Thursday, April 18, 2024

Reese Morse: Landry’s ‘One Louisiana’ doesn’t include marginalized communities

by BIZ Magazine

On Oct. 14, Louisianians elected Attorney General Jeff Landry to be their next governor. As a candidate, Mr. Landry’s platform included, in part, pledges to connect Louisiana by expanding broadband access, to reform a broken justice system by modernizing our state’s constitution, and to protect our families. 

Additionally, one of Mr. Landry’s repeatedly referenced stump phrases was “Louisiana deserves a government as good as its people.” These campaign promises appear to be timely and aiming to address the bevy of issues plaguing residents, and you’d be hard pressed to find residents, irrespective of their political affiliation, that wouldn’t welcome improvements in those areas. 

However, a candidate, or in this case an active public official’s rhetoric must be weighed against their record. In this instance, while the governor-elect purports to want to serve all of Louisiana, his actions demonstrate that he is actively working to advance some Louisianians while undercutting others. 

While the examples of Mr. Landry’s divisive policies and practices are vast, none are timelier and more concerning than the attorney general’s most recent attempt to dissolve a court order that ensures minority voters have representation on the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Currently, that representation is achieved through the election of Justice Piper Griffin, the court’s only Black justice, to Louisiana’s Seventh District. The Urban League of Louisiana and our litigation partners won’t let her seat be taken away without a fight.

Gov.-elect Landry announced his transition team and policy focus during an Oct. 25 press conference. He proclaimed that his administration would be prioritizing policies focused on the state’s education, economy and high crime rate. 

However, what he didn’t say was that also on Oct. 25, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeal issued its opinion in Chisom v. Louisiana, denying the appeal of Mr. Landry and his lead counsel, Solicitor General Liz Murrill, to dissolve the Chisom consent decree.

This case and the consent decree is extremely important to marginalized communities, particularly Black Louisianians, as it requires that minority voters have representation on the Louisiana Supreme Court to ensure against the dilution of their vote, particularly in the Orleans Parish area. 

Importantly, the 5th Circuit’s ruling highlighted that Mr. Landry and his team did not present evidence or a plan of action for protecting against Black voter dilution, if and when the remedy provided by the consent decree, “The Chisom Seat,” is dissolved. As such, AG Landry’s decision to try and remove the only seat ever occupied by a person of color — without showing that that seat is no longer needed — should be alarming to all Louisianans and is contrary to any pronouncements that a Landry administration intends to serve “One Louisiana.” 

Despite the court’s ruling, Mr. Landry is undeterred and has pledged to appeal to all of the judges of the 5th Circuit.

Consequently, Gov.-Elect Landry’s “One Team. One Dream. One Louisiana” isn’t adding up. Elections have consequences. Who we elect must share our values because their decisions will either strengthen or weaken our communities. 

The Urban League of Louisiana welcomes the opportunity to work with the Landry administration in furtherance of our mission-driven work and a truly equitable Louisiana.

Judy Reese Morse is president and CEO of the Urban League of Louisiana.

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