DSA New OrleansFall 2022

Voter Guide

US Senate

Historically speaking, you can count on the incumbent party to perform poorly in midterm elections. This effect is amplified when the economy is bad, as it has been for a few years now — undeniably at least since the pandemic, but it depends who you ask. Thanks to the dogged efforts of the Federal Reserve, a turnaround looks unlikely and major effects on working families highly probable. The Federal Reserve has chosen to deal with the pesky “labor market” — that is, workers behaving as though they’re worth something and leaving jobs that deny them dignity by jacking up inflation rates (you really don’t want to know). Some unlucky readers can think back to the stagflation of the 70s to get an idea of what likely lies ahead of us, but of course, nobody can predict the future.

However, back in June, the Supreme Court threw a wrench in the works of politics-as-usual and overturned Roe vs. Wade in its Dobbs decision, ending the federal government’s recognition of a right to abortion. This decision was the result of decades of careful planning by the far right, a project carried out slowly through four Republican presidential administrations, with the help of groups like the Federalist Society. This project culminated in the Trump administration’s selection of Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Metairie’s own Amy Coney Barrett, cementing the right-wing stranglehold of the federal judiciary.

The Dobbs decision had the effect of galvanizing the Democratic base in a year where Democratic voters would otherwise be less mobilized than their Republican counterparts. Meanwhile, the Republicans aren’t quite sure how to handle finally achieving their nearly fifty-year goal of demolishing Roe v. Wade, specifically, denying access to abortion turned out to be incredibly unpopular among a broad swath of voters - emphasized by the sound defeat of an anti-abortion constitutional amendment in Kansas, a conservative stronghold. Some Republicans are sticking to their guns, exemplified by Sen. Lindsey Graham’s outlandish proposal to ban abortion nationwide after 15 weeks, others are hiding behind “leaving it to the states.” To that end, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, and other states have already moved to vote in referendums. However, the uncertainty of life after Roe is hitting the GOP harder than they likely anticipated, like a dog unsure of what to actually do should it finally catch a car.

While the generic Congressional ballot favored Republicans heavily before Dobbs, it’s more or less a tie at this moment, with some formerly safe Republican seats becoming toss-ups and former toss-ups becoming safe bets for the Democrats. Other factors that have tipped the scales to prevent a Democratic Party bloopath have been President Biden’s executive actions on student loan forgiveness and a vague signaling of a plan of a move to explore possibly easing federal restrictions on cannabis, maybe. These confounding variables to the usual incumbent party culling open the possibility that the makeup of Congress could remain fairly stable, with the House likely going narrowly to the Republicans and the Senate is anyone’s guess at this rate.

Things here in Louisiana remain status quo, and are likely to remain so when it comes to our Senators. Incumbent Senator John Neely Kennedy (R) is heavily favored to keep his seat. In spite of the turmoil in national politics (and myriad personal bungles, from those as benign as Dr. Oz’s crudites to disturbing allegations of domestic abuse against Hershel Walker) beguiling Republicans elsewhere in the country, Kennedy has not made any real unforced error and anything close to a gaffe is actually a carefully-scripted charade meant to invigorate his far-right constituency and garner broad attention - because all press is good press, as far as Kennedy is concerned.

Despite, or perhaps because of, his constant presence as a Foghorn Leghorn-esque blowhard in widely disseminated sound bites and all his viral quips in committee hearings, Kennedy is a key figure among Senate Republicans. He is reliably able to pass legislation, authoring eight bills that were signed into law in his first term in 2017. He was one of the eleven Republicans in the Senate to demand an audit of the 2020 presidential election vote, in objection to electoral votes for President Joe Biden and continued to object to Arizona’s electoral votes even after the January 6th Capitol riot.

Perhaps in an effort to top an ad in Kennedy’s previous senatorial campaign in which he stated he’d “rather drink weed killer” than let down his voters, Kennedy suggested that those who’d defund the police (hey, that’s us!) “call a crackhead” instead of the police when victimized by crime. Kennedy likes attention and between those TV spots and his incessant appearances on Fox News and other right-wing outlets, he’s gotten a lot of it since joining the Senate.

Kennedy’s media persona is an elaborate act, meticulously crafted to re-cast a Rhodes Scholar and former moderate Democrat (Kennedy officially made the jump to the GOP in 2007 while serving as state Treasurer), who opposed abortion restrictions as a member of moderate Republican Governor Buddy Roemer’s administration, as a down-home, country boy conservative outsider and iconoclast. Regardless of his aesthetic authenticity, Kennedy’s record in the Senate is a genuine reflection of the most reactionary – and dangerous – elements of his party.

After two unsuccessful runs for office, Gary Chambers (D) is back and aiming higher than ever before. Previously, he ran in north Baton Rouge’s District 15 for the state Senate in 2019, then in the 2021 special election for Congressional District 2. He outperformed expectations in the primary, but still came up short to state Senator Karen Carter Peterson in his effort to make the runoff with Peterson’s senatorial colleague Troy Carter. Chambers endorsed Peterson against Carter, but Carter won the seat handily.

Chambers came to local prominence in Baton Rouge as the publisher and editor of the Rouge Collection, a now-defunct online news outlet focused on local Black issues. This platform led him to become one of the public faces of the protests against Alton Sterling’s 2016 murder by Baton Rouge police officers, even leading the ceremonies at Sterling’s funeral and acting as a media spokesperson for his family.

But Chambers really entered the national spotlight in 2020, when a video of his remarks before the Baton Rouge School Board went viral after he openly admonished school board member Connie Bernard for doing a bit of online shopping rather than paying attention to the meeting, dedicated to public comment on the renaming of Robert E. Lee High School. From this moment on, Chambers would enjoy a nationwide following, which has turbo-charged his fundraising efforts such that he’s accomplished the rather formidable feat of rivaling the incumbent Kennedy’s fundraising.

