2019 Louisiana Democratic Socialist Voting Guide
4-year term, limited to 2 terms
Louisiana stands on the verge of falling under the most aggressively right-wing government to hold power here in many decades. (And that is, indeed, saying something.) In the legislative primaries, Republicans have already secured a two-thirds majority in the Senate and stand to gain similar control of the House after the runoffs. The consequences of these elections will be dire regardless of who sits in the Governor’s office. But if that person is Eddie Rispone, the scope of the disaster would be magnified immensely.
Rispone’s program constitutes an all-out assault on Louisiana’s poor and working classes for the exclusive benefit of its wealthiest. He seems intent on reversing recent criminal justice reforms aimed at reducing Louisiana’s obscene incarceration rate. In response to the summer 2019 “Abolish ICE” marches protesting the ongoing terrorizing of immigrant communities, Risponse took out an ad in the newspaper vowing to protect ICE, build the wall, end illegal immigration, end New Orleans “sanctuary city” status (which doesn’t actually exist), and vowing to “crack down — HARD — on every single criminal illegal and terrorist gang.” He is devoted to no less than an authoritarian police state.
While Rispone believes in the state’s sacrosanct power to terrorize people, he is happy to discharge its other duties, like providing education, healthcare, and a healthy environment for Louisianans. Along with his fellow industrialist and “mentor” Lane Grigsby, Rispone has heavily supported efforts to privatize public education in Louisiana through charter schools and “voucher” schemes to fund private schools with public money.
Rispone has proposed a Medicaid “enrollment freeze,” which is a passive sounding way to remove people from the rolls and deny them health care. He claims to be concerned about “fraud and abuse,” but this is merely another racist dog whistle. Everyone has a basic right to healthcare, and we reject false fears over who is the most "deserving" of it. Mega-capitalists like Rispone benefit when workers are kept compliant through desperation. He has no interest in seeing to it that people have basic necessities like health care unless they grovel to an employer for it first. During the final debate of the primary, Rispone answered a question about affordable housing by saying people needed to get jobs.
Rispone is a multimillionaire owner of a construction firm. He is among the largest profiteers from the pollution of Louisiana’s air and water, the poisoning of its people, and the acceleration of the global climate crisis. This means he has a personal financial interest in preserving the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP) which subsidizes these activities at the expense of Louisiana’s local governments and school boards. It also means he has a personal and class-based interest in shielding contractors like the negligent and exploitative firms responsible for the collapsed Hard Rock hotel from liability. When Rispone bellyaches about wanting to restrain the power of “trial lawyers” though new tort reforms, he is specifically proposing that we deny justice to the Hard Rock victims.
The incoming Republican supermajorities will advance much of this agenda on their own. But Rispone would supercharge it. A second John Bel Edwards administration would at least offer some mild resistance. With Rispone as governor, Republicans would call for a constitutional convention where they could hardwire their program into place for a generation. Governor Rispone could also rubber-stamp a Republican gerrymander of legislative districts after the 2020 Census. Governor Edwards would not make that as easy for them.
This is not to say anyone should be pleased to see Edwards return to Baton Rouge. Rather, it is our only choice at this time. We live under a predatory capitalist oligarchy. It holds power because our political establishment is petty, detached, and corrupt. Our working class majorities are fragmented and confounded by manipulative bosses and cynical politicians. They are antagonized by Republicans and condescended to by Democrats. We are unblinking in our critique of this system because it is our purpose to overturn it. We want to be honest about the breadth and depth of the problem in order to dismantle it and build something better — together. We are already working on that, and we invite you to join us.
This fall, DSA members from New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Southwest Louisiana pooled resources, canvassed neighborhoods and rang phones across the state to support Marguerite Green’s campaign for Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry. The Green campaign didn’t make the runoff, but it did garner 20% of the vote—vastly outperforming two other Democrats in a statewide race, with no party infrastructure or professional fundraising apparatus to carry it. And that was just four months of collective effort. That’s 259,729 votes won just on the strength of people believing in a better world. The people of Louisiana have suffered greatly. But if the Green campaign is a sign of things to come they don’t have to suffer forever. Hopefully, they won’t have to suffer Eddie Rispone.
