Marlin Gusman and Susan Hutson face fierce runoff supercharged by campaign money | Local politics
During a primary campaign centered on his turbulent 17-year tenure, Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman largely avoided attacking Susan Hutson, the city’s former independent police comptroller.
But after missing an outright victory last weekend, Gusman took off his gloves with an ad accusing Hutson of paling with left-wing radicals. Before the second round on December 11, he tries to turn the race into a referendum on Hutson.
Whether Gusman succeeds – or Hutson executes his progressive colleague Jason Williams’ playbook for a second-round victory – could depend on a torrent of campaign money. Gusman made a lot of money from business interests, Sheriff’s Office vendors, and Dallas residents. Hutson’s meager campaign account is supported by spending from groups such as a Progressive Political Action Committee with mega-donors outside the state.
A swing of less than 2,000 votes – on 75,241 in the race for five – would have given Gusman a victory on November 13. Still, Ed Chervenak, a political scientist at the University of New Orleans, says the incumbent can’t take anything for granted.
“He should be worried,” Chervenak said. “You must be wondering why you couldn’t close the deal in the primary. And how strong is this progressive movement in the city? “
Gusman won 48% of the primary vote, compared to Hutson’s 35%. Still, there is no guarantee that next month’s electorate will remain static. He may also be worried about last year’s district attorney election. During that race, Williams barely clinched second place in the primary, but won 58% in the second round.
Like Williams, Hutson says she aims to overhaul the criminal justice system. Yet Hutson doesn’t have his record of electoral victories – he was a member of city council before becoming DA.
A striking weakness for Hutson in the primary was his poor performance in ridings with high percentages of black voters. The two candidates are black, but analyzes of Chervenak and The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate has shown a racial divide.
Generally speaking, support for Gusman was closely linked to race: the higher the percentage of black voters in a constituency, the more votes he won. This peaked in ridings where black voters made up over 90% of the electorate; in these areas, Gusman won over 60% of the vote.
But there was one glaring exception. Gusman won almost as many votes as Hutson in the city’s very white neighborhoods, occupying several constituencies in neighborhoods such as Lakeview. Although he followed Hutson in the whitest areas, it was by a relatively small margin: 43% to 37%.
Hutson’s strongest areas, on the other hand, were those with a slightly lower percentage of non-Black voters. These neighborhoods, including Faubourg Marigny, Bywater and Mid-City, have generally been among the most liberal in the city.
Chervenak said Hutson must expand his voting base in heavily black ridings to win.
Both parties hope to define the runoff script. Two days after the primary, Gusman issued a statement attacking Hutson.
“I ran against a network of radical extremists who invaded our city. These people fund and own my opponent, an individual who has never led more than a dozen people, ”he said. “This is not a job for the inexperienced.”
Hutson fired back with Williams’ support announcement Friday.
“The election of DA Williams less than a year ago was a turning point for this city and our criminal justice system,” Hutson said. “He showed we were fed up with a broken system that kept locking ours down and pretended the strategy improved safety in our neighborhoods, when we knew it wasn’t.”
The race for money
Gusman’s statement referred to the masses of money outside groups spent on Hutson. But the sheriff himself has amassed a lot of money over the years, often from salespeople in his office.
- Cleveland-based Ozanne Construction and its CEO sent at least $ 36,000 to the sheriff’s campaign. The company has received $ 4.3 million from the sheriff’s office for project management since 2017.
- An executive from Summit Food Services, based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, donated $ 1,000 to Gusman in May. The company has received $ 8.8 million since 2017.
- River Parish Disposal donated $ 35,500 to Gusman. The company has received $ 525,000 for dumpsters since 2017.
- Metairie-based law firm Chehardy Sherman Williams donated $ 10,000 to Gusman’s campaign. The company has recorded $ 324,000 since 2017.
- The Ehrhardt Group, a New Orleans-based public relations firm, donated $ 9,900 to the sheriff’s campaign committee. He has made $ 772,000 on the sheriff’s office since 2017.
The sheriff has also shown remarkable fundraising strength in Texas, where he has raised $ 181,550 since his last election. Gusman said he had friends and family in Dallas.
Gusman defended donations from vendors. “There is nothing unethical about my campaign reporting and / or public procurement,” he said. “My opponent, meanwhile, hides her support through money-funded political action committees in New York, Boston, San Francisco and Moscow, Idaho.”
The sheriff’s donor lists include a long list of New Orleans-based businesses and entrepreneurs, including $ 1,000 in June from Lucky Coin Co., a video poker machine company owned by the man. John Georges business, which also owns The Times-Picayune.
Overall, Gusman has raised $ 909,000 since 2014; he had no opponents on the ballot in 2017. He declared $ 178,000 in cash on October 24.
Hutson is far behind. She completed $ 37,000 in donations with a loan of $ 41,000 from herself.
Yet Hutson can count on the help of a constellation of groups, the most important of which is the PAC for Justice. They are both an asset and a potential liability.
Last year, the PAC spent $ 204,000 on Liberal presidential candidates. Between early July and late October of this year, PAC for Justice raised $ 248,000 and spent $ 144,000 on behalf of Hutson. By comparison, Gusman’s campaign committee spent $ 226,000 in 2021.
The chairman of the campaign committee, Sade Dumas, is also executive director of the Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition, which endorsed # 8toAbolition, a national platform that aims to “build towards a society without police and prisons, where communities are equipped to meet their needs. safety and well-being.
As an independent spending agency, PAC for Justice is prohibited from coordinating with Hutson. But Gusman threw himself on Hutson’s link with the reformist coalition via Dumas.
Gusman could not provide evidence that Hutson supports the abolition of prisons, but he said she was responsible for the views of his “de facto campaign”.
On Friday, Hutson announced a plan to expand the role of the sheriff’s office by deploying deputies on neighborhood “visibility patrols”.
In a statement, Hutson said she supports “funding for responsible, transparent and community-led law enforcement and prisons to deal with violence in the city, and I support funding for community-led solutions that will create a city with genuine public safety for all. “
Dumas said Gusman was trying to smear community organizers.
“He spent the primary pretending he was the progressive reformer,” Dumas said. “Now he is resorting to name calling because he knows that almost every community leader and expert in town who is proven in the fight for change and a better criminal justice system is against him.
Gusman also highlighted contributors outside the PAC. As of July, PAC has disclosed 34 donations averaging $ 9,356 each, including an Oklahoma oil heir who donated $ 50,000. More than half of PAC’s money comes from three out-of-state nonprofits that don’t disclose donors.
“If voters are to have a chance to hear Susan’s reform message, we need broad support from people who believe in safer constitutional prisons and access to justice, including many local donors who support our work, ”said Dumas.
Other groups help Hutson. Voters Organized to Educate, a nonprofit affiliated with Voice of the Experienced, has spent a lot on notice boards and deployed canvassers. The group did not file its required campaign fundraising reports. A spokesperson said Thursday he was “finalizing” them.
Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union is embarking on a “six-figure” campaign involving 50,000 senders. These shippers don’t approve of Hutson, but they highlight Gusman’s controversial plan to build an 89-bed “special needs” prison for people with mental and medical issues.
Editor-in-chief Jeff Adelson contributed to this report.