Misogynistic Mailer Attacking Susan Hutson A Symptom of a Larger Problem

An attack mailer in the 2021 runoff for Orleans Parish Sheriff

On Friday, an attack mailer allegedly “paid for by the Marlin Gusman campaign” highlighted an ongoing systemic issue in politics: systemic misogyny. The mailer, which Gusman has denounced, highlighted that candidate Susan Hutson is unmarried, has no children, and is private about her religion as if those things disqualified her from being a valid candidate for sheriff.

The Gusman campaign denounced the mailer in a statement on Saturday, claiming that they had not sent the piece. Instead, Gusman’s campaign hinted that a “shadow group” supporting Hutson was responsible for the mailer, though they provided no proof of that accusation, as well as no proof that they were not responsible for the mailer.

“If this mailer is from the shadow groups that support my opponent and fail to file campaign finance reports, shame on them. Planting fake mailers to score political points is unbecoming of anyone seeking to serve the public.”

It’s worth noting that mailers are often one of the most expensive parts of a campaign, and any campaign or its supporters spending large amounts in order to attack a candidate they support would be a questionable strategy. As noted by prominent Democratic activist and host of Lousiana Lefty Lynda Woolard, Gusman did not specifically deny knowledge of the mailer.

Hutson, in her answering statement, chose to stick to the issues of the campaign, and her reasons for running against Gusman in the first place.

“The campaign piece mailed to voters this weekend attacking me and supporting my opponent shows that Marlin Gusman and his followers only believe they can win by dividing New Orleanians and distracting from the real issues.
The fact is, this incumbent has been in various public offices for nearly three decades – 17 years as sheriff and has not embraced reform, but over-incarceration.
His policies have not made us safer and he has refused to address the high number of deaths under his watch, the high number of sexual assaults of both incarcerated persons and employees at the jail, and has awarded high paying contracts to questionable companies and his political allies.”
The message of our campaign is one of change that will bring New Orleans into compliance with the basic standards and then exceed them with proven strategies that will actually make us safer and provide proper care, custody, and control over everyone inside the jail.”

However, beyond the question of who sent the mailer is a deeper issue: one that many women running for office in Louisiana and across the U.S. face.

“This is a textbook example of the misogyny that women face on the campaign trail and in our daily lives: we are judged, not on our professional credentials or our capacity to effectively execute the duties of the office that we seek, but on our marital status, our familial status, and our appearance,” said Emerge Louisiana Executive Director Tamara Agins. “All women deserve to see themselves reflected in the seats of power across our state, and that’s why our 2035 vision here at Emerge is one where women of the New American Majority – the Black, brown, and indigenous women, women of color, LGBTQ+ women, young women, unmarried women, and so many others from underrepresented communities – are front and center in our elected leadership. This is how we change the face of politics in Louisiana.”

According to the National Sheriffs Association, only two percent of sheriffs – less than 60 total – across the U.S. are women. This statistic speaks to how difficult it is for women to be elected into high-power offices at the local level. At a time when the reproductive rights of women are once again up for debate on the national stage – and with the Supreme Court signaling that current precedent on reproductive rights could be on the verge of being overturned – it is clear that women are fighting an uphill battle against systemic misogyny on multiple fronts.

In Louisiana, a decision by the Louisiana Ethics Board in 2018 ruled that then-candidate Morgan Lamandre couldn’t use campaign funds to pay for child care expenses incurred as a result of her participation in campaign events – in spite of the fact several male candidates had previously claimed child care expenses while on the campaign trail. The decision was later overturned, but it serves as a prime example of the hurdles many women face when running for office.

Women who have children are repeatedly asked how they could possibly balance their maternal responsibilities with the demands of the position they’re seeking. But those without children are often treated as if they are somehow less valid as a candidate than the men they are running against.

Editor’s note: This piece was updated Dec 5, at 12:48 pm to clarify Gusman’s statement and to add Susan’s Hutson’s response, as well as a tweet by Lynda Woolard.

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