Love Wins: NOLA Chooses Openly LGBT Romero Over Anti-LGBT Incumbent Ellison

Photo courtesy J.C. Romero for School Board

Educator J.C. Romero defeated two-term Orleans Parish School Board member Leslie Ellison in Saturday’s run-off election, becoming Louisiana’s first openly LGBTQ Latinx elected official.

“We did it! New Orleans will have School Board members that promote a school environment open to ALL students,” Romero said on Facebook Saturday night. “I am so proud of the campaign we ran and the people who helped us get here. Thank you so much!”

Ellison’s previous anti-LGBTQ comments and policy support received intense criticism during the District 4 run-off – which almost didn’t happen. Ellison secured 49.86 percent of the vote in November, barely missing an outright win. On Saturday, Ellison received only 45 percent of the vote to Romero’s 55 percent.

Ellison’s campaign received further scrutiny after the Forum for Equality PAC (FFE PAC) – a PAC supporting pro-LGBT candidates – filed a lawsuit alleging that Ellison supporters removed over 120 legally-placed campaign signs drawing attention to Ellison’s anti-LGBT stances. In the lawsuit, FFE PAC stated that the signs were removed “at the behest of and/or for the benefit of” Ellison. Judge Nakisha Ervin-Knott issued a preliminary injunction against the campaign in the case.

“Leslie Ellison thinks it is OK that LGBT kids are tormented, bullied, harassed and refused a seat in the classroom,” said former OBSB member and FFE PAC lead attorney Thomas Robichaux.

“Some of the city’s political leaders were aware of the concerns raised about Ms. Ellison but continued to enable her for years,” said Romero campaign manager and former NOLA Office of Human Rights and Equity Director Vincenzo Pasquantonio. “They should now know that basic human rights are not on the table and must not be sacrificed for political expediency. Any effort to do so in the future will be met with a committed and organized resistance.”

The loss is a major upset for Ellison, who was supported financially by national political action committees (PACs), including Education Reform Now Advocacy (ERN-A) – a national group associated with Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), a pro-charter PAC. DFER itself did not make a formal endorsement of Ellison – in fact, the District 4 race was the only Orleans Parish School Board race in which they did not endorse either candidate. However, as first reported in Gambit ERN-A donated $150,000 to the Black Alliance for Civic Empowerment (BACE) Action Fund, which then paid for campaign materials for Ellison. BACE received another $150,000 from Jim Walton, one of the heirs to the Walmart fortune.

BACE also supported District 1 incumbent John Brown, District 2 incumbent and board president Ethan Ashley, and District 7 incumbent Nolan Marshall Jr.  Ashley and Marshall Jr. retained their seats.


Sources say that as of Sunday evening, Ms. Ellison had not called Dr. Romero to concede the race. Her Facebook page does contain a post thanking her supporters and noting that “we wanted a different outcome for this school board election.”

Editor’s Note: this piece has been updated to clarify that DFER LA did not directly endorse or financially support the Ellison campaign.

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