Mayor LaToya Cantrell and the political organization BOLD scored big in Saturday’s elections. Cantrell built a strong bond with Gov. John Bel Edwards more than a year ago when she sought his help on increasing New Orleans’ share of tax dollars generated here. She became an integral part of his campaign and his victory, which should yield generous dividends for New Orleans during the next four years.
Cantrell’s Action New Orleans team of more than 250 volunteers knocked on 70,000 doors, sent 3,500 text messages and made 50,000 calls in support of Gov. Edwards and Cantrell’s Ballot of Yes. They also assisted with two GOTV (get out the vote) rallies, including an election eve event that drew 5,000.
“We are excited about Gov. Edwards’ win and the sheer volume of support by the people of New Orleans, where voter turnout increased 30 percent,” said Kristine Breithaupt, Action New Orleans communications director.
With property taxes significantly increasing this year, Cantrell’s tax for infrastructure was always a long shot. But her efforts led to successes in the other ballot initiatives, including increasing the tax on short term rentals and approving future bond issues. A charter change codifying a Human Rights Commission also passed.
Three legislators Cantrell endorsed – Aimee Freeman, Matt Willard and Candace Newell — were elected; a fourth, Mandie Landry, was supported by BOLD, her allied political organization. These four members of the Louisiana House of Representatives will add new depth to Cantrell’s legislative base, which includes state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson and others. Expect Peterson and Newell to become the next tag team, with Newell accessing Carter’s relationships to quickly rise up the freshman ranks.
Newell is excited about her victory in House District 99 and plans to focus on the legislative initiatives she campaigned on, including equal pay for women and infrastructure improvements for the district. She spent Sunday and Monday thanking voters who supported her, including at the Who Dat Café in the Marigny, a frequent stop during the campaign.
“I had an awesome team, which was with me every step of the way from qualifying to the election,” Newell said. “They helped me connect with the voters every day.” Though Newell’s opponent, Adonis Expose, was thought to be leading in the polls, Newell did a better job of getting her voters. Clearly she outworked him.
Matt Willard might also get a fast start in Baton Rouge because of his aunt, Cynthia Willard Lewis, who served as a legislator. Willard attributes victory to his platform and messaging “truly resonating” with the voters. “I look forward to fighting for living wages, equal pay for equal work, increased funding for early childhood education, and solutions to our rising property taxes. I am optimistic as to what we can accomplish,” said Willard.
He thanked his opponent Eugene Green for “running a great campaign and helping mobilize the voters.” Insiders believe Willard won the race because he was the clear choice for the many young families who have moved into the District 97 in recent years. The Willard family’s unblemished history of service in the community also made older voters comfortable. “We knew what to expect from a Willard,” one voter said.
Cantrell-endorsed candidate Aimee Adatto Freeman also benefited from voters’ familiarity with her parents and husband’s family, as well as her years of hard work as a business consultant, professor and neighborhood leader. She better epitomized what the district’s voters wanted from their next representative. Kea Sherman was a worthy opponent. This race was a serious learning experience for Sherman, who will surely run again in the future.
Mandie Landry ran a spot-on campaign aided by her endorsement by BOLD. She was an anti-establishment candidate who inspired the district’s progressives and focused on early voting. Landry used all her trial lawyer skills and will be a big asset to that group in Baton Rouge. She will also be outspoken on many women’s issues, though progress might be slow. Her opponent Robert McKnight was not nearly as well funded and lacked depth in his campaign team. He too will use important lessons learned in this race for his next one.
Although not endorsed by Mayor Cantrell, Senate District 3 winner Joe Bouie said he focused on his past successes as a state representative and longtime educator at SUNO. “I won the majority of votes in all three parishes that make up my new Senate district with my largest margin of victory, 63%, in my home parish of Orleans.” Armed with many endorsements including U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, Bouie was able to easily get his message out. Consultants claimed Bouie was in the lead throughout the campaign.
Richmond also helped elect Jefferson Parish Councilman Byron Lee, St. John the Baptist Councilman at-large Michael Wright and Gov. John Bel Edwards who Richmond introduced to an appreciative audience on election night. As Joe Biden’s campaign co-chairman, Richmond has been focused nationally on the presidential election and defeating Donald Trump. Edwards will be an asset in that upcoming fight.
Edwards’ victory was important, as it showed that Trump’s armor count be penetrated by a moderate Democrat. Many progressives consider Edwards too conservative but held their noses and voted for him anyway. Most conservatives considered Edwards too liberal and voted for Eddie Rispone. Yet enough moderate Republicans — especially in Louisiana’s urban and suburban areas — thought Edwards was acceptable. Coupled with a motivated minority electorate, Edwards was victorious.
This contest should be an important lesson for the Democratic presidential contenders. Only a moderate Democratic respected by minority voters can defeat a popular, well-financed, entrenched Republican. Wednesday night’s presidential debate in Georgia – co-hosted by MSNBC and the Washington Post – will be one more opportunity for candidates to court the political middle.
Even though Biden has his faults, the majority of Democratic voters still believe a moderate is best. Mayor Pete Buttigieg is rising in the polls in the early primary states but lacks the support he would need among black voters to make it to the finish line. Polling results after this week’s debate should further separate candidates who are offering systemic change from those who speak to the values of middle America. With Michael Bloomberg and Deval Patrick about to enter the already crowded field as moderate alternatives, the nomination process should become more exciting.
TROY CARTER HOLDS 27TH ANNUAL THANKSGIVING DINNER SAT, NOV. 23
When Troy Carter was a member of the New Orleans City Council, he began hosting a free Thanksgiving dinner for residents of Algiers, especially senior citizens. Even the years between Carter’s service as a councilman and later as a legislator, the event continued. Carter’s 27th Annual Friends & Family Thanksgiving Dinner with all the trimmings will take place Saturday, November 23 at noon, Behrman Gymnasium, 2529 Gen. Meyer Ave. Carter is urging citizens to “Come out and share the love.” To volunteer, contact Turkey Headquarters (Carter’s office) at 504-510-9000.
Danae Columbus has had a 30-year career in politics and public relations, including stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board and former clients such as District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, City Councilman Jared Brossett, City Councilwoman-at-large Helena Moreno, Foster Campbell, former Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former City Councilwomen Stacy Head and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An earlier post of this column had the wrong number of get-out-the-vote texts sent by Action New Orleans: It’s 3,500, not 350.