Susan Hutson defeated Marlon Gusman.  She is the sheriff-elect in New Orleans.  Ms. Hutson ran a brilliant campaign with strong talking points. Her most poignant moment came when she characterized the sheriff as on the bench on the sideline as sheriff.   During the last weeks of the campaign, Gusman pointed out his record and began a fierce attack on Ms. Hutson.  He called her a liar and said she was unqualified to become sheriff.  Ms. Hutson countered that the Sheriff was out of touch with the community and offered no data about the goings on inside the sheriff’s office.

Ms. Hutson captured 53% of the vote.  She promises to be “accountable transparent and community led.”  She pointed out several issues that are probably issues of incumbency.  The biggest was the lack of transparency from the sheriff. Historically the sheriff is insulated by the office.  Former sheriff Charles Foti was famous for telling the mayor and city council, “How I run the jail is none of your business.”


Polls in the last week of the campaign predicted Hutson’s victory. Still, when long winning streaks end abruptly shock, uncertainty, and euphoria swirl. Ms. Hutson’s solid defeat of Sheriff Gusman was like that.  Gusman is the second longest tenured elected official in New Orleans. He had never lost a political campaign. Susan Hutson had never run for office before.  His loss is shocking.

But New Orleanians are tired of no access to government information.  The people want access to data.  For example, Sheriff Gusman claimed to have deployed all kinds of resources around reentry.  He talked about jobs training and case workers and hiring ex-offenders.  Sheriff-elect Hutson countered that there was no data to support any of the claims.  “It’s not on his website, you can’t call anyone to get it.” 

But as we transition to the new era in the sheriff’s office, we do face some uncertainty. 


Susan Hutson is a progressive candidate.  Her philosophy about jails is new and cutting edge. We don’t know how this might change the facility beyond free phone calls and no new mental health facility.  Ms. Hutson promises to be community led.  How will this happen?  Will she hold monthly listening sessions?  How do we gain a consensus?  Is this the best approach?  As much as people want input, they have little extra time.  Will outside players who donated heavily to her campaign become the “community”?  And Sheriff elect Hutson has said she will comply with the court’s wishes to get out from under the consent decree. But she also talked about challenging requirements of the consent decree.


Sheriff elect Hutson and her supporters were ecstatic election night.  The citizens who supported her candidacy partied into the night.  If she is able to deliver on her campaign promises, then the city will save money.  We pay the entire cost of the monitors who report to the judge about the conditions in the jail.  If Ms. Hutson can get local control of the jail, then New Orleanians can have a say in what happens in the jail.  She plans to retrofit the existing jail to accommodate the mentally ill.  This saves money and provides a faster solution for those who need mental health care in the jail. 

Sheriff Gusman inherited a mess when he was first elected.  He built a state-of-the-art facility.  Gusman increased pay for deputies.  He leaves it much better than he found it.  He was a truly a public servant.  Sheriff elect Hutson is in better shape than he was when he took over.

One thought on “New Orleans has a new progressive sheriff”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.