Orleans election result shows Sheriff Hutson failed to make her case for tax hike, analyst says

Published: Apr. 30, 2023 at 12:49 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Participating Orleans Parish voters delivered a resounding rejection Saturday (April 29) of a proposed property tax increase that would have generated $11.7 million annually for the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office.

The proposition to nearly double the existing OPSO millage for 10 years would have added around $50-$100 more per year to New Orleans homeowners’ property tax. Voters rejected the idea by a 91-9 percent margin.

“It was a sound defeat because the citizens didn’t really understand what the tax was for,” said Dillard University Professor and political analyst Robert Collins.

“People are worried about their money right now. So a lot of people are counting dollars, counting pennies.”

Collins says many people didn’t receive a mailer with details about the millage hike until right before the election, if they received it at all.

He said that with more and more early voters along with an overall low voter turnout, most people just voted no.

“I only saw one direct mail piece,” Collins said. “When you’re asking for money like this, you really need to ramp up a full-fledged media campaign. You should go on television, you should go on the radio.”

Proposed tax hike measures fail in Orleans, St. Tammany parishes

Sheriff Susan Hutson released a statement saying while it “did not go as we hoped, it in no way diminishes the financial needs of the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office.”

In the city’s other ballot item Saturday, Simone Levine edged out Leon Roche to become the next judge in Section A of Orleans Parish Criminal District Court. Levine received 51 percent of the vote to Roche’s 49, winning a race decided by less than 900 votes.

“What happens when you have a race like that, it’s a pure turnout election,” Collins said. “Can you identify your people and get them to the polls?”

The race went to a runoff election after the heavily endorsed and heavily financed former front-runner Diedre Kelly was eliminated in the primary, following a negative ad campaign paid for by a judicial reform group.

“And so, you had two candidates here who the ‘dark money’ judicial reform groups consider as reformers and so they basically sat this runoff out.”

Collins said he believes the endorsement of Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams helped push Levine over the top.

“His endorsed candidates have been winning elections in the last couple of election cycles,” said Collins. “So I think we can see this as a win for the district attorney’s office.”

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