As speculation heats up about possible candidates in the upcoming New Orleans city elections, Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell so far faces only one announced challenger in her first bid for re-election: bounce artist Marlon “10th Ward Buck” Horton.
The election is Feb. 1, but the Dec. 11 qualifying period starts in about seven weeks, and the list of known contenders has begun filling out for most of the major offices, including mayor, sheriff and all the City Council seats.
Few names at all have surfaced in connection with the District B seat that Cantrell won late last year, however. Dana Kaplan, whom Cantrell faced in the runoff, said last week that she doesn’t plan to run again, and appreciates that Cantrell has been willing to work with her since the election. Eric Strachan, who also ran, endorsed Cantrell in the runoff last year and said this week he remains a supporter in her re-election bid.
Horton, however, said he plans to run again with the experience he gained in his first campaign, and noted that he led the vote tally in his home precinct in November. He has moved on, he said, from his bitterness about being rejected for an alcohol license at his former chicken-wings restaurant, Finger Lick’n Wings on Jackson Avenue.
Since then, Horton said he has concentrated on his stage play, “Fatherhood,” and upcoming DVD release, “The Definition of Bounce,” which tell the stories of his life in the music genre that first brought him to prominence and his struggles raising four children. He remains focused on reaching young people and hopes to continue that in his campaign, he said.
“Nobody ever looked at the good I did in the community,” Horton said. “I always use my life and my stories to help others.”
In the short term, however, Horton is focused on a different campaign. His song “St. Thomas,” which was partly inspired by his first run for office, is nominated for “Hottest Bounce Song” at this weekend’s NOLA Hip Hop Awards at the Civic Theatre, where Horton will also be performing.
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Beyond Horton, however, no other names are even being whispered among political circles as challengers to Cantrell. A recent roundup of City Council hopefuls in The New Orleans Advocate, for example, discussed districts C, D and E, but did not even mention District B.
At a recent campaign kickoff fundraiser at Dijon restaurant, Cantrell credited her quick start on the City Council to her experience leading the Broadmoor neighborhood. During her first year in office, Cantrell began by tackling the city’s Mardi Gras ordinances, and has recently turned her attention on violent crime. She proudly repeats Mayor Landrieu’s comment that she is on blight “like a dog on a bone,” saying she took it as a compliment.
“I’ve been able to hit the ground running on the City Council,” Cantrell said to supporters. “You know how when you feel like you’re in the right place? Everything kind of fits. The issues that you take up, they matter to you in your heart, and you know that they matter to the people that you serve.”
One of her chief goals in her next term, she said, will be continuing to focus on interior improvements ahead of the city’s tricentennial that will allow neighborhoods to build. Similar to the growth District A Councilwoman Susan Guidry has seen on Carrollton Avenue, she said, the Magnolia Marketplace is one example of a positive change, because South Claiborne Avenue “needed love” even before Hurricane Katrina.
“One of the things I want to make sure happens is that our neighborhoods at the forefront, so when you talk about the 300th anniversary, you can feel it where the people live,” Cantrell said.
In her bid, Cantrell will have the backing of most of the city’s political establishment as well. Council members Guidry, Kristin Gisleson Palmer, Jackie Clarkson all passed through the Cantrell fundraiser, and Stacy Head and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell have both been strong supporters.
State Rep. Walt Leger, who endorsed Kaplan last year, said Cantrell has won over those who didn’t know her well previously with her work ethic. In general, amid economic growth and an upbeat outlook for the city, Leger predicted a tough election season for challengers.
“I don’t suspect she’s got any real competition. I haven’t heard anybody even mentioning it,” Leger said. “There’s so much positive energy in the city, it’s going to be difficult to beat any incumbent. And if the Saints keep winning, everyone can forget it.”