Since his initial entry into politics, Chambers has modeled his campaigns off of those of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, embracing his underdog status and adopting many of those figures’ most well-known policies, such as Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. His platform is more fine-tuned this time around, though, with his website boasting an extensive and detailed policies section that includes those aforementioned post-Bernie progressive must-haves, more than in previous Chambers campaigns, with extensive locally-specific considerations included. For instance, the health care section leads with Medicare for All, but directly refers to Louisiana’s shortcomings in Black maternal health and proposes additional measures, such as more funding for community health centers and promoting efforts to train more Black doctors as solutions. As he did in his 2021 Congressional campaign, Chambers qualified his support for a Green New Deal by addressing the problems Black residents of Cancer Alley, the industrialized corridor along the Mississippi from Baton Rouge down, as of particular concern to him. Generally speaking, this specificity and honing of his policy shows that Chambers not only has an understanding of the progressive policy proposals on the federal level that his political inspirations have championed, but has put the effort into communicating how those policies are relevant to Louisianans’ needs.

On the subject of policing, Chambers walks on eggshells to reject “defund the police” as a policy and as a potential label for his campaign, while still calling for legal justice reform, accountability for police brutality, and a redistribution of resources from reactive policing towards education, job development, and other proactive solutions to the causes of crime. As he did in his previous campaign, Chambers describes an elaborate “formula based upon objective quality-of-life factors,” something he calls “smart funding,” as the most appropriate way to determine law enforcement budgets. Chambers is trying to walk a tightrope when it comes to policing: he doesn’t want to scare off older and more conservative elements of the Democratic base with memories of the Summer 2020 uprisings and simultaneously doesn’t want to alienate those who participated in and supported those uprisings. You could argue that he’s talking out of both sides of his mouth, but it’s definitely not as odious as Kennedy’s “call a crackhead,” not that that says very much.

For his part, Chambers kicked off this campaign with his most well-crafted viral moment yet: a campaign ad that featured him smoking a blunt, with a voiceover describing the effects of the criminalization of cannabis on Black Americans. He followed this up with another attention-grabbing video in which he burned a Confederate flag. Chambers’ unapologetic approach certainly had its appeal among his intended audience of young progressives, drumming up the kind of buzz that can be hard to come by in midterm elections like this one.

The big question is whether or not these viral stunts have paid off enough here in Louisiana to make a real difference in this particular race. Like his previous discourse-driving moments, many of those who were drawn to Chambers by his latest campaign ads are not actual prospective voters, as much of his online following is from out-of-state. Chambers himself seems to realize this, describing an “inside-outside” campaign approach that has brought him to fundraising events in places as far-flung as California. In a race where even seeming too close to New Orleans can lose you crucial points in the rest of the state, it’s certainly a unique approach.

Chambers’s campaign model that prioritizes national fundraising, driven by the attention he draws through viral moments, is one that Chambers skeptics would tell you he has adopted from Sean King, a controversial figure in progressive circles who Chambers embraced in his previous campaign for Congress. Among other things, King has come under fire for raising huge amounts of money in the wake of tragedies, allegedly exploiting the families of victims of police brutality, to pay himself and close allies large salaries while accomplishing fairly little in the way of legal justice reform, or any of his other stated goals. Chambers defended himself from criticism for this partnership at the time, though King is notably absent from this Chambers campaign.

One could argue that, like King, Chambers has not actually accomplished many of his stated goals, that is, winning elected office; each campaign Chambers has pursued has been for a progressively greater office in spite of his lack of success with smaller, and perhaps more attainable, constituencies. In fact, while he outperformed well in precincts outside of Baton Rouge, Chambers handily lost his home turf of Baton Rouge to New Orleanian Karen Carter Peterson, a trend that was perhaps indicative of his rather mixed-to-poor reputation with some community organizations most familiar with him. The Sean King controversy, his relentless pursuit of virality, and out-of-state fundraising tours are evidence to skeptics of Chambers’s habit of prioritizing his national audience and national relevance, rather than seriously pursuing the support of his actual would-be constituents.

Whether it is cynical or realistic to say that this is evidence of a lack of sincerity on the part of Chambers is a matter of personal interpretation. While Chambers has surprised observers by rivaling Kennedy’s fundraising numbers, that money has not yet translated into better performance in the polls, at least not enough to indicate a credible threat to Kennedy’s incumbency, barring any big surprises. The fact is, the crowded field and uphill battle against Kennedy that Chambers is facing is likely to prove overwhelming to even make the runoff. At that point, where will his energetic base of supporters go? Will they be forced to wait out the next two years until Chambers runs again? Or do those supporters commit to the platform and begin to build out the necessary structures to map out political gains for working class Louisianans? We suggest that those campaigning for Chambers consider joining DSA to do just that.

Like the politicians Chambers has modeled his campaigns after, he has not been on very good terms with the state Democratic Party. In August, the Louisiana Democratic State Central Committee overrode its own executive committee recommendation to solely endorse Chambers for Senate, with the intention of making a dual endorsement of Chambers and moderate Democrat Luke Mixon (D). Shared endorsements like this are often a sign of a weak party establishment; when the party is unwilling to endorse an outsider candidate but lacks the political capital to throw any real weight behind a preferred insider candidate, the dual endorsement allows the party to be ostensibly involved in a race, without actually putting up any serious resources for any candidate. In Louisiana, this has become the party’s preferred means of dealing with statewide races in which the most active elements of the party’s supporters are invested, but that the party has little chance of actually winning. However the dual endorsement proposal proved controversial, even within the State Central Committee. Chambers roundly criticized this move and the actions of state Democratic Party Chair Katie Bernhardt, a moderate herself, as undemocratic and racist, claiming Brenhardt told him explicitly last year that “a Black man could not win statewide” (Both Berhardt and Mixon are white). Local media further characterized this as a conflict between that party’s moderate and progressive wings. In spite of claims that the intent was to “unify” the party, hardly anyone was satisfied with the ultimate compromise: an endorsement of all three major Democratic candidates involved in the endorsement process.

