A political consulting firm that nailed the outcome of the Orleans Parish sheriff’s race earlier this year has released a series of recent surveys with some interesting results for New Orleans candidates.
Among them, a poll of 441 likely voters has Criminal District Court Judge Frank Marullo, the longest-serving judge in Louisiana, coming up just short in his bid to avoid a runoff.
The poll from Win Partners shows Marullo squaring off in December against local attorney Marie Williams, who tossed a wrench into the race when she recorded a meeting with Marullo last month. In it, the 74-year-old judge agreed to back her for a magistrate commissioner’s post, assuming she’d exit the race.
But the poll also showed former Orleans prosecutor Graham Bosworth within striking distance of a runoff, and Marullo within the 4.7 percent margin of error of winning outright. The poll shows Marullo taking 47.5 percent of the vote, with Williams at 27.8 percent and Bosworth at 24.7 percent.
Meanwhile, the increasingly contentious Civil District Court race between incumbent Lloyd Medley Jr. and Nakisha Ervin-Knott is nearly deadlocked, with Ervin-Knott at 50.6 percent, according to a survey of 566 likely voters.
Incumbent Chris Bruno is barely leading challenger Ruth Ramsey, 52.8 percent to 47.2 percent, for the Division F seat, despite outspending Ramsey by a 3-1 margin in the latest reporting period.
David Huynh, of Win Partners, said the group isn’t working for any of the campaigns in the races for which it released poll results. He said the surveys were conducted from Oct. 24-27, with participants culled from voter rolls. The results were then adjusted to account for the expected racial breakdown at the polls. Huynh said the expected vote is 57 percent black, 38 percent white and 5 percent “other.”
Election Day is Tuesday.
Win Partners predicted Sheriff Marlin Gusman’s primary win this year within a half of a percentage point, then came within 1.5 points of the final outcome in Gusman’s dominating runoff victory over longtime former Sheriff Charles Foti.
In the other Criminal Court race, the group sees former prosecutor Byron Williams headed for an easy win over Municipal Court Judge Paul Sens in the race for the vacant Section G seat.
Williams figures to win with 64.4 percent of the vote, according to the survey of 449 likely voters. The margin of error was 4.6 percent.
The group also polled the Juvenile Court race pitting incumbent Yolanda King, who was indicted this year and is now barred from taking the bench, against five challengers — including four other women.
That poll predicts a runoff, with former interim City Councilman Ernest “Freddie” Charbonnet leading the pack with 24.2 percent of the vote, attorney Desiree Cook-Calvin at 21.1 percent and King in third place with 18.2 percent. Following them with 17.2 percent is family lawyer Cynthia Samuel, who lost in the primary for the same seat last year, then launched a complaint that prodded King’s criminal prosecution for allegedly lying about where she lived.
In the race for the second domestic section of Civil District Court, the survey predicts another runoff. It shows Bruno’s longtime minute clerk, Monique Barial, slightly ahead of family lawyer Janet Ahern, 35.8 percent to 34.5 percent, with the third candidate, family lawyer Michelle Scott Bennett, at 29.7 percent.
Tammany sheriff stumps for aide
In the increasingly heated campaign for district attorney for St. Tammany and Washington parishes, critics of presumptive front-runner Brian Trainor have said he’s too closely linked with Sheriff Jack Strain, for whom Trainor has worked since 2010. Trainor is Strain’s chief deputy, though he has taken a leave during the campaign.
Far from trying to minimize that connection, Trainor is embracing it. This week, he released an ad featuring Strain. In the commercial, Strain sits in front of a house and lauds Trainor for “putting criminals in jail,” adding that Trainor “has zero tolerance for public corruption” — an apparent dig at current DA Walter Reed, who opted not to seek re-election amid a federal grand jury probe.
Strain has faced some criticism himself: A work-release program he hired his former campaign treasurer to manage was shut down earlier this year after a number of escapes, and the state’s inspector general is now investigating. But the Trainor camp is betting Strain, who has been sheriff since 1996 and who ran unopposed in 2011, will be a boon to his chances.
Facebook post on DA’s race spurs flap
The sparring over the DA’s race is especially intense in St. Tammany’s insular legal community.
And much of the battle is playing out on social media.
The latest flap began Thursday when Slidell attorney Charles Branton posted a link on his Facebook page to Strain’s new TV ad in support of Trainor. Branton, who supports Roy Burns, one of Trainor’s three opponents, said that with the ad, “the good ol’ boy network has come out into the open.”
He continued: “A vote for Brian Trainor is a vote for the good ol’ boys.”
Though he likes Trainor, Branton wrote, he doesn’t believe Trainor has the experience and independence to be an effective DA.
That was too much for Craig Robichaux, an attorney with Talley, Anthony, Hughes and Knight, which represents the Sheriff’s Office. Robichaux also has donated $5,000 to the Trainor campaign.
“Chuck, you’re so full of crap,” Robichaux wrote. “Brian is the only person qualified for the job.”
Robichaux said Trainor’s opponents would struggle to work with law enforcement after years of defense work.
But it was what he said next that raised eyebrows.
“Next time you go to court, don’t let me see you asking the ‘good ole boys’ for diversion or a lessor (sic) sentence for your alleged criminal clients,” Robichaux wrote. “One of those ‘good ole boys’ might just tell you no.”
Branton’s response: “So you are now implying that my clients will not receive fair treatment if Brian Trainor is elected?”
Robichaux denied he had said that. “I would suspect if you knew (Trainor) you know he would never violate his oath of office,” he wrote.
The exchange continued through several posts, one of which included a screenshot of Robichaux’s riposte accompanied by another comment from Branton:
“Here is a clear message from Craig Robichaux to me. Brian Trainor has said that he will treat people fairly if elected. However it is time for these types of threats to see the light.”
Trainor himself eventually joined the public fray, posting a message he said he had sent privately to Branton.
“Chuck, you and I have known each other for years and you know that I am not a vindictive person,” Trainor wrote. “You also know that I treat everyone equal. If I am fortunate enough to serve as District Attorney, my door will always remain open to you.
Compiled by staff writers John Simerman and Faimon A. Roberts III