan involves the Fair Immigration Reform Act, that would give a four year temporary visa for undocumented workers, and allow them to get their driver’s licenses. Mendoza says our current immigration policies are based on hate and a racial bias against Latinx people, who he says account for 34% of the essential workforce in the food industry. He wants to cancel the H2B non-agricultural visa (which is for temporary often seasonal employment) and ensure that all jobs including those in hospitality have a $15 minimum wage.

Mendoza’s stance on abortion is a bit unclear. He says he supports the constitutional rights of all people. On the same side of the coin, Mendoza supports the rights of transgender people as he says he supports the rights of all people given by the Constitution. Mendoza believes we must remove racial bias in our national and local governments and in ourselves. He thinks this is the reason for the high incarceration rate in Louisiana. In order to fight the issues in our criminal justice system, Mendoza says he would restructure the entire system (not sure what that means) and apply the law equally regardless of gender, skin color, origin, religion, gender, age or sexual orientation. He does not support the death penalty in any case, he even mentioned that he has had two loved ones killed (one by the police) and would not even support the death penalty in these cases.

Lastly, Mendoza supports legalizing cannabis and wants to industrialize hemp products for animal feed and construction. Read Mendoza’s response to our survey.

Jamar “Doc” Montgomery is a public defender in the Juvenile justice system in Shreveport and a former political science professor. He is a Navy veteran and received a degree in mechanical engineering before getting his JD.

Montomery believes we need more money for healthcare for veterans, especially mental health resources and suicide prevention. He supports universal pre-k and thinks that education must be tailored to each student with an eye towards employment, including more funding for trade and professional training. He believes we can create incentives for distance learning and hybrid K-12 education.

Montgomery believes we need to regulate businesses more and give incentives for youth employment and entrepreneurship. Montgomery believes we can help businesses grow by giving tax breaks to small businesses and self-employed people.

He stresses the need for social services to supplement law enforcement and wants more funding for disaster preparedness, as well as training for local governments to deal with disasters. Montgomery has a lot of worries about surveillance and believes we must protect personal info through cyber security and IT, we need stronger protections from both government and corporate surveillance. He wants to help prevent identity theft, especially for seniors. He wants to develop incentives for AI, blockchain tech and cloud computing research, which goes along with his plans to build business. We need to fund renewable energy production and storage. Finally Montgomery advocates that people should find a cause they are passionate about and fight for it.

Dustin Murphy describes himself as a conservative, a father, and a welder. One reason he is running is he believes Cassidy is not really a conservative voter.

Murphy does not outline a plan for healthcare but rather talks about how our medical freedoms are being taken away and says he does not believe in forced vaccination. He does, however, believe in forced childbirth.

Montgomery wants to nationalize gun laws and considers “states requiring a permit for concealed carry a justification to tax legal gun owners.” However, he would like to give local governments control over their own education systems and worries that we are teaching to the test. An education program, he prioritizes, is civics and government education from the first to 12th grade, with a priority on teaching students the limits of government and how checks and balances work. He also supports more trade education.

Montgomery believes in term limits for Congress and advocates Congressional pay cuts, as well as an eradication of Congressional pensions. He says he would like to end the phenomenon of Congress members becoming lobbyists, so there is a good thing. He also puts a priority on balancing the budget. He believes that mail in voting will lead to widespread voter fraud.

Aaron C. Sigler is a neurosurgeon and self-described “second generation libertarian.” He believes we must end the war on drugs and treat problems related to drugs as a healthcare issue, not a criminal one. He supports the end of no-knock raids, qualified immunity, civil asset forfeiture, and mandatory police unions. He thinks police should be demilitarized and that we should encourage them to engage in de-escalation training. He also thinks police officers should carry individual liability insurance. Sigler is against any measure to control guns, because he says gun control has primarily been used to strip the rights of the urban Black poor to own guns. He does not want the government involved in healthcare but says the middlemen should be taken out and that if we have more free-market competition in health insurance, prices will go down. He spends much of his time on Facebook advocating for Libertarian candidate for president Jo Jorgensen.

