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 February primary.
Runoff: State Representative, District 93
This runoff is the conclusion of the most farcical deliberate accident of election scheduling in recent memory, in which the first round was held on Endymion Saturday, when parades split the district in half for all of voting day - Tucks going down St. Charles in the morning, and Endymion in on Canal in the evening. Turnout was, as predicted, pathetic, with only 2,041 managing to make it to the polls - barely over 6% of eligible voters. For our part, we owe you a post-Mardi Gras mea culpa. Since we were also too preoccupied with Carnival to get too invested in yet another election, we put out a truncated voter guide on social media rather than our typical long-form.
State Senator Royce Duplessis threw the chum that started the feeding frenzy for this seat when he vacated after winning the State Senate District 5 seat, itself also vacated when former Senator Karen Carter Peterson relinquished it to bear down for her trial over misuse of campaign funds (which ultimately landed her a prison sentence). The winner of this runoff will serve for a term of less than a year before another trip down the campaign trail in the October state election cycle, in a district substantially altered by redistricting.
The candidate with the most established support is Sybil “Fox” Richardson (D), better known as Fox Rich from her and her husband’s radio show, who enjoys the endorsements of Congressman Troy Carter for Louisiana’s Second District, At-Large New Orleans City Councilmembers JP Morrell and Helena Moreno, District B City Councilmember Lesli Harris, State Representatives Delisha Boyd and Jason Hughes, and, most importantly, her would-be predecessor, Royce Duplessis. This would have been perhaps unimaginable even just a few years ago, as Richardson and her husband were once incarcerated after an attempted robbery. The story of Richardson’s life to that point and her subsequent efforts to secure her husband’s freedom became well known through her book and documentary Time. Richardson even once openly advocated for the abolition of prisons; however, this is notably absent from any of her current campaign and publicity materials, which instead highlight more generically “public safety” and “equal justice for all” with regards to criminal justice. Her campaign did not respond to a request for clarification on her current position on prison abolition.
Given Richardson’s history and activism, voters were left to wonder why Voters Organized to Educate, the electoral arm of incarcerated persons advocacy and criminal justice reform organization VOTE, not only kept Richardson at arm’s length, but endorsed her opponent. VOTE finally answered in the eleventh hour of the campaign with an article published online by Big Easy Magazine, in which the writers accuse Richardson of various wrongdoings ranging from misrepresenting the crimes she had previously committed, embellishing her military service record, unscrupulous business practices while selling used cars, and, most importantly, absence from many of VOTE’s campaigns. Many of these complaints read as rather tangential at best, but VOTE’s missive represents the most thorough explanation available of the pervasive skepticism of Richardson on the part of various generally progressive-minded groups and individuals, presenting her as a self-interested career-builder with little regard for collective solidarity.
In response to the rise in negative attention toward her campaign, Richardson pulled out of scheduled televised debates and responded with her own Big Easy Magazine letter admonishing what she saw as a “fake news” “smear campaign” against her and “tacky, and overly aggressive behavior” from her opponent. In her letter, Richardson decried VOTE’s perhaps unseemly criticisms of her criminal record with underhanded attacks in kind, just not on her opponent himself, but against VOTE founders Norris Henderson and Bruce Reilly’s own criminal records.This race could have been an opportunity to move away from negative campaigning that dehumanizes candidates based on criminal charges they had already atoned for with both hard time and acts of service - unfortunately it instead shows how far we are from a world where the formerly incarcerated can build new lives without having to constantly prove themselves to a society that judges them on their criminal record above all else. The debate over each camp’s respective criminal histories has clouded any serious discussion of policy in this race.
Alonzo Knox (D) most recently ran for New Orleans City Council, District C, coming in fourth in a race eventually won by Freddie King III. In addition to VOTE, Knox counts on the support of Sheriff Susan Hutson, progressive state Democratic Party organizer Lynda Woolard, recently-elected Public Service Commissioner Davante Lewis, the historic Black newspaper Louisiana Weekly, and former Councilmember Jackie Clarkson. While Knox does not have the same level of establishment support as Richardson, he also sports the endorsement of the influential Louisiana Restaurant Association, which represents the interests of employers in the food service industry, as well as the Police Association of New Orleans, and formerly worked for the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation. Knox is a Marine veteran and owns Backatown Coffee Parlor.
In contrast to his opponent, Knox has refused donations from prison contractors and the bail bonds industry, according to VOTE’s candidate surveys. His campaign materials feature immediate-term policy positions for the April legislative session, such as increased funding for mental health and addiction care to address the root causes of crime, increased teacher pay, and extending parole eligibility to those who have served twenty years of a life sentence; unfortunately he also supports sinking even more resources in reactive policing, albeit with the caveat that those funds should go towards “rape kits, ballistic and dna testing, and other crime solving tools.” Hopefully, that would not include even more surveillance technology that is already subject to abuse by overzealous police.
