Jul 062017
Danae Columbus

Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

When state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson told Gambit last week she was “doing all the due diligence that a serious potential candidate has to do” before entering the race for mayor, one of her chief tasks was a meeting with her protégée, City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell.

Cantrell felt betrayed, disappointed, and hurt, according to sources close to the family, and the ever-feisty Cantrell quickly responded that she was in the mayor’s race to stay. Last night, the popular senator reversed course and announced that she would not join the mayor’s race after all.

Michael Bagneris and Desiree Charbonnet were also bracing for the potential negative impacts of a Carter Peterson candidacy. Frank Scurlock thought Carter Peterson’s candidacy would help him. Now all are breathing a sigh of relief and moving forward with their campaign plans.

Carter Peterson and Cantrell have been close ever since Cantrell emerged as a strong neighborhood leader after Hurricane Katrina. They are also the two highest-ranking women in the Central City political organization BOLD. Once Cantrell became a member of City Council, she and Carter Peterson frequently discussed issues of the day.

Though Carter Peterson had not endorsed her, Cantrell believed she had Carter Peterson’s support. Yet, Carter Peterson has always aspired to higher office, including an unsuccessful bid for Congress and several almost-starts for mayor. She –- instead of Cantrell — could have been the first woman mayor of New Orleans.

Since her college days at Howard University, Carter Peterson has blossomed into an accomplished orator, a shrewd leader and a dynamic elected official. She is the Louisiana Democratic Party chair and national party vice chair. Because the Democrats won’t be back in power anytime soon, Carter Peterson has limited short-time political options outside New Orleans.

During her recent trip to the U.S. Conference of Mayors convention, several mayors from around the country encouraged her to run and made commitments to help with fundraising. Bolstered by their support and the large number of self-proclaimed undecided voters in the early mayoral polls, Carter Peterson began making phone calls to potential supporters on Friday.

After several days of reflection, Carter Peterson realized her path to victory was not clear enough. State Rep. Walt Leger might have come to a similar conclusion.

While Cantrell led the first major poll, Carter Peterson broke her momentum. With tonight’s fundraising deadline for the next campaign finance report, Cantrell is regrouping and dialing for dollars. Michael Bagneris has been making some headway with voters because of his stands on key issues. But he too is having trouble raising the money needed to run a robust campaign.

Building name recognition has been Frank Scurlock’s priority. Scurlock has self-funded his campaign so far. His team shot several commercials yesterday which will hit the airwaves soon.

Charbonnet’s first campaign finance report will show that she has collected $800,000, a very healthy start to an obviously expensive race. Charbonnet also is touting a new poll showing her growing strength with voters and will open her campaign headquarters Saturday, July 8.

The primary remaining question is whether businessman Sidney Torres will get in the race. Perhaps Torres could also self-fund his campaign and make the runoff. But it is unlikely he could win. Qualifying takes place next week.


One of the sleeper races candidates will qualify for next week is the open Civil District Court Division J seat previously held by Judge Paul Brown, who was elected to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal. Announced contenders include Ed Morris, Nicole Sheppard and Omar Mason. Former judicial candidate Marie Williams is also said to be considering the race.

A former drum major at McDonogh 35 High School, Mason is an attorney with Aaron & Gianna where he has 18 years experience in civil litigation. He is president of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and a board member at Audubon Charter School. This is Mason’s first run for office.

Also a first time candidate, Morris is the attorney for the Orleans Parish School Board. He has taken in lead in numerous contracting and other legal matters for the public schools. Morris has practiced law for more than 30 years.

A native New Orleanian and graduate of Southern University Law School, Sheppard says she is running to ensure citizens have access to justice and to help secure a new building to house the court. Sheppard has more than a dozen years of experience and previously ran for judge.

A former administrative law judge, Williams has frequently run for both civil district and criminal court.


Criminal District Court Judge Tracey Flemings-Davillier will hold a fundraiser Tuesday, July 11 at Mandina’s Restaurant. Flemings-Davillier is seeking the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal seat being vacated by Judge Madeleine Landrieu. Landrieu will become Loyola Law School’s dean. The election will be held in 2018.

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 former clients such as District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, 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 District B City Council candidate Seth Bloom.

  One Response to “Danae Columbus: How Karen Carter Peterson’s flirtation with the race impacted the other candidates”

  1. Peterson should not run for mayor unless she plans to return all of the city schools bacl to opsb control, since she is one of the reasons the city is 95% charter.

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