Melinda Mary Price is an unhoused person running to raise awareness of the unhoused. She has no media presence and we were unable to contact her.

According to 2019 information from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there are about half a million unhoused people nationwide, and over 17 million vacant homes. This country has the wealth and space to provide for people living on the street. A program in Helsinki, Finland that provides apartments for the unhoused has found that they save the country 15 thousand euros per person they house in costs to the healthcare, law enforcement, and social services. This is in a country with far more efficient healthcare and criminal legal systems. As we have seen so often in the U.S., our leaders have chosen a policy costlier in money and human misery, but that provides the rich more opportunities to extract wealth from the rest of us. There was an average of 2,941 people unhoused on any given night in Louisiana this year.

Begging used to be illegal in Orleans Parish until Judge Arthur Hunter declared it unconstitutional in a ruling in 2013. There are still 3,000 open cases from begging charges that our next DA could help get rid of.

Peter Wenstrup is a math teacher and his website certainly reads like a multiple choice examination. Visitors there are allowed to take part in a small direct democracy exercise where they are asked to consider alternate versions of the candidate’s proposals. Do you want your economic stimulus monthly? Quarterly? Or would you prefer it in the form of a federal jobs plan? Should COVID-19 response feature “continuous testing for all”? OR should there be a “Quarterly hard lockdown”? Should Americans receive “free community college”? OR should we increase Pell Grants? Would Senate candidate Peter Wenstrup actually pick a position and push for it OR would he prefer that voters just pick whatever version of him suits their preferences?

On his site he has many potential policies to roll out. He supports increasing Medicaid reimbursement rates and an expansion of Medicare to young people between the ages of 18 and 30. He is an advocate for racial bias training especially in women’s healthcare. He does not support a ban on abortion. Wenstrup endorses equal pay for equal work and thinks we should finally pass the Equal Rights Act. He would like to spend more to fund section 8 housing and especially to expand access for low-income women. He says we must support the rights of transgender people in schools, the workplace and housing.

Wenstrub believes we must strengthen affirmative action for government contracts, expand anti-discrimination enforcement, and add staff at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He has floated the idea of a $1,000 bond investment for every baby born to help mitigate the radical disparity of generational wealth. Wenstrub wants to demilitarize police and have a national database of police misconduct with public access. When it comes to current protests, he says, people matter over property, but that federal officials should intervene in certain circumstances, as they did to racially integrate schools. He does not believe in the death penalty.

Wenstrub wants to pass a Voting Rights Act, believes in automatic voter registration and re-enfranchisement after time served for felony convictions. He demands officials divest from private business interests and that members of congress should not be allowed to trade or own individual stocks. He believes we need utilities and cars to be carbon neutral by 2035. Wenstrup also supports electric school buses by 2030. He again approaches these issues from the standpoint again of giving more control to local government. Wenstrup advocates for a system of hyper-local air and water pollution tracking (a version of which Houston has already implemented). He also supports more green jobs and a re-training program to transition oil workers to new jobs. Read Wenstrup’s response to our survey.

U. S. Representative 1st Congressional District

Two Year Term; no term limits. A safe seat for incumbent Steve Scalise. Both people running have run against him before and not made much of a showing. This district did vote for Edwards for Governor in the last election, so perhaps change is possible, albeit unlikely this election cycle.

Lee Ann Dugas has run for this seat before. This time she is the only Democrat running in a district the party has given up on. She is a disabled veteran who fought for years to get disability back pay. She has attacked Rep Scalise on his lack of response to economic difficulties during the pandemic, saying during a speech: “How many more chances are we going to give Scalise and our representatives? They abandoned us, they ignored us, They voted No on the Heroes Act, and no to reimburse us for hurricane funds spent on Covid...Small business going out of business...people being kicked out, moved out of their homes, not a word.”