Secretary of State
4-year term, no term limits
As the third highest ranking official in Louisiana, the Secretary of State oversees a number of administrative tasks, including the registration of businesses and record archiving. Most importantly, the Secretary is in charge of all elections. Incumbent Kyle Ardoin (R) initially stepped into the office last year after his former supervisor Tom Schedler stepped down amid allegations of sexual assault. Ardoin then defeated Gwen Collins-Greenup (D) in a special election held last December. The two are set to face each other after Ardoin secured 41.06% of votes in the primary, with Collins-Greenup following at 33.78%.
Ardoin states a commitment to “stop any attempts to compromise our democratic process,” but he has opposed attempts to waive public transportation fees on election day, so Lousianans dependent on public transportation face additional barriers to voting. Recently, he resolved to “fight the radicals who wish to change our election laws.” Democracy demands a steward of elections committed to ensuring the right to vote is inviolable. Louisiana voters deserve a more committed steward than Kyle Ardoin. 36,000 people with felony convictions were supposed to have their voting rights restored this year in accordance with a recent change to state law, but only 581 have registered, indicating some procrastination by the incumbent. To top it all off, Ardoin has been identified by Trump as “a national leader of voter security” at a rally in Lake Charles in October.
Collins-Greenup did well last election, considering her opponent outraised her by a large margin. That she has agreed with conservative counterparts about requiring photo IDs for elections causes us to question her readiness to push back against increasingly aggressive voter supression tactics, but she has combatted Republican fearmongering regarding undocumented immigrants voting. With a history of community organizing, she is an advocate for increasing Louisiana’s low voter-participation rate “through voter education, community outreach, and social media” which strikes us as rather weak tea given the all-out attack on democracy emerging from the right. Automatic voter registration is a good bare minimum for restructuring our democracy.
Associate Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court
District 1: North Shore, Jefferson Parish, Part of Orleans Parish
10-year term, no term limits
Since our most recent voter guide was released at the end of September, the complexion of this race has clarified quite a bit. The Advocate reported that this election is a proxy war over the legacy lawsuits against the oil and gas companies for the damage they caused to the coast. So far, one oil company that caused an estimated four percent of the land loss attributed to oil and gas pipelines has already settled for $100 million. That means billions of dollars are still at stake. These lawsuits are likely to reach the Louisiana Supreme Court at some point, so the trial attorneys and oil and gas industry are investing into the District 1 race accordingly. Each candidate has raised more than a half-million dollars, largely from two groups with a dog in the fight.
Will Crain (R) is the oil and gas candidate. He’s endorsed by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and Louisiana Oil and Gas PAC. Industry lobbyist Jim Harris, who can usually be found advocating for toxic chemical plants to locate in black communities in Cancer Alley, has been using his tort reform PAC Louisiana Coalition for Common Sense to push for Crain. In Louisiana and everywhere else in the U.S., “tort reform” is code for “giving powerful corporations the right to harm people.”
The trial attorneys favor Hans Liljeberg (R). Liljeberg is a former prosecutor and civil attorney who currently sits on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. His website prominently features his seven daughters and his support from “Women for Liljeberg” yet, like Crain, he is opposed to abortion rights. Liljeberg is backed by powerful trial attorney John Carmouche, who helped raise $2 million to put John Bel Edwards in office in 2015. So in a sense, the Supreme Court race is just a miniature version of the governor’s race with the oil and gas industry representing Rispone and Crain and their main antagonists, the trial attorneys, supporting Edwards and Liljeberg. This is not to say that Edwards and Liljeberg are not proponents of oil and gas, just that they haven’t received the same level of support as their opponents.