The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is the largest socialist organization in the United States. We are socialists because we believe that our work and economy should be organized for the collective benefit of those who do the work, not for the profit of the ownership class. We struggle for a socialist, feminist, and anti-racist transformation of our society for the benefit of all, not the few.
Our chapter democratically votes on any recommendations and endorsements that are proposed by members. For those interested, the difference between recommendations and endorsements (as defined by resolutions approved by our general membership) is elaborated in the appendix at the end of the guide.
Click here to view our guide for the November primary.
Act No. 279 HBl 178 of the 2022 Regular Session by Rep. Debbie Villio (R- Kenner)
"Do you support an amendment to provide that no person who is not a citizen of the United States shall be allowed to register and vote in this State?"
This amendment is a meaningless stunt by State Rep. Debbie Villio to symbolically antagonize Louisiana’s immigrant population while not actually changing anything about current Louisiana election law. Qualification for voting in Louisiana requires one to be 18 years of age and a “citizen of the state.” A person can be excluded from voting if they are legally declared “mentally incompetent” or have been in prison for a felony conviction within the past 5 years. Federal law already prohibits non-citizens from voting in federal elections. Villio’s proposal imagines that some local government might one day try to register non-US citizens to vote in its municipal elections, but no local government in the state has done this. For them to do so would probably require a change in the current state law anyway which, again, no legislator has proposed. Regardless of whether this amendment passes, immigrant residents of Louisiana will have the same voice in local politics as they do now. They will have no voice at all.
Non-citizen US residents can live and work in a community for years, raise families, pay taxes, and participate in daily life the same as everyone else. There are exorbitant costs in time and fees that make the process of becoming a US citizen prohibitively expensive for many. Imposing those costs on long term residents as a prerequisite of voting amounts to a kind of poll tax. Furthermore, permanent residents to whom the state is explicitly not accountable are vulnerable to discrimination and exploitation. For example, the villainous contractors responsible for the collapse of the Hard Rock hotel project victimized undocumented laborers specifically because their status as non-citizens diminished their capacity to speak out against unsafe practices. A key witness in the subsequent investigation was even deported as if to drive the point home.
Excluding a categorical swath of the population from the political sphere effectively carves out an institutionally marginalized class which is, of course, precisely the sort of thing that exploitative capital wants. Our society and our democracy is stronger when everyone shares in the full benefits and dignity of its project. Villio’s amendment would inscribe the Louisiana constitution with an explicit denial of that basic humanity to tens of thousands of our friends and neighbors. We can and should be better than this.
Act No. 281 Senate Bill 160 of the 2022 Regular Session by Sen. Cleo Fields (D- Baton Rouge)
"Do you support an amendment to make appointed members of the State Civil Service Commission subject to confirmation by the Louisiana Senate? "
The State Civil Service Commission oversees the personnel functions governing classified state civil service employees. There are seven board members appointed to six-year terms. One of these is elected by the employees. The other six are appointed by the governor, although the nominees are chosen through a bizarre ritual involving input from the unelected and unaccountable presidents of six private universities. (Centenary College, Dillard University, Louisiana Christian University, Loyola University, Tulane University and Xavier University.) At least one appointed member must be from each of Louisiana’s congressional districts.
The State Senate also plays a role in the selection process, albeit an informal one. Individual senators have the option to veto appointments to boards and commissions from their districts. One recent example of this discretion was exercised by former Senator Karen Carter Peterson’s rejection of Governor John Bel Edwards’s appointment of Ronald Jones to the State Gaming Commission. Peterson’s move came as a surprise that day and the senator was not specifically required to give a reason for it. Requiring public confirmation hearings for Civil Service Commissioners might introduce a modicum of transparency to the process, although how much and how useful that would be is debatable. It would also formalize a legislative check on one of the governor’s appointment powers. How much that matters, as always, depends on who the governor is and who the legislators are.
Act No. 280 Senate Bill 75 of the 2022 Regular Session by Sen. Cleo Fields
"Do you support an amendment to make appointed members of the State Police Commission subject to confirmation by the Louisiana Senate? "
The State Police Commission serves a role similar to that of the Civil Service Commission only its purview applies to the personnel functions of the State Police. Like the Civil Service Commission, it is also a seven member board and its members are chosen in exactly the same way . This amendment would, like Amendment 2, involve the State Senate in a formalized confirmation process for the governor’s appointees.
Both amendments 2 and 3 are the result of Senator Fields’s attempt to bring greater accountability to the State Police following the horrific beating death of Ronald Greene. Fields had also authored a bill during the session to create a new deputy secretary of public safety within the Department of Public Safety and Corrections whose office would have had direct oversight of the State Police Superintendent. (Currently the Superintendent more or less answers only to the Governor.) However, that bill failed in committee. These amendments are basically Fields’s Plan B. While it’s possible to imagine the new supervisory position could have brought some measure of oversight to the State Police, it’s less clear that Senate confirmation of commissioners will do anything in that regard. But neither of these is a path to ending the brutal terror the racist department regularly visits on Louisiana residents.
Public Service Commission, District 3
The Public Service Commission is an agency within Louisiana’s executive branch that primarily regulates privately-owned utilities throughout the state, with the exception of Entergy New Orleans, and has a diverse assortment of secondary responsibilities like overseeing towing companies and prison phone services. Public service commissioners are among the most powerful state officials that Louisiana voters elect, but are also among the most overlooked, with incumbents often enjoying easy re-election; the current incumbent in PSC District 3 has been in office for almost twenty years. Read last month’s edition of this guide for more background on the PSC and on the incumbent’s tenure.