Mixon has found himself in an uncomfortable position as his campaign has developed. Since he launched his candidacy, Mixon has deliberately cast himself in the mold of moderate Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards, in hopes of replicating Gov. Edwards’s twice-over statewide electoral success. Until recently, this included an explicitly anti-abortion stance like the Governor’s; after the Dobbs decision, however, Mixon has changed his tune. Likely sensing which way the wind was blowing on the issue of abortion, even among moderate Democrats, Mixon now says his opinion has changed and that he will be an ardent defender of the right to abortion on the federal level. It is impossible for anyone but Mixon to know how sincere this evolution is; you can choose to believe he honorably adjusted his beliefs, or you can choose to believe that this was a carefully calculated decision to improve his chances in the race. He is certainly not the only person to have experienced a change of heart on the issue of abortion in the wake of Dobbs, although most members of this group aren’t running for office. Most candidates, even if just out of a sense of risk aversion, would have a rock-solid position on such a crucial issue right from the jump.

In the same way Chambers’ campaign draws influence from those of other progressive Democrats, Mixon’s has strong similarities with other moderate Democrats’ campaigns across the country. Not unlike Amy McGrath, the unsuccessful challenger to Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, much of Mixon’s campaign messaging references his experience as a fighter pilot in the United States military. It has become almost cliche for the Democratic Party to rely on a moderate candidate with military experience when faced with an uphill battle against a Republican opponent; this strategy is always pursued in the hope that the candidate’s military credentials inspire some amount of moderate conservatives to switch over to the Democratic side. This trend can be traced back at least as far as John Kerry’s 2004 presidential run, which touted his military experience as evidence that he could lead the Iraq War effort more effectively than incumbent President George W. Bush. In Kerry’s case, this ultimately proved to be an embarrassing failed maneuver, and the performance of southern Democratic candidates in the fighter pilot mold hasn’t been much better.

Syrita Steib (D) is the third official Democratic Party endorsee, and splits the difference politically between her more progressive and moderate opponents. Steib’s background is undoubtedly more unique than her opponents’; she is a rare formerly-incarcerated candidate for major office with the official support of her party. After a promising start in life after growing up in Vacherie in St. James Parish, Steib says her path became rocky after leaving college to join the Navy, with the goal of becoming an electronic technician, where she didn’t earn enough to make a living. Resulting desperation ultimately led her to get in trouble with the law, leading to her incarceration at 19 years old. After ten years in prison, Steib has worked admirably to improve the lives of formerly incarcerated people. Drawing from her own experiences, she founded Operation Restoration to help other recently incarcerated women re-adjust to life outside of prison walls. Having once herself been denied admission to the University of New Orleans due to her criminal record, she was the author of Louisiana Act 262, which eliminated questions pertaining to criminal records from post-secondary admissions. Steib has overcome some serious obstacles and deserves credit for deliberately stepping into the role of a passionate and fairly successful advocate for other formerly incarcerated people, rather than pulling the ladder up behind her.

Steib, however, cannot be easily characterized as progressive, although some of her stated political priorities may lean slightly in that direction. On foreign policy, she is the same type of liberal hawk as so many longtime Senate Democrats, who have a pretty damn bad record over the decades they’ve been in office. She endorses free trade as the best means to “reintegrate all countries into a global system which should be led by the United States,” while threats to that American hegemony should expect “firm, crippling sanctions … for the protection of global democracy, both within Eastern Europe and beyond.” One must presume that the judge and jury of what constitutes “global democracy” in such a system - to say nothing of the executioner - would be the United States. As internationalist socialists, we are of the belief that the United States, certainly as it currently exists, is neither the natural nor the proper leader of the international political system.

Further pulling Steib toward the moderate-conservative end of the political spectrum is her firmly pro-fossil fuels stance on energy policy. Rather than phasing out oil and gas, a move that is absolutely necessary for the continued survival of several species of life and human society as we know it, Steib wants to “build on it.” Renewable sources of energy would, instead of replacing fossil fuels, “absorb” any increase in demand for electricity, a form of the popular but unfeasible “all of the above” energy policy that lies at the heart of the oil and gas industry’s public relations strategy to perpetuate their dominance, and by extension the destruction of our planet. As Steib, the daughter of a former Radar Coordinator at Marathon Petroleum, knows better than anyone, it is true that many working class Louisianans rely on the oil and gas industry for work. However, those jobs have been disappearing for years, and even an increasing majority of oil and gas workers know that the future is in green energy and want to be a part of it. Along with the recent Inflation Reduction Act, Steib’s policies would unnecessarily hold back the development of offshore wind in Gulf waters, which could employ countless oil and gas workers in technically similar professions. This would also provide twice as much power as the Gulf states consume - more than the potential production of offshore wind in the Great Lakes and on the Pacific Coast combined. Steib lacks either the will or imagination to build a better future, where our energy needs are not dependent on profoundly exploitative corporations and the continued deterioration of the Earth.

Beryl Billiot (no party) is a Kentwood-based contractor, former Marine Corps General, and frequent candidate for statewide office. He first ran for Governor in 2015, followed by Senate runs in 2016 and 2020. Billiot currently serves as the President of the Kentwood Area Chamber of Commerce. He is a hard conservative, describing the need to “secure our borders” to protect against “the infiltration of people that are trying to weaken our establishment,” and proclaiming himself as “PRO LIFE, PRO GUN, and PRO AMERICA!!” on his very nostalgic website. According to that site’s “Issues” page, Billiot “refuses to debate social issues at this time,” because “our current administration and several before has used social issues and cultural differences to keep us divided.” He’s a typical bootstrap pulling, “hand up, not hand out,” “common sense” small business owner-type - a less charismatic Mike Rowe.

Devin Lance Graham (R) is an electrical contractor and realtor from Gonzales. Graham presents himself as an anti-establishment conservative, and is critical of Senator Kennedy for, among other things, his past as a Democrat. Highway infrastructure and Congressional term limits are among Graham’s main political priorities. He is also very concerned about coastal land loss, and believes the Army Corps of Engineers needs to get “out of the way and start opening up our rivers and bayous,” which is not a terrible suggestion, however he paradoxically supports the expansion of the petrochemical industry that caused much of that land loss. His fealty to industry is evidently not absolute; Graham frequently speaks out against Air Products’ and OxyChem’s plans to capture carbon from a planned “blue” hydrogen and ammonia plant and sequester it beneath Lake Maurepas, somewhat spuriously holding Senator Kennedy partially responsible. The carbon capture issue has divided Florida Parishes conservatives into a vaguely anti-establishment opposition including outdoorsmen, commercial and recreational fishermen, and some elected officials, and another camp more closely aligned with state Republican leadership and the oil and gas industry in favor of the plans for Lake Maurepas.

