Feb 232017
Danae Columbus

Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

As LaToya Cantrell and others step up their pace for the 2017 race for mayor of New Orleans, political insiders wonder if the best way for the Landrieu family to hold on to their power and the associated riches is to elect former U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu as New Orleans’ next mayor.

Now a prominent Washington lobbyist, “strategic adviser” to the Walton Family Foundation and charter school advocate, Landrieu has kept her voter registration at her parents’ Broadmoor home. Landrieu’s husband, Frank Snellings, is registered to vote in Washington.

Some political consultants see Landrieu — whose family has always enjoyed strong support in the African-American community — as a spoiler in the race. She can get in at the last minute, tap her and her brother’s existing fundraising bases and conceivably make the runoff. Other consultants suggest that Landrieu lost a tough fight against now U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy because African-American voters did not turn out for her in large enough numbers. At that time, African-Americans did not consider Landrieu’s re-election a cause they had to support.

Though Mayor Mitch Landrieu still polls well overall, many African-American middle class voters are not pleased with the lack of economic opportunities and job growth beyond the minimum wage level and the city’s ongoing crime problem. What middle class voter – black, white, Hispanic or Asian – wants to worry about their own personal safety?

“It will be hard for the Landrieu family to let go of all the trappings associated with the mayor’s office,” explained one consultant. Landrieu was certainly enjoying himself at last night’s Mayor Ball as friends and supporters joined in to catch beads and revel in the season. Landrieu did not hesitate to take the microphone to introduce two first ladies to the crowd — his wife Cheryl and his mother Verna. Though Landrieu will still be mayor next Mardi Gras, he will be sharing the ball glory with whomever is elected as his replacement this fall.

As the only prospective mayoral candidate really campaigning hard at this point, LaToya Cantrell is steadily raising money and making strong speeches. She has developed a concise message and is staying on it. Cantrell is also interviewing national consultants to help shape the campaign. At this point, Cantrell is the candidate to watch.

Now that the legislative special session has come to an end, several other potential candidates – State Rep. Walt Leger and State Sens. Troy Carter and J.P. Morrell — could take a closer look. Surely at least one of them will jump in. Another new name is surfacing as well – District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro. Clearly frustrated by the budget cutting his office has endured under Landrieu and the current city council, Cannizzaro could be ready for on a new challenge. He previously served as a Criminal Court Judge and on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal. A focused and intent campaigner, Cannizzaro would not have to give up his current seat to run for mayor.


The fall elections will also see two races for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, one due to retirement and the second due to Judge Madeleine Landrieu’s recent selection as Dean of Loyola’s Law School.

First elected in 2007, Municipal Court Chief Judge Desiree Charbonnet has already announced her intention to seek the appeals court vacancy created when Paul Bonin recently moved to the Criminal Court bench. No other candidates have emerged for that seat, yet.

While Mitch Landrieu now says he will not seek his sister’s seat, two prominent names have already emerged – Criminal Court Judge Tracey Flemings-Davillier and Municipal Court Judge Monique Morial.

Flemings-Davillier started talking about the race months ago when rumors began circulating about Landrieu’s possible Loyola appointment. Flemings-Davillier initially served as a Juvenile Court Judge and won a special election to Criminal Court in 2010 when she earned 72% of the vote. She won a new term in 2015.

If elected, Morial would follow her father – the late Dutch Morial – to the appeals court. He was the first African-American elected to that bench. The family’s political organization – LIFE – has been looking to push Morial forward. She was urged to consider the race for mayor but turned it down. Morial took the bench in 2011, after having served as an ad hoc judge, and was unopposed for re-election.

It is possible that other candidates will emerge for both these races. But with qualifying mid-summer, only those with the ability to quickly put together a sizable war chest need apply.

Danae Columbus, who has had a 30-year career in politics and public relations, offers her opinions on Thursdays. Her career includes stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board and work for City Council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, Foster Campbell, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell. Her current clients include judicial candidates Suzanne Montero and Paula Brown.

  3 Responses to “Danae Columbus: Does the Landrieu family have a path to hold on to the mayor’s office?”

  1. The Landrieu family is dead meat politically. Even the judge could not win re-election and escaped to a friendly academe.

  2. After Mitch’s selling off of the entire city to AirBnb and doing nothing about the housing crisis, I don’t care to ever hear from another Landrieu again.

  3. Sorry, but the Landrieus need to learn that diversity means being inclusive of native white Southerners.

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