One of the few surprises of the last round of elections was the successful effort to force the usually noncompetitive race for the Public Service Commission District 3 seat to a runoff. The longtime incumbent, Lambert Boissiere III (D), earned only 43% of the vote, over 17,500 votes short of securing re-election without a runoff. Much like in his last competitive matchup for PSC against Cleo Fields way back in 2004, Boissiere is counting on his local base in New Orleans, where he enjoys significant name recognition owing to his position in a prominent political family, to outweigh that of a Baton Rouge-based opponent in a sprawling district that includes large portions of both cities. According to his opponents, Boissiere has reportedly said that New Orleans has a stronger claim to authority over a district that, long ago, was contained entirely within city limits. However, Boissiere even failed to win on his home turf in the primary, where his challengers kept him 673 votes short of a majority. Evidently, the race is not as simple as competition between southeast Louisiana’s two urban centers.
That intercity competition which so thoroughly characterized Boissiere’s previous competitive election in 2004 is perhaps the least interesting or relevant detail of a race that has earned an unprecedented degree of national attention for an office that is notoriously as obscure as it is influential. National media has focused on the PSC’s ability to steer Louisiana toward tangible progress in combating climate change by mandating and promoting transition to renewable sources of power. “Big Green” organizations like the Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Fund have joined in the opposition to Boissiere, with the latter’s political arm putting up half a million dollars for attack ads criticizing the incumbent for running a campaign operation fueled almost entirely by the utilities he is meant to regulate. As much as Boissiere gripes that these criticisms come from “outside agitators” (if we had a nickel for every time we’d heard that one…), it looks like they landed with voters, if the primary results were any indication.
Boissiere has continued to accept large donations from Entergy despite the obvious conflict of interest they represent. In the primary campaign, Boissiere tenuously claimed these contributions have no effect on his voting record. If that’s the case, then it’s just a coincidence that he’s never voted against Entergy’s requests for additional fees or rate increases before the commission. Boissiere further protests his characterization as a defender of fossil fuels, countering that he’s been an advocate of renewable energy across his long career. But when voters think back across the last twenty years, it’s unlikely they’d find much to celebrate when it comes to Entergy’s performance, their skyrocketing bills, or Entergy’s foot-dragging on actually building renewable power sources. Boissiere, meanwhile, wants his prospective voters to believe him when he incorrectly claims that they pay lower power bills than almost anyone else in the country. In reality, Louisianans pay much, much more. This alone should disqualify Boissiere as an adequate representative of ratepayers and their needs, but instead it’s just one of a mountain of reasons why Boissiere is not qualified for the position he’s held for the better part of two decades, a mountain of reasons that made it an easy decision for our chapter to recommend against voting for Boissiere and for any other primary candidate by a unanimous vote in our November General Meeting.
Ardent Boissiere challenger Davante Lewis (D) of Baton Rouge narrowly edged out New Orleans’s Rev. Gregory Manning, who also ran in explicit opposition to Boissiere and his record, by just under 3,500 votes. After promising to do so at a primary campaign forum hosted by the Alliance for Affordable Energy, Manning has since endorsed Lewis at a campaign rally outside Entergy’s headquarters, unifying the two strongest Boissiere opponents’ bases of support. Former candidate Willie Jones has also endorsed Lewis. Lewis has refused any contributions from PSC-regulated companies or associates of those companies, wants to cap private utilities’ profits to prevent excessive payments, opposes utility shutoffs, and advocates for a full transition to renewables across the state’s entire electrical grid by 2035. Lewis and his campaign believe that his victory would secure a three-seat majority on the commission favorable to establishing for the first time a statewide renewable portfolio standard, or a mandate that utilities utilize more renewable power, which would include north Louisiana Democrat Commissioner Foster Campbell and Baton Rouge Republican Commissioner Craig Greene. These goals are ambitious, and Lewis would have to fight an uphill battle to secure them, but they go far beyond any of Boissiere’s stated priorities.
In addition to the indirect support provided by the previously mentioned anti-Boissiere campaigns, since securing a spot in the runoff Lewis has won the support of more grassroots-based environmental organizations Lead Locally, a smaller national organization that promotes candidates focused on climate and environmental justice in down ballot state and local races, and Sunrise Movement New Orleans. New Orleans-based organizations supporting Lewis also include Voters Organized to Educate and the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance. Celebrities with progressive views, such as Mark Ruffalo, have even asked their fans to donate to Lewis in tandem with Georgia Senator Rafael Warnock, who is also facing a tough December runoff. Perhaps most notably to readers and writers of this guide, Lewis recently secured the endorsement of the Baton Rouge DSA chapter, and officially joined DSA after the primary election. Baton Rouge DSA has accordingly coordinated support for Lewis’s campaign with Sunrise New Orleans and Lead Locally, with plans to organize volunteer voter outreach on Lewis’s behalf.
Lewis has been somewhat DSA-adjacent for some time, having previously participated in New Orleans chapter events and voiced support for this chapter’s Make Entergy Pay debt strike campaign. He has also voiced support for chapter priorities like the municipalization of Entergy New Orleans, and wants to promote public and cooperative models of utility ownership and management across the state.