Early voting sign

Early voting started on Saturday, Nov. 2 and continues through Saturday, Nov. 9 across Louisiana. Voters will choose a governor, a state Supreme Court justice, state lawmakers and many local officials. They also will decide critically important local propositions, including taxes and a City Charter amendment in New Orleans. We do not endorse in judicial elections, but we do offer our recommendations in other important races — and we urge all our readers to vote in this very important election. Louisiana’s future is on the line. Every vote counts.

Governor

John Bel Edwards

John Bel Edwards has earned a second term as Louisiana’s governor. After inheriting a $2 billion deficit from former Gov. Bobby Jindal, he worked with Republicans as well as Democrats in the state Legislature to produce a $500 million surplus in less than four years. That surplus now can be used to reduce state debt, shore up some of Louisiana’s crumbling infrastructure and continue repairing our coastline.

Edwards also expanded Medicaid, which made health care available to nearly half a million working Louisianans. That decision, because of federal funding for Medicaid, helped balance the state budget — and saved lives. He also built bipartisan support for increased investment in early childhood education, a much-needed pay raise for teachers, and a series of criminal justice reforms that have reduced crime and saved money.

His opponent, Republican mega-donor Eddie Rispone, has been deliberately vague about his plans for Louisiana’s future. He has consistently avoided questionnaires and debates — even those sponsored by his natural allies in the business community. It’s clear that Rispone either doesn't have specific, thoughtful positions on critical issues or he harbors plans that he knows would be extremely unpopular. Either way, Rispone’s election would be an unwise U-turn on Louisiana’s road to fiscal stability and economic prosperity. We urge our readers to re-elect John Bel Edwards as governor.

Secretary of State

Kyle Ardoin

Incumbent Kyle Ardoin won this office in a special election last year and has served well since then. The Secretary of State’s office is a key resource for attorneys, businesses and citizens needing to access important records and data. The holder of this office also serves as Louisiana’s chief elections officer. The office has functioned well for decades and continues to do so. Ardoin has earned a full term.

State Senator, District 3

Joe Bouie

In two terms representing House District 97, Joseph Bouie served as a floor leader for Gov. John Bel Edwards and fought for criminal justice reform, a higher state minimum wage and letting municipalities set their own minimum wages. He also championed legislation establishing equal pay for women. Bouie seeks to replace term-limited state Sen. JP Morrell, who has been a leader in the Senate on these and other important issues. New Orleans needs a leader to fill Morrell’s shoes in the Senate, and we believe Bouie is the candidate to do that.

State Representative, District 91

Robert McKnight

Robert McKnight grew up in Gert Town and aspires to represent one of the city’s most diverse districts, which runs from the Irish Channel through Central City and into Hollygrove. He’s a staff attorney in the Orleans Public Defenders office who has worked in both the Louisiana and Texas state senates, and as a staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives. McKnight is a strong voice for LGBT and women’s rights. He also champions another teacher pay raise, further criminal justice reform, working to replace “school to prison” with “school to industry” programs, and a freeze in property taxes. We recommend Robert McKnight for District 91.

State Representative, District 94

Stephanie Hilferty

Stephanie Hilferty seeks a second term in this district, which straddles Orleans and Jefferson parishes near the lake. A former neighborhood association president, Hilferty helped secure state funding to repair major streets and called for improved accountability at the Sewerage and Water Board, a state-created agency. A Republican, she puts her district and her constituents first. We support Stephanie Hilferty for re-election.

State Representative, District 97

Matthew Willard

A lifelong resident of Gentilly, Matthew Willard is an elected member of the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee and a leader in the Seabrook Neighborhood Association. He supports letting New Orleans establish its own minimum wage and increase the homestead exemption, and he will fight to restore funding to mental health and substance abuse services. He serves on the board of Jason’s House, a nonprofit that helps finance low-cost housing for men following rehabilitation for chemical dependency. At age 30, he already has an impressive record of community service.

State Representative, District 98

Aimee Adatto Freeman

Aimee Adatto Freeman is a Tulane University adjunct professor, small business owner and civic activist who will bring a pragmatic approach to solving the state’s many problems. Her priorities as a state lawmaker will be pay equity, more money for infrastructure and early childhood education, and improved public safety. She also says she will work to reform auto insurance laws to make coverage more affordable.

State Representative, District 99

Adonis Expose

Businessman and RTA compliance manager Adonis Expose has worked with officials at the city and state level in his professional capacity. His years as a leader (and former king in 2017) of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club and other civic organizations attest to his community service. His priorities in the Legislature will be bringing more retail, public transportation and affordable housing to the district, and pushing for more money for early childhood education and a higher minimum wage.

New Orleans Propositions

City Charter Amendment: NO

This proposed amendment to the City Charter aims to correct longstanding constitutional defects in the provisions governing the city’s Human Relations Committee. Unfortunately, many questions remain unanswered about how the proposed commission would operate. For example, what qualifications would commissioners be required to have to serve on this important body? What would be the extent — and limits — of the commission’s jurisdiction and authority? What appellate process would govern its decisions? We strongly support the concept of a Human Rights Commission for New Orleans, but citizens deserve to know in advance precisely how such a commission would function before they embed it in the City Charter. We respectfully urge our readers to vote “No” on this proposition — but we hope the mayor and council members bring it back in the future, with all the specifics available for voters to review.

$500 Million Bond Issue — YES

The city proposes to issue up to $500 million in new capital improvement bonds without raising taxes. The city’s capital planning process will determine the precise allocation, but the expectation is $250 million for drainage and streets, $225 million for public facilities and public safety equipment, and $25 million for affordable housing. That process requires public input and City Council approval. Citizens across New Orleans want more spending on streets and drainage improvements, and this proposition represents a step toward meeting those demands.

3-Mill Property Tax: NO

This is a new tax that comes at an inopportune time. Property owners in most of New Orleans recently saw their assessments spike — some more than doubling or tripling — and Mayor LaToya Cantrell also wants the council to “roll forward” at least part of the city’s existing millage. The vote on a roll forward won’t come until after the Nov. 16 election, which leaves voters in the dark and understandably anxious (if not angry) about property taxes. We think the mayor and the council should first decide whether a roll forward is necessary, then adopt a 2020 budget. As it stands, five existing millages will come up for renewal next year, and the mayor is considering a drainage fee. That’s enough to ask of voters already.

Short-Term Rental Tax: YES

This proposition should be an easy “yes” for all voters. It would authorize a permanent tax (up to 6.75%) on short-term rentals. State law requires the city to dedicate 75% of the revenue to a special infrastructure fund and 25% to the private, nonprofit New Orleans & Company to promote tourism. The city has informally agreed to dedicate 75% of the infrastructure money to the Sewerage & Water Board and use the remaining 25% for the Department of Public Works. This proposal is part of the mayor’s “fair share” package approved by state lawmakers. Best of all, it would be paid by tourists, not locals.

Jefferson Parish Elections

Councilman District 2

Michael O’Brien

This district straddles the Mississippi River and includes neighborhoods that have been adversely affected by odors and other problems associated with the parish landfill and chemical plants on the West Bank. Businessman Michael O’Brien emphasizes air quality and overall quality of life throughout Jefferson. His priorities will be improved drainage, reducing air and noise pollution, and monitoring the parish landfill and chemical plants. He is endorsed by the Alliance for Good Government and the Jefferson Parish Republican Executive Committee.

Councilman District 3

No endorsement

This is a commentary from Gambit, produced independently from reporters at the paper.