Article by Robert Morris and Marta Jewson
Two community activists who have devoted themselves to rebuilding New Orleans in different ways since Hurricane Katrina — one in revitalizing a neighborhood marked for abandonment, and the other in reforming the city’s troubled criminal justice system — will face each other in a runoff next month for an open seat on the New Orleans City Council, based on Tuesday night’s election results.
Unofficial results from early voting and ballots cast Tuesday show LaToya Cantrell leading with about 39 percent of the vote, followed by Dana Kaplan with 31 percent, which will lead to a Dec. 8 runoff between the two. Eric Strachan garnered about 24 percent of the vote, and Marlon “Buck” Horton took 6 percent.
Cantrell, a native of Los Angeles, campaigned heavily based on her experience leading Broadmoor back from the notorious post-Katrina “green dot” suggestion that it not be rebuilt, and her victory speech drew parallels between that effort and her campaign itself.
“Even being wrote off as a community, we proved them wrong by working together,” Cantrell said, thanking her supporters.
“All odds were against” the Cantrell campaign, she said, noting that it had far less money to spend on the race than the Strachan or Kaplan camps. She pledged to continue working to improve the lives of others, and ended her remarks with a meditation on the importance of her personal faith, leading her supporters in a rendition of the gospel spiritual “Victory is mine.”
“Victory is mine … I told Satan to get thee behind, victory today is mine,” Cantrell and her supporters sang. “Joy is mine, joy is mine, I know that joy is mine.”
To reach the runoff, Kaplan — a native New Yorker who moved to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to spearhead criminal-justice reform efforts — had to find more supporters than Strachan, a native New Orleanian with deep family and political roots around Uptown New Orleans. Kaplan’s campaign was buoyed in October by the endorsements of Mayor Mitch Landrieu, U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond and a number of other city and state elected officials, as she noted in her remarks.
“I’m honored to have all these incredible community leaders, grassroots leaders and folks from every single neighborhood in District B here tonight,” Kaplan said. “We’ve got more work to do but I could not feel better about moving forward.”
James Harper, a defense attorney, said he began volunteering for Kaplan when she was still gathering signatures for her petition drive to get on the ballot because of her ability to lead New Orleans to a new strategy on criminal justice.
“The best thing about Dana is that she is somebody who will bring different groups in the community together,” Harper said. “She’s a uniter.”
Strachan, who met with supporters at Tipitina’s, could not be reached for comment after the results were tallied Tuesday evening.
Horton, however, arrived at Cantrell’s victory party after she finished speaking, and said he was visiting all three candidates to offer his congratulations. Horton said he had not made any plans to endorse in the runoff.
“I’m not even sure if it’ll make a difference,” Horton said. “I’m having fun. Now I’m going to let them do what they do.”
Robert Morris reported from the Cantrell victory party at Dijon restaurant, and Marta Jewson reported from the Kaplan victory party at the Twist bar at Mike’s on the Avenue. To read our live Election Night coverage and remarks from readers on Twitter, see the box below.