Judge, Civil District Court, Division B
Civil District Court handles civil and domestic litigation. Domestic cases include abuse, divorces, child custody disputes, and disputes over succession and wills, etc, while civil cases are cases in which one party is suing another for damages. They may arise from many situations, including accidents, breaches of contract, and allegations of fraud. This is a six-year term, with no term limits.
Stephanie Bridges (D) makes her return to the electoral stage after she was the runner-up for City Council District C in 2021, which she lost in a runoff to now-Councilmember Freddie King III. Bridges has run for judge once before, when she ran unsuccessfully for the Criminal Court Section K seat. She is a West Bank resident and lawyer who provides free notary services at the Algiers library.
Bridges was briefly unable to campaign as she fought off a disqualification for failure to file taxes, a maneuver that candidates’ political opponents often employ in the hopes of eliminating competition before election day. In this case, allies of District Attorney Jason Williams pursued the disqualification for reasons unclear to us. Bridges was ultimately successful in contesting her disqualification, and was reinstated to the ballot.
Marissa A. Hutabarat (D) is currently the City Court Judge for Section B, a position she has held since 2021. In that role she has served as one of the better eviction court judges, ensuring that tenants know their rights - such as their right to counsel - something unfortunately rare for eviction cases.
Hutabarat is politically well-connected, and accordingly has the endorsement of several established political figures within the city: Congressman Troy Carter, City Councilmembers JP Morrell, Helena Moreno, Eugene Green, Lesli Harris, Joe Giarrusso, and Freddie King, state Senators Jimmy Harris, Royce Duplessis, Gary Carter, and Joseph Bouie, state Representatives Delisha Boyd, Candace Newell, Matthew Willard, Jason Hughes, and Aimee Adatto Freeman, and Clerks of Court Donna Glapion, Lisa Ray Diggs, Darren Lombard, and Chelsea Richard Napoleon.
David Jefferson “Jeff” Dye (D) is a newcomer to the electoral arena. He is currently the in-house lawyer for the Lakefront Management Authority, which operates and maintains public recreational facilities along Lake Pontchartrain, as well as the Orleans Marina and Lakefront Airport. He has the support of the Alliance for Good Government, and tied for first in votes from members of the New Orleans Bar Association with Hutabarat.
Judge, Criminal District Court, Section A
Criminal District Court handles almost all criminal cases in Orleans Parish. Thirteen elected judges serve six-year terms. This will be a runoff to replace retired Judge Laurie A. White. The runners-up will recycle their campaign materials in the fall to run for Judge Karen Herman’s vacant seat.
District Attorney Jason Williams ran on a progressive platform and then has steadily backed off those commitments as they’ve become inconvenient for his political career. He’s transferring juveniles to adult court, he’s all-in on the unjust money-bail system, and he’s revived the Draconian habitual offender statute that Louisiana’s Chief Justice called the “modern manifestation” of post-Reconstruction laws “designed to re-enslave African Americans.” Specifically, the habitual offender statute (aka “multiple bill”) uses a person’s prior felony convictions, for which they’ve already been fully punished, and multiplies the sentence for the current charge. For defendants, it means that if you’ve got prior felony convictions, then by challenging the latest charge against you, you’re risking decades in prison, or possibly life. Innocent people plead guilty to crimes they didn’t commit because they just don’t want to risk the exorbitant prison time.
Judges control their docket. They control how often people have to come to court, when and how discovery gets turned over, when to deny continuances for cases that are dragging on, and when to grant continuances for cases with the potential for mutually agreed upon resolution. They have some control over bail and sentencing, they have some power to reign in DA overcharging and abuse, and they have almost complete control over whether people get treated with respect and dignity.
Born and raised on the West Bank, Leon Roché (D) was at the Orleans Public Defenders for 13 years before moving into private practice. This experience earned him endorsements from formerly incarcerated persons group VOTE and the public defenders of NOLA Defenders. He’s running on preventing wrongful convictions, which he says he’s uniquely positioned to do because of his legal experience, including over 100 trials in the courthouse. He says he joined the public defender’s office because he wanted to practice the type of law that affects people in his community.
In our Q&A session with Roché, he identified convictions based on the testimony of a single witness, without corroborating evidence, as a persistent problem in criminal court. With regards to bail reform, he pledged to diminish the cash bail system by setting low bonds with conditions like house arrest, getting a job, continuing school, or checking in with pretrial service agencies (Louisiana law does require some bond be sent on certain charges), keeping only the most dangerous in custody. When we asked him about scheduling and discovery, he mentioned keeping Zoom available for people to juggle work and childcare, and pledged to enforce discovery timelines for the state to hand evidence over to the defense.