Professional sommelier “Xan” John (listed “Other,” self-described Gold Party) must not feel too great about his chances in the Senate race, because he’s already running for Governor in next year’s election. Much of John’s online campaign materials and his “gubernatorial candidate” business cards feature InfoWars branding, although he seems to be a fan and not an employee. Accordingly, he believes that President Trump won the 2020 election and opposes COVID vaccinations (and, previously, mandatory masking), writing that COVID precautions are “vehicles for total control of the world.” He claims he has been censored online, citing the removal of four of his YouTube channels. John believes climate change is a hoax designed by the Club of Rome and Henry Kissinger as a means of establishing a social credit system, and that Planned Parenthood sells aborted fetuses to China for use in cosmetics. In a notable display of bravado he will never really have the chance to follow through on, John promised to pursue a ban on Roundup, saying while Dow and Dupont would “likely try to assassinate me if I did that, I’d still do it anyway.” See you next year in the gubernatorial edition of this voter guide, Xan.

While W. Thomas La Fontaine Olson (no party) previously ran for office in the 2020 Democratic primary for Illinois’s 8th Congressional district, he does not have an active online campaign presence. Olson was, however, featured in the revival of French Quarter Confessions, where he more or less admitted to being a “carpetbagging politician” (his words) on Bourbon Street for Red Dress Run.

While casting himself explicitly as a progressive, Bradley McMorris (I) believes we should drill on “every piece of land that is available,” that abortion should be illegal nationwide, and admonishes “relying on the government for handouts” in reference to the Child Tax Credit. His most progressive policies are his support for a low-cost public health care option and tuition-free state college for those that reside in the same state for 10 years, contingent on a work requirement. While McMorris claims to keep money in the hands of working Louisianans rather than “greedy CEOs and politicians supporting those CEOs,” he really wants to talk Elon Musk into building a Tesla Motors manufacturing facility in Louisiana, and share his ostensible “expertise” on renewable energy development. Based on his Power Coalition survey response, he may be the only candidate for office of any ideological persuasion to consider the War on Drugs a success. According to himself, he’s also the only candidate capable of getting China and India “on board with climate change” and “get changes in all [Senate] committees.”

M.V. “Vinny” Mendoza (D) is a farmer who has been running for office since at least 2004, previously for Louisiana’s 1st, 2nd. and 5th districts, Governor, and Senator. He supports many of the same progressive policies as his most recent run for Senator in 2020, with a special emphasis on industrial cannabis production and promoting organic farming, as well as the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and a $15 an hour minimum wage. It should be noted that the latter has been part of his previous platforms for so long that it’s outdated, as $15 per hour is no longer a living wage in New Orleans or most other places. To be fair to Mendoza, he’s not the only candidate to do this; Chambers does too. In fact, Mendoza should be credited as one of the few candidates who also notes it should be increased later, to $25 an hour by 2025 (Steib only says the minimum wage should be $16 per hour).

On several notable policy questions on Power Coalition’s survey, Salvador P. Rodriguez (D) answered “Yes,No,” including questions regarding trying children as adults in court, Medicare for All, a moratorium on petrochemical development in Cancer Alley, student loan relief, and a Green New Deal. He’s a bit more specific in the Justice & Beyond forum: he wants to codify abortion rights and ban assault weapons, and speaks favorably of green energy. In short, he is a left-leaning moderate: he knows what the problems are, but doesn’t want to go as far as to actually solve them, and is generally light on details.

Aaron C. Siegler (L) is a returning Libertarian Senate candidate from Hammond, having run previously against Senator Bill Cassidy in 2020. Citing his expertise as a neurosurgeon, Siegler thinks he can serve as an effective Senator who can “remove the cancerous parts of our government and restore power and freedom to the people.” Siegler told radio host Jim Engster he wanted to run because hyperpolarization has “left out a lot of people in the middle” who would be represented most appropriately by a Libertarian. A native of Delaware, Siegler has lived in Louisiana since about 2016. He was happy to move to Louisiana because “y’all get it, as far as guns are concerned;” as the nephew of former NRA president John Siegler, “guns are a part of [his] heritage.” He believes that the Affordable Care Act has “driven a wedge,” that wedge being “government,” between patients and doctors, as a good Libertarian would. While today’s breed of Libertarians have moved away from positions considered more progressive-leaning, as a more traditional “lifelong” Liberatrian, Siegler is opposed to the militarization of police, is in favor of abortion rights, and wants to reconsider the United States’ astronomical military budget.

Thomas Wenn (Other) is from Amite and his campaign is elusive.

US House of Representatives, LA 01

The majority control of the House of Representatives may swing back to the Republicans and this race has implications on the leadership of the lower house in Congress. Leading up to the election, the House GOP released its “Commitment to America” platform before making it password protected. This plan includes a federal ban on abortion (and defining life at conception), gutting Social Security and Medicare, and interfering in elections with voter ID laws, granting “observer access”, and limiting mail-in ballots. While this House seat is typically considered “safe,” the implications of a re-election could mean more extremist reactionary legislation heading into the next session.

The 1st Congressional District of Louisiana stands in stark contrast to the neighboring 2nd District in a few ways. The gerrymandered border carves out white, conservative populations in the Lakeview and Uptown, and combines them with parts of Jefferson and St. Tammany Parishes, and Plaquemines Parish (where the struggle for relief and restoration after Hurricane Ida continues). Since 1977, it has been held by a Republican, a likely explanation for the lack of investment by the national and state Democratic Party in the race the last several cycles. The district voted 68% for Trump in 2020.