Dugas’s number one issue is climate change. She says we could harness the Mississippi River for hydropower. Her second biggest issue is education. She says, not everyone needs to go to a four year college and advocates for vocational school. She supports the ACA and is extremely opposed to Trump. Dugas supports making election day a national holiday. She opposes the tax cuts for the wealthy. She supports soldiers at the border refusing Trump’s orders to harm unarmed immigrants hoping for a safe-haven in the US. She argues that Trump’s tariffs have increased costs on our farmers. She says we need better enforcement of our current gun laws including a 50 state database to record the people who are outlawed from owning guns. She is endorsed by the St. Tammany Democratic Parish Executive Committee, the IWO, and the New Orleans Coalition.

Howard Kearney is a computer programmer and father of three. He is the chair of the St. Tammany Libertarian Party and has lived in Mandeville since the 1990s. He has run for this seat before. He offers us the usual slate of Libertarian ideas: get the government out of everything, eliminate income tax, and let the free market carry us to paradise. Kearney says the proper role of government is to “protect people, their stuff, and their contracts.” He thinks the government has no role in setting a minimum wage and thinks minimum wage laws should be eliminated.

Kearney says he wants to solve racism in this country by getting the government out of regulating the races and genders and simply “measure a person by their actions.” He wants to eliminate non-violent crime laws,which he says have led to Louisiana’s high incarceration rate. He believes you have the right to defend yourself and your loved ones, and supports fewer gun laws. He wants to get rid of our borders and believes that we should end all immigration policies, so people can be free to work and live wherever they want.

Kearney is against the government subsidization of oil companies because he is against the subsidization of all companies. In answering the DSA survey he announced, “[T]he irrational concern of ‘climate change’ is causing bad policies.” His plan for fixing our tax system is to eliminate the 16th amendment (graduated income tax) and end all federal income tax, leaving only tax imports and services provided at the federal level, thus creating a weak federal government. He opposes the Patriot Act and wants to get us out of our endless wars, he says only Congress should be allowed to take us to war and only if there is a direct threat. He wants to balance the budget and lessen taxes. He wants to eliminate all “forced Health Insurance coverage” and allow the companies to compete across both states and nations. He is opposed to the death penalty as well. He calls the covid lockdowns unconstitutional and a violation of both our first (Freedom of Assembly) and 14th amendment rights to Equal protection. Despite all the hands-off rhetoric he opposes abortion rights. Read Kearney’s response to our survey.

Steve Scalise has held this office since 2008. He once described himself as David Duke without the baggage. He is the house minority whip, on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. He thinks Trump had a great pandemic response and recently presented findings on why the President’s response was so great, just days after Trump himself contracted the virus. Scalise opposes abortion rights, or any real measures to fight climate change. He’s been opposing LGTB+ rights and protection since he fought against removing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of our military. He supported Trump’s ban of seven muslim countries and other harsh immigration measures. He supports free trade and enjoys funneling money to the 1%. Scalise also recently doctored a video to make it look like Biden advocated for defunding the police and loves to pit immigrants against working class citizens. He has a 0% rating from Planned Parenthood, Human Rights Campaign and the League of Conservation voters and a 6% from the ACLU. One thing that can be said for him is he rarely misses votes, unfortunately, we really wish he would.

U. S. Representative 2nd Congressional District

This district contains most of New Orleans and stretches up into Baton Rouge. Based on data from the 2010 census, this district contains almost a third of the state’s African-American population. This is likely a safe race for incumbent Cedric Richmond, who has held the office for almost a decade.

Belden “Noonie Man” Batiste was born and raised in New Orleans in a family of musicians. He was raised by a single father and is a cultural and community advocate. Batiste wants to raise the minimum wage, end the death penalty and fight climate change. He supports more transparency in government and supports ensuring voting rights. He also advocates for progressive prison reform, increasing healthcare coverage, and the right of abortion. He frequently speaks against the environmental harms chemical companies inflict on people in Louisiana. Batiste is a frequent candidate for office. Read Batiste’s response to our survey.

