Mayor Latoya Cantrell Receives Mandate for Change; Susan Hutson Forces Runoff With Gusman

Change is in the air for New Orleans city government. Despite a low turnout, Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s easy victory yesterday was an indisputable sign that the majority of New Orleanians are pleased with her leadership and vision for the city’s future. Though two hurricanes, a pandemic and a major hack of the city’s computer system hampered her first-term success, the voters overlooked those obstacles and were willing to give Cantrell another four years to find long-term solutions for the city’s crumbling infrastructure, broken pipes and short-staffed police department which has been fighting a losing battle against criminals who have no respect for human lives or property.

Just like the citizens of New Orleans who voted to reelect her, Cantrell too is unabashedly resilient. Armed with proceeds from a bond issues and a pledge from President Biden that federal infrastructure dollars will soon be available, she is inspired to reposition New Orleans for future prosperity and cement her legacy.

During the last four years, Cantrell operated as a strong mayor who did whatever she pleased. The city council and the business community rarely pushed back. Now, with a new power structure at the Council, decision-making on major issues is destined to become more shared.

Reelected with a whopping 85 percent of the vote, Council President Helena Moreno has also charted out several ambitious plans and could be using the next four years to prepare for her own run for Mayor.  Moreno will be joined by the newly-elected J.P. Morrell who just won a hard-fought primary victory against Councilmembers Kristin Palmer and Jared Brossett. The Palmer/Brosssett dual endorsement started out as an edgy idea that eventually backfired on Palmer after Brossett was arrested for his third DUI. Environmentalist Bart Everson was a breadth of fresh air in an otherwise ugly race reduced to differences in personalities.

Though District B Councilmember Jay Banks ran first in a field of four candidates, he faces an uphill battle against attorney Lesli Harris.  With endorsements from Congressman Troy Carter and DA Jason Williams, Harris will be aggressively pounding on Banks for failing to adequately address crime, affordable housing, and other quality of life issues. Banks will have to consolidate all his available voters in a district that is no longer majority Black.

District E Councilmember Cyndi Nguyen has even a tougher road ahead. Her opponent, former Council President Oliver Thomas, ran first and has already outlined a detailed plan to better address the East’s many problems that Nguyen barely touched. Nguyen’s victory four years ago was based on voters who wanted to replace the incumbent. With a majority Black constituency, it’s never been an easy district for her to serve.

Attorney Freddie King clearly led the field in Council District C and will face non-profit exec Stephanie Bridges in the runoff.  Each has a wide based on support in Algiers and will be vying for votes from the district’s Eastbank residents. King is the favorite of most elected officials. Current District C Councilmember Kristin Palmer and Bridges share several backers in common. Palmer could decide to give Bridges a hand, even if it’s behind the scenes. For a hot moment Saturday evening, it appeared that French Quarter activist Frank Perez would make the runoff. A respected author and historian, Perez would have also brought change as the first openly-gay member of the Council. He could wait two years and run for state representative where he could also become a change agent.

The Council District D race was also amazing in many ways. First, 14 enthusiastic but largely unknown candidates signed up for the race to replace Councilmember Jared Brossett who is term limited. The highly experience businessman Eugene Green, who ran a strong first, will face off against a much younger non-profit executive Troy Glover, part of the new wave of candidates slowly making their way into politics. The district is populated with many older voters who might identify more easily with Green. Glover will have to showcase his youth, energy and new ideas.

Although progressive activist Mariah Moore did not make the runoff, her historic and courageous candidacy showed that New Orleans voters are willing to embrace diversity. Now more widely known across New Orleans, Moore will continue to make an important impact in city and state government. She is young enough to make the race again in the future.

While District A Councilmember Joe Giarrusso coasted to victory, candidate Bob Murrell successfully used the campaignto educate viewers regarding progressive stands on importantissues. Murrell’s support on Election Day proved his time was well spent.

Voters are never happy with ongoing property tax increases, but they continue to be happy with long-time Assessor ErrollWilliams who glided to victory against three challengers. Voters agreed that Williams has done a credible job of continually updating technology and providing good customer service.

Realtor Delisha Boyd easily captured the House District 102 seat for which she ran for against newcomer Jordan Bridges, son of Stephanie Bridges, the District C runoff-candidate. Bridges was an attractive candidate with bright ideas who should continue building constituency in preparation for whatever he does next.

First City Court Clerk Austin Badon and Second City Court Clerk Darren Lombard are equally determined to replace outgoing Criminal District Court Clerk Arthur Morrell. Badonran first in the primary. Both candidates have positioned themselves as the most capable person to modernize the clerk’s office, which also runs New Orleans elections. Third place finisher Dr. Patricia Boyd-Robertson was an extremely credible candidate who should have started campaigning earlier.

Badon and Lombard each have substantial endorsement and the ability to raise money. This race got dirty during the primary but is destined to get much worse.

As expected, the race for Orleans Parish Sheriff is the one of watch in the coming weeks.  Former Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson shocked New Orleans’ political establishment with her strong showing against incumbent Marlin Gusman. Throughout his tenure as Sheriff, Gusman has disappointed voters who signaled their desire for change by supporting Hutson. Gusman is well-funded and has received almost all the key endorsements, but Hutson amassed a progressive base of local support and third party funding from across the country. Deborah Chapman, Hutson’s campaign manager, said today that Hutson has the capacity to win the race. Electing the parish’s first female and Black female as sheriff would be indeed impactful.

Cantrell should also be pleased that Amendment 1, which she strongly opposed, was defeated statewide.  Economically disadvantaged voters will be hurt by the passage of Amendment 2. Supporters of the other two amendments hadn’t built the statewide network needed for their passage.

This week’s low turnout election does not bode well for America’s democratic process. Candidates just spent months and considerable dollars listening to and educating New Orleans voters, the vast majority of whom did not care enough to cast their ballots either in person or by mail. Yet those same citizens are the very ones complaining about potholes, garbage, drainage and crime. Voters can’t have it both ways. For democracy to really work, everyone must participate in the process.

Obviously Mayor Cantrell was the biggest winner on Saturday but Congressman Troy Carter also had a pretty good day.  All the candidate he was supporting advanced to the runoffs and are in high gear for the December 11th election. Mayor Cantrell did not formally campaign for other candidates during the primary but will could step up to the plate for Councilman Jay Banks and perhaps others in the coming weeks. We’re entering the pre-Thanksgiving hiatus during which time candidates gather financial resources, hustle endorsements from former competitors, and hone their final strategy. Expect the real firework to begin after the Bayou Classic.





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