The anonymous campaign flier, signed by a bogus election committee, features a warning stamped on the front: “Please keep out of the sight of children,” it says.
And thus began the latest mud-slinging episode in an already-nasty battle among eight candidates competing to be New Orleans’ next Traffic Court judge in Saturday’s election.
“Before you even consider voting for this indiviual [sic] for judge, think about it long and hard,” the flier reads, next to a picture of candidate Richard Perque.
On the back is a photo of Perque and another man, hugging, shirtless and wearing skimpy swimsuits.
“Richard Perque wants to be a Traffic Court judge,” it reads. “Really??!!!!”
It is signed: “Paid for by the Committee for Common Decency.”
No such committee exists.
“Today, a new low in New Orleans politics was reached,” Perque said in a statement. “I call upon all my opponents to immediately and unequivocally disavow this bigoted attack.”
The flier was mailed first-class and landed in mailboxes across the city on Friday, the eve of the election. A version of it also made its way around the internet, via Twitter and Facebook.
None of Perque’s seven competitors would claim it.
“I have heard from many voters today who are appalled by this type of negative, hate-laced attack,” Perque said. “This bigoted attack mailer is perpetrated by the same entrenched political machine we’ve been fighting against this whole campaign. … We’ll continue to fight this battle despite these outlandish personal attacks.”
The online version, featuring the same photograph, was primarily pushed by a Twitter handle named “New Orleans Truth.”
That Twitter feed spent much of its early existence in 2011 hocking spa treatments and moisturizers. In the fall of 2011, it switched to exclusively supporting the campaign that year of Traffic Court candidate Patrick Giraud. He lost, and the Twitter account tweeted nothing for two years.
Giraud is again running to be Traffic Court judge, against Perque and a half-dozen others, and on Thursday night, after two years of silence, the “New Orleans Truth” Twitter returned, blasting three dozen tweets with the photo of Perque and the other man in swimsuits.
The tweets were accompanied by various insults for both Perque and his parents.
“As a father and a brother I would be ashamed of this type of behavior. Judge worthy? NOOO,” one tweet says.
“Parenting gone wrong,” says another.
Giraud vehemently denied that he was behind the attack and said he has gay relatives and friends. He said he doesn’t even know how to tweet.
School Board president announces bid for sheriff
Orleans Parish School Board President Ira Thomas plans to challenge incumbent Marlin Gusman in the Feb. 1 election for sheriff.
In an interview this week, Thomas cited the criticism that Gusman has taken from inmate advocates and the U.S. Justice Department over conditions at the Orleans Parish Prison, as well as accusations of political patronage.
“I made the decision that it’s time for this office to go in a new direction,” Thomas said. “Our citizens want a change, the kind of leadership and management that’s transparent and that’s accountable. I believe I represent that new direction.”
It will be his second run for the position. He came up short in a crowded primary field in 2004 while he was serving as chief of security for the school district.
A former New Orleans police lieutenant, Thomas has represented much of New Orleans East and the Lower 9th Ward on the School Board since 2009.
So far, only he and Charles Foti Jr., who served as sheriff in Orleans Parish for three decades beginning in the 1970s, have said publicly that they will try to unseat Gusman. Among others who have been mentioned as potential candidates, defense attorney Jason Williams now says he will go for an at-large City Council seat, and state Rep. Austin Badon has yet to say definitively whether he will run for sheriff or the council.
Search for schools chief begins in earnest
Meanwhile, the Orleans Parish School Board finally has a specific time line in place for selecting the district’s next permanent superintendent.
Caught up for months in a debate over whether to drop interim Superintendent Stan Smith, then in a drawn-out discussion about which search firm should lead the hunt for a new leader, the board now hopes to have a small group of finalists to choose from by about mid-March.
Bill Attea, from the search firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, laid out the process for the board this week: The company will use an online survey and community meetings scheduled for next month to gather input from the public. At the same time, it will interview board members about what they want to see in a superintendent.
Attea said the search should start in earnest by late November, and he expects to whittle the field down to three by March.
He acknowledged that finding a superintendent for the board will pose a unique challenge: The board lost most of its schools to the state-run Recovery School District shortly after Hurricane Katrina, and it is unclear yet how public schools in the parish will be governed long-term.
“There’s no question it’s going to be more difficult,” Attea said. “It has its challenges and its opportunities. We hope to find someone who considers it more of an opportunity.”
Compiled by Claire Galofaro and Andrew Vanacore