Glenn Adrain Harris has no campaign media to be found. He is the owner of G.A. Harris Properties Inc. and is running as a Democrat.

Colby James is a veteran, a father and New Orleans native. He wants to raise the minimum wage and have a direct tax on extreme wealth in order to redistribute money and power. James thinks we need more programs to support people financially, an example being a “baby bonds'' program that the government could invest in yearly, so that people have money they can use for life's milestones. He thinks we need guaranteed employment and Medicare for All. He believes every full-time employee deserves eight weeks of paid vacation.

James supports postal banking, a reverse of frivolous tax expenditures and an examination of the private military expenditures. He also believes we must invest in affordable housing. He has proposed the idea of a racial wealth divide audit, a committee on reparations, and a transitional education system.

James looks to Finland for a model of turning around a failing education system. This would involve, highly standardized teacher training, teacher autonomy, local rather than centralized control of schools.The national system would need the approval of the local system before their ideas could be implemented and effective leadership. James also supports free hot lunch, free dental and healthcare benefits for students along with providing students with the materials and books they need.

James has also called for redistricting voter districts and revising term limits for political offices to empower the people of our state and country. He has said we need to make sure voters are educated about the issues and the politicians running and enhance mail-in voting.

Cedric Richmond has been in congress since 2011 and has lived in this district his entire life. He was in the LA house of representatives from 2000-2011 and a U.S. Representative from 2011 to the present. Richmond was the leader of the Black caucus from 2016-2018. He serves on the Judiciary Committee and the Committee on Homeland Security, where he has fought against some expansions of domestic surveillance. Richmond is a centrist Democrat who, despite the best efforts of DSA chapters in Louisiana, still does not support Medicare for All. An illustrative example of the limits of most Democrats in solving our current systemic problems is the bill Richmond introduced with Republican Garret Graves in the wake of Alton Sterling’s murder by police in July of 2016. The bill would have funded de-escalation training for some police departments and established a new office in the U.S. Department of Justice to develop non-lethal weapons for police to use. It would have looked into existing military and Department of Homeland Security technology to refine for local law enforcement. While this was not supposed to be the end-all solution to police brutality and racism in the justice system, the changes we need are not developing a wider range of armaments for police. We have also seen the harm “non-lethal” weapons do to people peacefully protesting.

Richmond remains firmly committed to the oil and gas lobby despite numerous calls from his mostly Black constituents in the river parishes, who face adverse health effects as a result of industrial pollution along the stretch of petrochemical development between New Orleans and Baton Rouge known as Cancer Alley or Death Alley. Richmond has not stood up for them and fought against the destruction of their communities and health and avoids the issue and interactions with these constituents, represented by groups like RISE St. James, the Coalition Against Death Alley,and Concerned Citizens of St. John. The financial support of the petrochemical lobby is crucial to the maintenance and expansion of the political machine that Richmond, along with surrogates like Ike Spears and Blair Boutte, use to exert a great degree of control over Democratic politics in New Orleans.

Richmond’s big issues are voting rights, the economy, and education. He wants to expand voter access and prevent interference in elections, give local governments the resources they need and require campaigns to report if a foreign power tries to contact them. He supports the Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for A Lasting Democracy (SHIELD) Act and the Securing America’s Federal Elections (SAFE) Act. Richmond also says he supports a $15 minimum wage, and eliminating the lower wage for tipped workers. He wants to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act to help pay equity. He supports paid family leave and affordable childcare. He believes we need to increase funding for k-12 education which could be used for higher teacher pay, more counselors and healthcare professionals in schools, internet more readily and quickly available, safer school buildings. He supports tuition free community colleges and HBCUs as well as increased Pell Grants.

David M. Schilling is a Republican from Hahnville.

Sheldon C. Vincent Sr. works at Hercules construction and is a Navy Veteran. He is running as a Republican and has run for office before. He has a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Pensacola. He is from Harvey.