Northshore resident Katie Darling (D) is the lone Democrat in the race and has received endorsements from the Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense, Louisiana Democrats, Jefferson Parish and New Orleans Democrats, Alliance for Good Governance, New Orleans Coalition, IWO New Orleans, and Alliance for Good Government. She is a first-time candidate who lives on a family farm in St. Tammany and has historically worked within the distilling industry. She was the CEO of Celebration Distillation and is currently an account executive with a school health & wellness technology company. She has been on the board of Homer Plessy Community School since 2017. Her FEC filing for 9/30 has $36k raised and $8k cash on hand.

“What got me in the race was women’s issues,” says Darling, who was pregnant at qualifying time and released a campaign video shortly after giving birth. She expressed the danger she felt after the Supreme Court’s ruling on Dobbs and whether it’s worth living in Louisiana due to the trigger ban on abortion. During a candidate forum, she mentioned equal pay, affordable childcare, and pay transparency as the foundation of her campaign, and lists reproductive rights, education, and storm mitigation as her key platform points. Darling noted that there’s never been a woman to hold the LA-01 Congressional seat before and has emphasized the need for representation of women in Congress. When asked about Medicare For All, she said "as a civilized and wealthy country, we need to be taking care of our people" and supports health care for all but wants to be mindful of how it’s paid for. Regarding police funding, she wants to invest in crime prevention measures such as investment in our youth, gun safety, living wages, and affordable housing. She is married to an NOPD officer who was suspended for 45 days in 2019 for driving while intoxicated. Darling supports sustainability measures but was noncommittal to the Green New Deal.

Howard Kearney is the Libertarian challenger in his fourth time on the ballot. The Northshore resident is a software developer and has worked in the IT industry since the 90’s. Kearney last ran for this seat in 2020 and not much has changed about opposing Medicare For All, Green New Deal, or reproductive rights on his platform since he last ran.

There is a history of socialists and libertarians sharing some common ground, and the same can be said about Kearney, who is against foreign wars and wants to end the drug war. “Crime does not get prevented from being observed” he noted about surveillance and acknowledges that poverty is the greatest contributor to crime. However, it’s worth noting he’s against gun regulations and against subsidized or public health care. He thinks that the main drivers of poverty include minimum wage laws and occupational licensing regulations. He advocates for “morality laws” and believes in the “right to life including full protection of the unborn.” While trying to explain his decentralized approach to the Department of Education, he mentioned that state school boards should have more autonomy and said that anti-trans policies are manufactured problems because there aren’t trans students being discriminated against. In short, he preaches the typical free-market rhetoric of mainstream white Libertarians like Rand Paul. He is refusing financial contributions during the race and suggests people donate to the Salvation Army.

Eight-term incumbent and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R) seeks to continue his job of benefiting wealthy white people. His priorities include an assortment of Trump talking points including “building the wall” and “draining the swamp.” On his Facebook account, he parrots the “Dems want the woke mob to control your entire life” drivel. When discussing the victory of fascist Giorgia Meloni in Italy, Scalise said “We need to bring that kind of conservatism to the United States.” Pretty disturbing when he has been shown to misrepresent the events of January 6th. For a man who described himself as “David Duke without the baggage,” it is evident in his voting record and statements that Scalise continues to further the white nationalist “MAGA” agenda within the GOP. Examining his voting record shows his clear preference of the party line over actual representation of the residents in LA-01. He is rated 0% by Planned Parenthood, opposes gun reform (despite being a victim of gun violence), supports tax cuts for the rich, and wants to continue drilling fossil fuels. Even with a 28% favorability rating, he is considered to be the frontrunner due to a war chest of $4.7 million, the demographics of LA-01’s registered voters (41% GOP, 79% White), and a lack of support from the Louisiana Democrats in the district. Voter apathy and gerrymandering will play a critical role in Scalise’s re-election efforts.

US House of Representatives, LA 02

Troy Carter (D) is unlikely to fail in his first bid for re-election since winning a special election in 2020. We covered that race extensively here, with heavy focus on now-Congressman Carter. Since taking office, Carter has continued to expand into the role that Cedric Richmond left him and has been pushing forward policies such as student loan relief and infrastructure spending. He has even set his sights on using some of that funding to address the racist legacy of highways cutting through historically Black neighborhoods. Any of these goals would be off the table, of course, should Democrats lose control of the House.

Carter has raised about $2 million so far, primarily from an assortment of lawyers, lobbyists, and real estate firms. Labor groups have contributed heavily to his campaign as well.

Dan Lux (R) is an Italian-American real estate and entertainment businessman based out of Harvey and the owner of D. Lux Homes and D. Lux Entertainment. He recently relocated to Louisiana after trying to make it work in Hollywood. He claims producer credits on a 2005 biopic about Donald Trump and he participated in the holographic resurrection of Ronald Reagan in the form of a gross and uncanny homage to neoliberalism.

Public Service Commission, District 3

The Public Service Commission (PSC) is an executive body tasked with a wide array of regulatory responsibilities. The somewhat obscure body is probably best known (or, if you prefer, infamous) for its regulation of non-municipal utilities systems, namely privatized electricity and water. But the PSC also has authority over trucking, towing, and prison phone calls across Louisiana. If it’s one of those annoying facts of life that nickel-and-dime Louisianans, the PSC is probably involved somehow.

District 3 includes parts of the cities of Baton Rouge and New Orleans and the River Parishes in between, roughly the same shape as Congressional District 2, but slightly larger. The PSC is responsible for regulating Entergy Louisiana, though it does not directly regulate Entergy New Orleans; while both are subsidiaries of the Entergy Corporation, the latter is regulated instead by the New Orleans City Council. However, since the vast majority of electricity consumed in New Orleans is generated outside of the city, mostly by Entergy Louisiana, New Orleanians feel the PSC’s influence whenever they deal with the consequences of a grid that runs off of 60% fossil gas (AKA “natural” gas) — like skyrocketing power bills. While this aspect of the PSC’s mandate is of special interest to us now that New Orleans DSA is fully immersed in our campaign to Make Entergy Pay, New Orleans residents are affected by the PSC’s decisions whenever they get towed, or when trying to reach an imprisoned relative who can’t pay for the cost of a call, so this is a big race to watch for New Orleanians as well, not just for District 3 residents dealing with the PSC’s regulation of Entergy Louisiana.

