Lindsey Cheek is the Democratic candidate for Louisiana Attorney General (Linsdey Cheek campaign photo/Canva)
In nearly every way, Lindsey Cheek is different from Attorney General Jeff Landry, the man she hopes to replace.
But Cheek hopes to take the torch from Landry in one way, at least.
Landry, a Republican who will be the next governor, has been a vocal critic of Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, at times slowing his agenda. Cheek wants to do much of the same with Landry, who will succeed Edwards next year.
“The two keep each other in check to ensure balance and that there’s not a particularly far right or far left agenda being advanced on behalf of special interests and or any particular political party,” Cheek said.
A big part of her role as attorney general would be “to protect the state of Louisiana and the people of Louisiana,” Cheek said.
Cheek, a Democrat from New Orleans, is facing off in the Nov. 18 runoff against Landry’s chosen successor and chief deputy, Liz Murrill, who has run point on many of Landry’s high-profile battles against Edwards and the Biden administration.
Cheek faces an uphill battle against Murrill, a well-known entity in Louisiana political circles who comes with significant financial backing, much of it at the behest of Landry.
But Cheek said that’s an asset, not a liability.
“I am completely independent,” Cheek said. “Of course from Jeff Landry, but also, I’m not beholden to anyone, to any corporation, to any PAC, to any group.”
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Cheek is a trial attorney who specializes in personal injury cases, winning major victories against industry titans that populate Louisiana’s Cancer Alley, the industry-heavy river corridor between New Orleans and Baton Rouge
“My clients are people who have worked in those facilities and have gotten cancer because they were exposed to asbestos or benzene or any of the litany of carcinogens and toxins that are manufactured and used at those facilities,” Cheek said. “I’ve never lost.”
“I don’t think you should have to choose between having a good paying job and getting cancer,” Cheek added.
That work — what she calls taking on the big guys for the little guy — has been a major theme of her career.
Cheek is also one of the attorneys tapped by the state to handle coastal erosion litigation, a series of lawsuits that claim the oil and gas industry has contributed to wetlands loss in Louisiana, approximately 2,000 square miles since the 1930s.
Those wetlands are part of what Cheek, a native Texan, loves about Louisiana.
Cheek grew up in Texas, the oldest of five children. She and her siblings were homeschooled by their mother, a teacher, while her father earned a living as a truck driver.
She said her upbringing was conservative — and her parents protective.
As she conveyed the story of how she got her driver’s license, Cheek smiled at her sister, Kelsey, a paralegal at her law firm who accompanies Lindsey on the campaign trail.
“You’ll have to get your black belt in karate before you can get a driver’s license,” Lindsey Cheek said her mom warned her.
And so she did. All five of the Cheek children, and their mother, enrolled in karate lessons. Lindsey Cheek earned her black belt at 17 and got her driver’s license the same year.
But not everything was perfect in the home.
When Cheek’s brother Travis was 17, he got into a fight with a 15-year-old classmate at school. He was tried as an adult for aggravated assault on a minor.
While he avoided prison for the charge, Travis violated the terms of his parole and ended up incarcerated. Navigating the criminal justice system drained her parents’ retirement accounts and broke up their marriage.
But prison was a life changing experience for Travis, Cheek said, especially the reentry program he enrolled in. Thanks to the program, her brother earned a four-year college degree and now runs his own software engineering firm, she said.
The Cheek family’s brush with the criminal justice system molded Lindsey’s viewpoint, she said, painting her in contrast with the Republican opponents who touted themselves as tough on crime.
“Having anti-recidivism and reentry programs that are actually effective and can help people become productive members of society is really important to me because I’ve seen what my brother has been able to do once he got out of prison,” Cheek said.
While Cheek may not be a native like eighth-generation Louisianian Liz Murrill, she emphasizes she’s here for good. The attorney and her sister set up shop in New Orleans in 2015 — first living in a cheap apartment above the rowdy Uptown bar Ms. Mae’s on Magazine Street.
Now a successful attorney, Cheek said she’s grateful for the opportunities her career in Louisiana has given her, which is why she wants to give back as Louisiana’s attorney general.
But regardless of what happens Nov. 18, Cheek said she hopes to live permanently at her house in Covington where she keeps bees.
“One of my favorite things to do is sit and watch my little bees come in with the pollen on their legs, and it’s a reminder that life goes on,” Cheek said. “This little bee is doing its job, and I’m going to do my job.”
Coming next week: The Illuminator’s profile of Liz Murrill, Republican candidate for attorney general
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