Louisiana Supreme Court

Ten-year term; no term limits.

Two state Supreme Court judges will be elected this year. One of those judges will be replacing Marcus Clark in the Supreme Court’s 4th District up North. Voters in the New Orleans area will decide the replacement for retiring Chief Justice Bernette Johnson, the state Supreme Court’s first African American chief justice, only current African American justice, and the only current Democrat. Johnson stood alone in dissent against the court’s recent decision to deny a review of the life sentence imposed on Fair Wayne Bryant for attempting to steal a pair of hedge clippers. The sentence was justified by multiple offender laws. In her written dissent, Judge Johnson pointed out that after being convicted of armed robbery in 1979, Bryant’s offenses were all nonviolent attempts to steal. “...[P]etty theft is frequently driven by the ravages of poverty or addiction, and often both.” Judge Johnson wrote. “It is cruel and unusual to impose a sentence of life in prison at hard labor for the criminal behavior which is most often caused by poverty or addiction.”

In response to the uprisings this summer demanding justice and an end to the U.S.A.’s oppressive criminal system, Judge Johnson wrote an amazing letter to her colleagues that called on Louisiana to listen to the voice of the protestors, to reflect on and acknowledge the role of the justice system in enforcing white supremacy.

The state is lucky that the three candidates running for this position are all extremely qualified candidates, all Black women, and all aware of the need for a more equitable and compassionate justice system. Each candidate has a long list of educational work, honors and awards, records of stewardship, mentorship and other community involvement.

During the election season the candidates have been questioned about death penalty, non-unanimous juries, racism, prosecutor misconduct, fees and fines for the poor. None of the judges would directly answer about their personal view on the death penalty, but all hinted they were not in favor. All three agreed with re-trying past convictions by non-unanimous juries. All said they agreed prosecutor misconduct was a problem, but failed to articulate how they could use a Supreme Court seat to directly address it. All the candidates disagreed with our state’s “user pay” system, where courts are funded by the fines and fees. The judicial branch of our state currently takes in less than 1% of the state budget. All three candidates were also involved in rulings the Landrieu administration cited as a basis for removing monuments to white supremacy in New Orleans.

Associate Justice Supreme Court, 7th Supreme Court District

Sandra Cabrina Jenkins has more than 20 years of criminal law experience, including work as an assistant district attorney, special appeal counsel, and criminal defense attorney. After leaving Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina, she returned to New Orleans in 2010 and won an upset election in 2012 to become a judge on the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal. Judge Jenkins teaches at Xavier University, has a masters degree in divinity, and is a licensed minister at First Emanuel Baptist Church.

Asked in a candidate forum about racial disparities in the justice system, Judge Jenkins said: “I believe that training and programs are important, however systemic racism and institutional bias has to be acknowledged.” Jenkins has acknowledged that courts in Louisiana are still part of the structure of institutional racism, and the judiciary needs to regain public trust. She has said the courts should be given a larger portion of the state budget, and the state should develop a system for taking partial payment of fines and fees from litigants. On the death penalty, she has said that states are wise to keep moratoriums on use of the death penalty, and spoke of a time as a young lawyer when she prosecuted a case that could potentially have meant a death penalty for the defendant. She called it “the worst day of my life.”

In her current judgeship, Jenkins has been reviewing old cases decided by non-unanimous juries, which were disallowed by a 2018 Louisiana constitutional amendment. As of 2019, state convictions require unanimous agreement from all 12 jurors. The U.S. Supreme Court’s April 2020 decision in Ramos v. Louisiana established that non-unanimous jury verdicts are unconstitutional, which opens the door to challenge past convictions.

In May of 2020 Judge Jenkins was part of a court that ordered new trials for three men convicted years ago by non-unanimous juries. She was also one of three judges (including fellow candidate Judge Love) who rejected the appeal of Cardell Hayes, the man convicted (non-unanimously) of the murder of former Saints player Will Smith.

