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Slidell casino project, New Orleans incumbents soundly rejected by voters

Susan Hutson speaks to supporters after being declared the winner in the race for Orleans...
Susan Hutson speaks to supporters after being declared the winner in the race for Orleans Parish Sheriff on Saturday (Dec. 11).(WVUE-Fox 8)
Published: Dec. 12, 2021 at 12:23 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - For casino developers and New Orleans incumbents, Saturday (Dec. 11) proved to be a rough election night.

St. Tammany Parish voters rejected, by nearly a 2-1 margin, a casino-resort project proposed for Slidell. Despite a multimillion-dollar advertising barrage from casino developers and opponents, less than 60,000 voters (an estimated 32 percent turnout of those eligible) cast ballots to determine the fate of the proposed Camelia Bay Resort and Casino project.

By a margin of 63 percent to 37 percent, those voters said they did not want the casino built on the Northshore.

“We always felt we were ahead in the polls, but we did not expect it to be this huge,” said Rick Franzo, president of the Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany Parish, one of the groups that opposed the project.

“It was an incredible grassroots effort. We got the message out where (developers) couldn’t.”

Grassroots enthusiasm also proved the difference in the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s race, where four-term incumbent Marlin Gusman was unable to capitalize on challenger Susan Hutson’s lack of experience. Hutson, the former Independent Police Monitor, squeezed out an upset victory by fewer than 4,000 votes in a race that drew a turnout of just 22.4 percent of New Orleans’ eligible voters.

Hutson portrayed herself as a criminal justice reformer taking on the law-and-order establishment in Gusman, and was endorsed by District Attorney Jason Williams. In her victory speech, she evoked Star Wars imagery and referred to inmates of the Orleans Justice Center jail she will run as “neighbors.”

“Tonight, I’m a Jedi Knight for justice,” Hutson told supporters after being declared the victor by a margin of 53-47 percent. But we know that the Empire is going to try to strike back. We have to be vigilant at all times. No Death Stars on our horizon. We have to be ready.

“We know what it means to fight against the system that is full of corruption, bad practices and little-to-no accountability or transparency. We’re going to bring it all to light, y’all.”

Gusman, first elected Sheriff in 2004, said, “I’m proud of what we’ve done. We have transformed the jail and the sheriff’s office, so I’m proud of that. I have a record of leadership and accomplishment, and one campaign cannot take that away.”

Incumbents also continued to be lopped off the New Orleans City Council.

After Kristin Gisleson Palmer and Jared Brossett already were unseated in the Nov. 13 primary, incumbents Jay Banks and Cyndi Nguyen also lost bids to retain their seats in Saturday’s runoff.

Banks lost his District B race to represent Broadmoor, Central City and the Garden District to newcomer Lesli Harris, by a margin of 57 to 43 percent. Turnout for the district race was 20 percent, with Harris winning 6,243 of the 11,033 votes cast.

Nguyen lost her District E seat representing New Orleans East to former city councilman Oliver Thomas, whose first run on the council ended in resignation and a three-year prison sentence for a federal bribery conviction. Thomas served his time, rehabilitated his image as a popular and influential talk radio host for WBOK and unseated Nguyen by a margin of 57-43 percent. Turnout in the district was 25.4 percent of eligible voters, and 7,109 of the 12,548 ballots cast went Thomas’ way.

Freddie King III easily defeated Stephanie Bridges to claim the District C seat relinquished by the term-limited Palmer. King took 62 percent of the vote to Bridges’ 38 percent. Turnout was 21.3 percent and King took 6,390 of the 10,275 votes cast in the district that includes Algiers, the French Quarter and most of the Bywater and Marigny.

The closest council race was for the District D seat replacing the term-limited Brossett.

Eugene Green was declared the presumptive winner by a margin of just 60 votes over Troy Glover. The district represents Gentilly, the Lakefront and parts of the Seventh and Ninth Wards and had a 22.6 percent turnout with 13,208 votes cast. Pending a recount requested by Glover, Green had 6,634 votes to Glover’s 6,574.

Green was endorsed by Brossett, the AFL-CIO, the United Teachers of New Orleans and the Alliance for Good Government, among others. Glover touted endorsements from district attorney Williams and former city councilwoman Susan Guidry.

A contentious race to succeed the retiring Arthur Morrell as clerk of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court went to Darren Lombard, who defeated Austin Badon by a margin of 56-44 percent.

Also on the Orleans Parish ballot were tax propositions to fund the public library system (passed by a 70-30 percent margin) and affordable neighborhood housing (defeated by a 51-49 percent margin).

Complete parish-by-parish voting results can be found here.

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