Jan 102019

With qualifying for the fall state-wide and legislative races just 208 days away, Carling Dinkler IV will be the first candidate to formally announce a bid for the Louisiana Legislature — State Representative District 91 — tomorrow evening at Propeller. Dinkler will have big shoes to fill if he succeeds in replacing the popular but term-limited Walt Leger. “I am humbled and excited to announce I am running for State Representative,” Dinkler tweeted.

Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

A life-long New Orleanian who lives with his wife Ayame and young daughter in Uptown’s Marlyville neighborhood, Dinkler is currently vice president of business development at Enhanced Capital, a firm that helps secure historic preservation tax credits. He also plays a role in the firm’s governmental relations efforts.

A graduate of Jesuit High School and Washington and Lee University in Virginia, Dinkler received an MBA from LSU. He served as Senior Policy Advisor to former U.S. Congressman John Tanner and worked for former Louisiana Congressman Chris John. Dinkler also worked as governmental relations director for the Ochsner Health System and is active with local and national preservation organizations.

Dinkler has always been interested in policy. “I know how policy can help make a difference for the people in the district,” says Dinkler, who believes he is well suited to follow in the footsteps of legislators like Leger, J.P. Morrell, and Helena Moreno — who now serves on the City Council. “I understand the intersection between policy and getting things done in the community.”

Upon redistricting a few years back, District 91 became predominately African-American with a growing number of Hispanic voters. Despite the population shift, voter turnout is still equally split. Dinkler does not see the district’s demographics as a problem. “I grew up in the Marigny. New Orleans is a diverse city. I am more than ready to represent all of District 91 and am working very hard to get my message out to constituents.”

Dinkler’s remarks can be compared to those of African-American Congressman Will Hurd, a Republican who represents a majority Hispanic district in Texas. Hurd continues to succeed because he listens to his voters closely and follows their lead. “My bosses are the 800,000 people I represent, not anybody else,” Hurd told the Wall Street Journal. In one summer alone, Hurd held 30 town hall meetings.

Dinkler started campaigning and raising money (through the Friends of Carling Dinkler) a year ago. “I began early because I wanted quality time to talk with people. I have been intentional and purposeful about getting out there.” Dinkler says he has met with 150 leaders in the district and has been attending neighborhood and citywide events, including Sunday’s Mardi Gras kickoff at Gallier Hall.

Attorney Robert McKnight of the Orleans Parish public defender’s office speaks at the unanimous jury event. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Another potential candidate eyeing the District 91 race is Robert McKnight: an affable, bright staff attorney in New Orleans public defender’s office. McKnight hails from a politically active family in the Hollygrove neighborhood and founded his neighborhood association. Although not yet ready to declare his candidacy, McKnight too has been reaching out to potential supporters across the district. A former intern to a Louisiana Congressman and a State Senator, McKnight was a 2018 Fellow – New Leaders Council, Louisiana – and active with the New Orleans Louis A. Martinet Legal Society, where he helped organize their successful Second Line to the Polls event. He’ll be an independent thinker.

A graduate of St. Augustine High School and cum laude graduate of Southern University Law Center, McKnight will give Dinkler a run for his money. While McKnight might not be able to raise as many dollars, his family’s name and years of service in the community will serve McKnight well. Both these men are young, energetic, and charismatic but come from very different backgrounds. Either candidate will need cross-over votes to win.

These small legislative races are all about touching the voters one-on-one by knocking on doors, going to churches and attending neighborhood and civic association meetings. Data is important too—knowing which citizens are actually registered and have a history of voting. Polling helps a candidate identify important issues. A little direct mail helps drive a candidate’s message home. There is definitely a science to campaigning, but it’s not rock science. While it takes training, there are plenty of programs available.

Consultants expect an interesting campaign season in Orleans Parish and around the state, with plenty of established and new candidates including women and minorities. Women such as Aimee Addato Freeman and Aylin Maklansky are expected to announce their legislative campaigns soon as well.

All Hail to the Chief: Michael Harrison

Because NOPD Chief Michael Harrison has done an excellent job of bringing down crime, most New Orleanians hate to see him leave. For Harrison, it is the right move. Harrison came in as a “yes” man for former Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who wanted a chief he could control but was also liked by the rank and file. Despite those boundaries, Harrison became a good chief. The public was happy.

Yet, Mayor Cantrell wanted to put her own stamp on the department—which is her right. Though he continued to serve the public well, Harrison always knew his days might be numbered. As life-long New Orleanians, the Chief and his family probably never contemplated such a move, but the higher pay will help secure their future. They can always retire back in the Crescent City.

A change in leadership is never easy at the NOPD. It affects everyone up and down the line including all the deputy chiefs, middle management, and those below them. “Everybody is on the trading block,” said one retired officer. In an effort to maintain our low crime statistics, let’s hope Mayor Cantrell makes the right leadership choices and makes them quickly.

Leah Chase Honored with Birthday Celebration

96-year old Leah Chase, the Queen of Creole Cuisine, was honored at a small surprise birthday gathering at the restaurant yesterday hosted by former State Senate President Mike O’Keefe and attended by many admirers including: Sheriff Marlin Gusman; Assessor Erroll Williams; Councilmembers Helena Moreno and Cyndi Nguyen; former State Senator Ed Murray; Clerk of First City Court Austin Badon; Judges Dale Atkins, Terri Love, Paul Brown, and Regina Bartholomew Woods; Leah’s children Stella and Edgar Chase; and State Senator J.P. Morrell, along with his parents Clerk of Criminal Court Arthur Morrell and former Councilmember Cynthia Hedge Morrell. Gusman appointed Chase an honorary deputy, which brought a big smile to her face.

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 Jared Brossett and Helena Moreno, Foster Campbell, former Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former Councilwomen Stacy Head and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.

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