While not especially well-known among Louisianans who are, you know, normal, and don’t spend their free time writing long voter guides for fun, the PSC is a prized and coveted position for “career” politicians. For one, the districts are larger in population and area than even the state’s Congressional districts. Terms are six years long and elections are almost always noncompetitive for incumbents. Huey P. Long and Kathleen B. Blanco used the commission to build a constituency on their way to the Governor’s mansion, but otherwise most commissioners have used the position to hand out lucrative favors to their friends and family. That makes it a politician’s dream: an office that requires relatively low-effort campaigning, but grants its holder with significant powers and a big platform. The ambitious, like Long, can leverage that platform to its full advantage in search of more power (and maybe even do some good along the way), but the lazy can still use it to get and give away a lot of sweet gigs, free stuff, and cash.

Lambert C. Boissiere III (D) falls into that latter category. Boissiere is flush with campaign cash, just under $100,000, almost all of it from private utilities, their PACs, and their affiliates — something that is somehow totally legal in Louisiana. This includes Entergy (his main contributor), the Baton Rouge Water Company, central Louisiana’s CLECO, numerous small local water companies and other utilities, the law firms that represent those utilities, and a few petrochemical companies for good measure. He’s used that money to eat at seemingly most restaurants in the New Orleans and Baton Rouge areas, in addition to hotel stays in Indianapolis and Pensacola. The restaurant expenses are usually listed as “meetings,” but Indiana and Florida are weird places for a Louisiana public service commissioner to be campaigning, to say the least. He’s the living embodiment of a cartoonish fat cat, all he’s missing is the top hat and monocle.

Boissiere and the rest of the sitting commissioners, who also all run campaigns driven by money from the entities they regulate, like to say these contributions from those they regulate have no influence on their decision making, of course. Boissiere in particular will cite his successful push to ban comped restaurant meals with utility representatives early in his time in office, but evidently he’s found another way to pay for those. And while he is always sure to accurately point out that he is not doing anything illegal, Boissiere is mighty upset about an also-legal independent PAC, funded by the Environmental Defense Fund, who are putting up $500,000 for anti-Boissiere TV ads that attack his campaign fundraising practices. His campaign team even recycled a narrative about “outside agitators” from their previous work for Sheriff Marlin Gusman’s failed re-election bid. This all feels disingenuous, though, when Boissiere explicitly rejects the public alternative to campaign finance and takes money directly from utility companies, unlike all of his challengers. While the structures that allow for both these massive PACs and campaign contributions from utilities should be obliterated, PAC involvement in this race has, at best, leveled the playing field for Boissiere’s opponents, who lack the funds for TV commercials.

Back when Boissiere was first elected, campaigns in New Orleans worked differently. Utility companies still funded the campaigns, but national organizations didn’t put up big money. Instead, local neighborhood-based political organizations, often made up of one or a few influential families, still had a strong influence on New Orleans elections through sophisticated turnout operations. Today these organizations, while still residually influential, are seriously in decline. BOLD, the Black Organization for Leadership Development, has lost its most prominent figure as former state Senator and Congressional candidate Karen Carter Peterson is embroiled in legal proceedings stemming from her misuse of Democratic Party funds; meanwhile BOLD member and former New Orleans City Councilmember Jay Banks lost his re-election to Lesli Harris and threatened to kill Belden “Noonie Man” Batiste, according to the Independent Police Monitor.

Some are still kicking around in the cushy offices, as is the case with the Community Organization for Urban Politics, COUP. Its members include Boissiere and his father, Lambert C. Boissiere Jr., a former City Councilmember who took over for his son’s job as New Orleans First City Court Constable in 2005 after the younger Boissiere was first elected to the PSC. That office is also an obscure but important one, responsible for managing evictions, wage garnishments to repay debts, and seizing and reselling vehicles, real estate, and other valuables as ordered by the Court. The COUP machine brought the Boissieres into office, and while it is so hollowed out it has almost disappeared from the public eye, its remnants, with the help of all those Entergy campaign contributions, may be enough for Boissiere III to coast on. But Boissiere isn’t used to actually having to run for this office, a fact he has admitted himself; his last competitive race was his first for the PSC in 2004, and he doesn’t even have a website.

So Boissiere has benefited from familial political connections, eats out all the time with campaign cash he gets from Entergy, and has voted in favor of every rate hike and tacked-on fee Entergy has asked him for, but according to Boissiere, the campaign contributions have nothing to do with that. You see, in Boissiere’s telling, he’s spent the last seventeen years keeping things from getting even worse, always vaguely gesturing that things would have undoubtedly been terrible beyond our belief if he wasn’t around. But after seventeen years, the state of Entergy’s grid is the worst it’s ever been, its service is worse than ever, and it’s making more money than ever, all thanks to Boissiere’s votes. It’s hard to believe Boissiere’s claims that he’s an ardent defender of consumer rights when he spreads the lie that Louisianans pay much less for power than most (our bills are among the country’s highest), and because Entergy evidently sees him as a very safe bet.

It is, without a doubt, a time for a change in this office. Boissiere has had plenty of time to take a stand against rampant profiteering by private utilities and their exploitation of their ratepayers and he’s failed to make a difference. He acts offended that anyone would even dare imply that taking money from those utilities would affect his work as commissioner and makes excuses to keep taking their money. There are at least two candidates who outright refuse to take money from Entergy or any other entity they would regulate as commissioner. In a jungle primary, any vote for any candidate other than Boissiere increases the chances that he will not earn the requisite “50% plus one” to avoid a runoff against the strongest challenger, so we strongly encourage our readers to vote in this election, and recommend that our readers vote for any candidate in this race except Boissiere. This (anti-)recommendation was approved by our general membership by a unanimous vote.

