Feb 092017

City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell (left) helps A.P. Marullo cut the ribbon on the new CC’s Coffeehouse in Mid-City. (photo by Danae Columbus for UptownMessenger.com)

Danae Columbus

Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

When supporters are asked why they think LaToya Cantrell might make a good mayor, they always talk about her commitment to the community, hard work after Katrina and willingness to take on issues others shy away from. In short, she is known as a fighter.

[Note: This is the first in a series of columns analyzing the potential candidates in the upcoming New Orleans mayoral race.]

When one adds to these characteristics the Democratic political climate elevating women’s voices, it’s easy to see that Cantrell has the ability to build the diverse constituency necessary to be a major contender in this fall’s election for mayor. Though Cantrell spokesman David Winkler-Schmit declined an interview request, Cantrell has publicly said for months that she is considering seeking the job.

Cantrell’s schedule is already filled with fundraising activities, constituency outreach and ribbon cuttings like yesterday’s grand opening of A.P. Marullo’s CC’s coffee shop on Canal Street in Mid-City.

In remarks prior to the ribbon cutting, Marullo praised Cantrell for doing everything it took to get the business opened. “We would not be here today without LaToya’s hard work,” he explained.

Fellow council member Stacy Head called Cantrell an “ombudsman” for her ability to meld together the needs of the private sector and government.

Also present were economic development officials Michael Hecht and Bob Johnson, reveling in the opening of a new small business that is creating jobs and building the middle class.

The event was another jewel in Cantrell’s crown as she moves around the city touching voters.

Late last week Cantrell was greeted by an appreciative crowd of pro-choice women at the Uptown home of
Julianne Nice. The 70 women in attendance — many of whom got out their checkbooks — thanked Cantrell for her long-time support.

Hostess Julie Nice (left) poses with LaToya Cantrell and Sharon Howard at an event at Nice’s Uptown home. (photo by Danae Columbus for UptownMessenger.com)

Cantrell’s record shows an orientation toward tough issues like sanctuary city, the smoking ban, and the need for more affordable housing. She has also done a good job proving herself in her council district — which has been trending whiter since Katrina — and thus she should benefit from significant cross-over vote necessary to win a city-wide election.

“We need to elect a woman mayor,” one former female elected official told me. “Women take a more universal view. Men let their egos get in the way.”

Cantrell also has her detractors, however. “LaToya can be single-minded. Once she takes a position, she is not necessarily open to looking at the other side of the question,” another woman explains.

Julie Schwam-Harris, director of the Legislative Agenda for Women, summarizes Cantrell by saying, “LaToya cares about people. Her heart is in the right place. I have seen her support on issues I care about very strongly. She would be a good mayor.” Like many others, however, Harris says it’s too early to endorse any candidate.


Jay Batt and Scott Shea celebrate recent Republican successes (photo by Danae Columbus for UptownMessenger.com)

“President Trump is doing a phenomenal job of moving America forward,” said Jay Batt, Orleans Parish Republican chairman. “Political correctness had gone too far and is now swinging back to the middle.”

Batt and 50 other Republican leaders recently celebrated their success at the WWII Museum. Batt considers Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to be Trump’s top cabinet pick. “Rex will be a tough negotiator.” He also likes Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. “I know she is controversial but choice and charters are important options that should be on the table. All parents would want their children to attend the best school available to them.”


With the Washington Mardi Gras officially kicking off today, Congressman Cedric Richmond will be parlaying his unique position to connect his constituents with Congressional Black Caucus members. He will be hosting an open house in his suite during the Mardi Gras weekend where New Orleans business leaders will gather.

As CBC chair Richmond will be relying on strategic thinking, strategic planning abs strategic execution to ensure that African-American voices are heard in the Trump administration. Richmond will also focus on restoring the Voting Rights Act, creating more economic opportunities for African-Americans and fighting to raise the minimum wage.


Before Mardi Gras shuts down the campaign season for two weeks, organizations like the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee are holding forums. Both the Alliance For Good Government and the New Orleans Coalition have forums set for next week.

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.

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