Judge Jenkins was one of three judges who vacated the life sentence of Walter Johnson, who stole $15 from a police bait car, and offered retrial for the misdemeanor burglary charge alone, throwing out the habitual offender charge. Her court also accused Cannizarro's office of manipulating the system of randomly choosing judges for cases.

Piper Griffin has been a judge on the Civil District Court for the last twenty years, first through appointment and then elections. She has also been an ad hoc judge for juvenile court at times. She practiced law for 13 years prior to her judgeship. She has an enormous resume of civic and community involvement, and has worked in many judicial committees, including The Supreme Court Budgetary Board Committee and the Supreme Court Committee on Judicial Ethics. It is in committees like these that the judge has said she can work on issues of prosecutor conduct and unfair application of fines and fees.

Judge Griffin has said she recognizes that systemic racism is “a part we have to work hard to eradicate” from our legal system. Judge Griffin has said we need to look at the legal system holistically, and work with lower courts, making sure they have the resources they need. “As we set policy we need to be conscious that judges come to the table with implicit biases.” She said in a video debate, where she promoted training for the criminal justice system at all levels, and that the public needs to be more educated on the courts. While she has deferred questions about her view on the death penalty, she has acknowledged it is not a deterrent, and its application is often highly prejudiced against Black defendants.

In 2018, a ruling from Judge Griffin held up the approval for a Entergy power plant in New Orleans East. After a City Council vote of approval for the plan, a coalition of environmental activists fought back, accusing the council of violating rules for open and accessible meetings, in part because Entergy had paid actors to pose as supporters, fill up a council meeting, and take away space and time from opponents of the new plant. Though her ruling did not focus on these paid attendants, Judge Griffin found the City Council had not followed the proper rules for their vote to approve the plant. The decision ended up delaying the plant’s approval until earlier this year when a state appellate court overturned her decision.

Judge Griffin seems to be receiving the most institutional favor, receiving endorsements by local criminal justice group VOTE, the AFL-CIO of New Orleans, the United Teachers of New Orleans union, the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee, the Independent Women’s Association, and the BOLD coalition. She won the Orleans Parish Bar Association poll with 60% of the vote.

Terri Love has 25 years experience as a judge; five years in civil district court and twenty in appellate court. She was a lawyer for six years before her first judge position. She has been on the board of many philanthropic and educational institutions, and worked as a mentor and advisor for youth through several organizations.

Judge Love has said her priorities are to cut down on delays in the court, aiming to have all cases be ruled on within 30 days of submission. If elected, she said she would create a task force on judicial delays. When asked about issues of systemic oppression and how the courts can change their role in this system, training and education were the main parts of her solution. She has noted the supreme court has some ability to set a tone for the state, that “opinions of the right cases send a message,” and that the court can issue rulings that demonstrate what won’t be tolerated. She also thinks judges need further education on racism and implicit bias. While she wouldn’t comment explicitly on her stance on the death penalty, she said that she believes justice is mercy and compassion for one another.

Judge Love was a part of the court decision mentioned above, a rejection of an appeal against the 25-year manslaughter sentence imposed on Cardell Hayes for killing former Saints Player Will Smith. Judge Jenkins and Judge Love were also on a panel together this summer to hear an appeal against a ruling that freed Darrill Henry from a life sentence after about nine years in jail. Henry had been freed based on new DNA evidence, but the state was appealing the ruling and seeking to have him retried. Judge Joy and another judge granted to the appeal to retry Henry, and Judge Jenkins dissented. Judge Love was also part of a panel of judges that affirmed an appeal from Cannizarro’s DA office against a ruling for a 20-year sentence given to Terrel Belvin. Belvin was part of a fight that put a local jazz musician into a coma and left him with permanent brain damage. Citing a newer, more lenient “three strikes law” the judge gave Belvin 20 years instead of the life sentence that older laws would have instituted. Because the new “three strikes law” came in effect while the case was being tried, Judge Love and the others on the appeals court sided with the DA’s office and gave the man the life sentence.