Davante Lewis (D) of Baton Rouge is the Director of Public Affairs and Outreach for the Louisiana Budget Project, a progressive policy watchdog that opposes state budget austerity and advocates for measures that improve the conditions of moderate- to low-income people at the state legislature. He has previously served on the Democratic State Central Committee for District 43 in the Lake Charles area and as a member of the University of Louisiana System Supervisory Board, and ran previously for the Calcasieu Parish School Board in 2010 and the East Baton Rouge Metro Council in 2020. He is one of the two candidates who specifically refuse campaign contributions from utilities and wants to pursue a permanent ban on the practice. In addition to $5000 of his own money, Lewis’s campaign funds are built primarily on small-dollar donations from a veritable who’s-who list of policy advocates, environmental justice campaigners, and grassroots community organizers.

Lewis’s marquee policy proposal is a “ratepayers’ bill of rights” that includes fixed billing for seniors, enforcing harder limits on private utilities’ profit margins to reign in their extraction of wealth from working people, limiting service disconnections, and banning “excessive” late fees. He has also set a target to achieve a 100% renewable grid statewide by 2035, an effort as ambitious as it is necessary. Lewis has spoken favorably of consumer-centric alternatives to privatized, investor-owned utility systems like electrical cooperatives and municipalization, where municipal government authorities own and directly control utility operations, which puts him in line with our chapter’s commitment to the municipalization of Entergy New Orleans. He also recently came out in support of our campaign to Make Entergy Pay by wiping out utility debt and banning shutoffs. Lewis has also stated he would support such a move, although he recognizes he would not have direct authority over the matter given the New Orleans City Council is responsible for regulation of Entergy New Orleans, not the PSC.

Reverend Gregory Manning (D) is the pastor of Broadmoor Community Church in New Orleans and is prodigiously active in environmental advocacy. He founded the Greater New Orleans Interfaith Climate Coalition (GNOICC), which organizes a diverse array fellow faith leaders to promote advocacy on environmental issues among communities of faith and support others fighting for environmental justice, and co-founded the Louisiana Just Recovery Network, a mutual aid-based disaster response and recovery coalition that also operates through the lens of environmental justice. He is also active in Together Louisiana and on the Citywide Leadership Council of Together New Orleans (he has taken leave from those non-partisan organizations for the duration of his campaign), and contributed to their Community Lighthouse project that aims to create community-based storm recovery hubs by outfitting community centers with solar panels and batteries to provide power during outages. Pastor Manning is a prominent member of several other local organizations, but the list is honestly too long to complete here. Just know that Pastor Manning is a highly beloved and respected figure among communities fighting against petrochemical pollution and climate change, because he shows up to just about everything.

In his role with the GNOICC, Pastor Manning has already fought for and won notable reforms to utility regulation within New Orleans. The GNOICC was a major proponent of New Orleans’s institution of a Renewable Portfolio Standard, which obligates Entergy New Orleans to complete a full transition to renewable sources for the city’s power by 2040. He wants to hold Entergy Louisiana and the state’s other electrical utilities to the same standard. Pastor Manning was also the driving force behind the City Council’s ban on campaign contributions to municipal candidates from private utilities, like Entergy New Orleans and Cox. Accordingly, he emphasizes the immorality of Boissiere’s sourcing of campaign funds from utilities more than any other candidate. Like Lewis, his list of campaign contributors includes several prolific local environmental justice organizers and no utilities or associates of utilities.

According to Sunrise New Orleans, which has endorsed both Pastor Manning and Lewis, Manning is also in favor of the municipalization of Entergy New Orleans, however he cautions that other pressing issues, namely the transition to renewables, should take precedence over what he fears would be a long and drawn out process. Pastor Manning is opposed to any “storm recovery rider” that passes fees onto ratepayers after storms damage the grid, citing Entergy’s failure to actually maintain its network, and wants to reorganize the PSC office to focus on constituent services, like bill analysis and support. Finally, he is the only candidate to make ending the exploitation of prisoners through extortionate phone costs a major plank of his platform.

Insurance adjuster and transportation company owner Willie Jones (D) can’t remember whether he’s run for office three or four times, but we do: three times, once for state representative for District 100 in 2015, once for Lieutenant Governor in 2019, neither of which he won, and now for PSC. Most of his campaigning is, evidently, putting yard signs up around New Orleans; he has also appeared at a single Alliance for Affordable Energy campaign forum. His campaign is completely self-funded, but he has not explicitly come out against donations from utility companies. In terms of policy, he is opposed to Louisiana’s reliance on methane gas for power generation, favoring renewables (but with no proposed timeline for a total transition), and wants to implement universal level billing for all electrical bills, which would roughly evenly distribute power costs for ratepayers across the year to equalize monthly payments and avoid sudden spikes. Jones also wants to break Entergy’s monopoly over power and open up the market to competition. This is a common alternative proposal to Entergy dominance, but it wouldn’t solve the problem of unreliable and costly service. As an analogy, consider garbage collection in New Orleans: collection is split up between several private companies, but none of them work very well or as affordably as when the city just did it itself. Sometimes, it makes sense for a public service to operate as a monopoly, it’s just that those monopolies should be owned by and answer to the public, as a municipalized utility would.

Self-employed civil engineer Jesse T. Thompson (D) of Plaquemine is more or less absent from the campaign trail. In survey responses to Ballotpedia and Power Coalition, he has voiced broad disapproval with the current PSC, but is short on specifics as to what he would actually do differently.

Louisiana Senate, District 5

This is a special election for Louisiana Senate District 5, which, until this year, was held by Karen Carter Peterson. In April, Peterson abruptly resigned, citing issues with depression and gambling, and entered into a plea deal for wire fraud charges related to the misuse of campaign and state Democratic Party funds during her tenure as party chair.

Two of the state’s more progressive politicians are squaring off in this race, both of whom currently serve in the State House. Both candidates have received the dual endorsements of VOTE, UTNO, and the Greater New Orleans AFL-CIO.

Royce Duplessis has represented District 93 since 2018. He has been an incredibly prolific lawmaker over his tenure, authoring 39 bills in the 2022 Regular Session alone and passing 10, earning him the “clutch” status of the Louisiana Illuminator. Highlights from this year’s legislative session include measures to limit the public release of mugshots, a requirement that public schools provide mental health resources to students, and limitations on the use of juvenile solitary confinement. He has been a steady leader in state criminal justice reform efforts. His full voting record as a legislator can be found here.