When asked about police surveillance, Roché responded with skepticism of many of the forensics that scientists outside of the state’s carceral system refer to as “junk science,” such as facial recognition and ShotSpotter’s unreliable and often misused gunshot-location technology. He’s also skeptical of police officer testimony, citing one case he was involved in where a cop testified that a dap handshake was a hand-to-hand drug transaction, another where police indicated that looking at officers was suspicious behavior, and yet another where a suspect was suspicious because he was not looking at officers.
Roché floats alternative sentencing for people with non-violent convictions, pointing to drug court, mental health court, or re-entry court, and that jail should be reserved for the most heinous offenses. While there are mandatory sentences on some charges, and Jason Williams’s recent resurrection of the habitual offender statute will increase minimum and maximum sentences, Roché invites appeals that would legally allow a judge to sentence below a mandatory minimum in exceptional cases. It’s not an across-the-board solution, but it is a necessary check on aggressive prosecution.
Roché points to his lack of endorsement from notable elected officials as a sign that he’s not beholden to any politician, which may indicate a degree of judicial independence should he be elected, saying he “would rather stand on principle and not get re-elected.” He has won the endorsements of the AFL-CIO, the United Teachers of New Orleans, and Voters Organized to Educate (VOTE). Roché and Simone Levine have mutually agreed to endorse one another in a runoff election.
Simone Levine (D) has experience on just about every side of the criminal legal system: as a criminal defense attorney, a deputy at the New Orleans Independent Police Monitor, and as a prosecutor in the District Attorney’s Office under Jason Williams. Levine is perhaps best known from her time as executive director of Court Watch NOLA, where she was involved in stopping then-DA Leon Cannizzaro’s fake subpoenas and incarceration of crime victims. She was a key part of the People’s DA Coalition that carried Jason Williams to the DA’s office.
At District Attorney Williams’s office, Levine has handled crimes against women, and violent crimes in general. In our Q&A forum with her, Levine disagreed with the District Attorney over his use of habitual offender laws - something he had promised not to employ while on his campaign - along with some of Williams’ other policies as DA that aren’t in line with his campaign rhetoric. While Levine says that she is not in a place to change those policies in her current role, she says the relationships and experience she has with the DA’s office would give her a unique ability to work with the office as judge to avoid unnecessarily punitive actions. And like Roché, Levine says she would lean on alternative sentencing options like mental health and addiction services rather than defaulting to jail time across the board.
Levine, like many judges and candidates for judge previously, has made transparency in the courtroom a major part of her platform. Her means of securing such transparency would include preserving the use of live cameras and Zoom in court, a COVID-era innovation that some judges have worked to eliminate. Levine also believes that efficiency in court is more of a question of allowing both victims and defendants to be heard without taking them away from work or school for a disproportionate amount of time, rather than merely delivering verdicts quickly without regard for the broader impacts.
Levine carries the endorsements of Sheriff Susan Hutson, Public Service Commissioner Davante Lewis, current state representative Aimee Adatto Freeman and former representative Neil Abramson, retired judges Michael Bagneris and Miriam Waltzer, the New Orleans Firefighters’ Association, the Police Association of New Orleans, and the Independent Women’s Organization. Levine and Roché have agreed to mutually endorse one another in a runoff election.
Diedre Pierce Kelly (D) currently serves as District E City Councilmember Oliver Thomas’s chief of staff. When her boss isn’t in the council chambers, Thomas is busy taking it upon himself to kick unhoused people off of street curbs, trashing their personal belongings, and bragging about it on Twitter. He’s taken a tough-on-crime approach since joining the Council, having evidently not softened his judgment after himself spending time incarcerated on bribery charges. While the moral weight of her boss’s actions in office do not necessarily transmit onto Kelly, she has chosen to stick by Thomas through it all, and we’d be remiss not to mention it.
Kelly is an experienced political operator, having worked previously for state Senator Wesley Bishop and current Congressman Troy Carter during his tenure in the state senate. She also has the unfortunate distinction of being a former employee of recently-ousted Sheriff Marlin Gusman, a man responsible for several atrocities, up to and including needless avoidable deaths inflicted upon incarcerated individuals during and after Hurricane Katrina. The bulk of her political service, however, has been as a lieutenant to local political machine boss Ike Spears, a close ally of former Congressman and kingmaker Cedric Richmond.
A former Texas parole officer herself, Kelly sports the endorsements of all of the politicians who want more surveillance, more cops, and more carceral responses to social problems. The list includes Congressman Troy Carter, state Senators Royce Duplessis, Joe Bouie, and Jimmy Harris, Councilmembers Oliver Thomas, Helena Moreno, Freddie King III, Joe Giarrusso, Eugene Green, and Leslie Harris, state representatives Delisha Boyd, Jason Hughes, and Candace Newell, and, for some reason, even Attorney General Jeff Landry-affiliated Bayou Mama Bear, NoLaToya recall campaign attorney, and daughter of former DA Leon Canizzaro, Laura Canizzaro Rodrigue. Oof.