Leaning on his credentials as a former New Orleans City Planning Commissioner, Duplessis also advanced legislation increasing State control over Armstrong Park (with greater representation of Treme organizations), and limited the eminent domain powers of the BioDistrict New Orleans.

Duplessis is well aligned with the city’s power centers and has the support of the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee, Congressman Troy Carter, State Senator Jimmy Harris, the Independent Women’s Organization, former Senator Mary Landrieu, and Councilmember Lesli Harris, among others. He has the financial support of a few notable oil and gas executives and companies, including Phyllis Taylor, the Texas Brine Company, Helis Oil and Gas, and Atmos Energy. Donald Bollinger, who is currently bankrolling the efforts to recall Mayor Cantrell, has donated as well.

For Duplessis, representation has been a central focus of his work, most recently working to expand the power of Louisiana’s Black voters in Congress by creating a second majority minority district, in accordance with the 2020 Census that counted one-third of Louisiana’s population as Black. In a special session, Duplessis introduced a map that would have created a second Congressional Black majority district. That effort was cravenly pushed back by state Republicans in defiance of the Voting Rights Act. Republican intentions are clear: to use the redistricting process to limit democracy and uphold white supremacy. Their efforts were rewarded by the conservative majority of the Supreme Court, who have delayed a ruling until after the midterm elections. In the meantime, state Republicans are seeking to limit the definition of who qualifies as “Black,” in an effort to further diminish Black voting power. Duplessis undoubtedly will continue to lead this fight as it continues to unfold in the Legislature.

As the race for the State Senate has focused increasingly on access to reproductive healthcare, Duplessis has been making efforts to shore up his credentials on abortion, most recently disclosing the self-managed abortion and premature death of his maternal great-grandmother.

Mandie Landry has been at the forefront of the state’s abortion fight well before she was elected to represent Louisiana’s 91st district in 2019. She is a practicing attorney in both civil and criminal law, with direct experience in defending abortion clinics, in-vitro clinics, and birthing people seeking abortions.

Landry had been poised to announce her entry into the race upon Peterson’s departure, citing a lack of women in the State Senate, and particularly a lack of women who were “pro-choice.” That sharpened in May with the leak of the in Dobbs v. Jackson decision, making abortion an issue of “state’s rights,” and overturning Roe v. Wade. Louisiana’s trigger laws immediately went into effect with the official decision in June, banning abortion in the state without exception. Landry became a figurehead nationally for women in the Deep South who live in states with abortion bans, speaking directly to the conditions here and what we need to move forward in the fight for reproductive justice and healthcare.

In terms of moving power, Landry has stated “Reproductive rights were lost in the state houses — and they will only be regained in state houses.” As a legislator, she faces a massive uphill battle whether she wins the State Senate or remains in the House. In the 2022 session alone, there were no less than 28 House or Senate bills introduced to the Legislature that touched in part or whole on the issue of abortion. Of these, Republicans introduced HB813, a bill that would have criminalized abortion as a homicide. That bill was “accidentally” reported favorably by committee before being introduced to the House floor, where it was gutted by amendment and subsequently withdrawn. Make no mistake: fueled by religious zealotry and a recommitment to fascist tendencies, the conservatives of this state will be out for blood next session. They have already targeted Landry, and will continue their attacks on her as she defends reproductive healthcare. Landry has made it abundantly clear that she will not be backing down from this fight.

While abortion is at the forefront of Landry’s legislative agenda, her other work in the House has been nothing short of impressive. In the 2020 Regular Session, she authored 17 bills with one passing, prohibiting solitary confinement for people pregnant or recently giving birth; in 2021, she authored 17 more, including a bill to decriminalize sex work, which New Orleans DSA supported. This past year, Landry introduced 24 bills, and passed five. Those included laws to prevent landlords from evicting tenants for 30 days in federally declared disaster areas, laws to support high school programs for pregnant or breastfeeding students; and laws to prohibit employment discrimination for people using medical marijuana. Her full voting record can be found here.

With regard to power alignments within the city, Landry previously supported BOLD candidates Jay Banks and Austin Badon in the 2021 elections for City Council and Clerk of Criminal Court, respectively. Her campaign’s financing comes from a wide range of contributors, including a broad segment of the city’s legal community. She has big union support from across the city, including contributions from IUPAT, P&S Local 60, Carpenters Local 1098, IBEW, IATSE 478, Insulators Local 53, Ironworkers, LFT, and the AFL-CIO. To be sure, Landry has been a big union supporter herself, and comes from a union background — her father was a plumber and union member.

One last note — an entry on this race would be remiss if we did not mention, or attempt to unpack, the overtones of race and demographics playing out in this race. District 5 is historically Black; Mandie Landry is white. While this does not take away from the progressive policies that she and her supporters stand for, it points to some of the larger population shifts in New Orleans and accounts for the geographies of who is moving where in this city. District 5 spans from Uptown from Jefferson Ave through the Irish Channel, includes all of Central City, and stretches into parts of Treme and the 7th Ward. These are all neighborhoods that have experienced some of the highest rates of displacement of Black renters and homeowners since Katrina, many of whom have never returned to the city after the storm. The planned demolition of the city’s vast public housing complexes set the stage for gentrification in these neighborhoods, and the past decade-plus has seen a mass influx of predominantly white transplants to the city, who have benefitted from being the preferred residents of the city’s real estate interests and city policies.

Landry and other white progressives (including much of our own DSA membership) must continue to recognize this fact if we are to build power with the working class residents of this city. It means deepening ties with our communities and working hard to prevent further displacement and erasure of our working class Black neighborhoods. It is only with the full power of a united, truly multiracial working class mass movement that we will get what we need to live freely, together, by fighting back against the machinations of capitalism that seek to divide us and make us vulnerable for exploitation by the few. Clearly there is no shortage of people in this state who seek to do just that.