Speaking before a packed crowd of Second Amendment advocates, 14 candidates vying for various offices in New Orleans upcoming municipal elections shot from the hip (pun intended) at a live forum hosted Monday evening hosted by the Home Defense Foundation.
Clerk of First City Court Austin Badon described himself as a Black Democrat who likes to hang out in the woods with a rifle. Council candidate Kenneth Cutno acknowledged citizens’ constitutional right to bear arms. Candidates Quentin Brown, Janet Hayes and Christopher Williams all attacked Sheriff Marlin Gusman, and Gusman promptly fired back.
Conservative talk show host Jeff Crouere started off the freewheeling evening at the Royal Blend coffee shop in Old Metairie by announcing that Mayor LaToya Cantrell was invited but would not be attending. “By not responding to our invitation, Mayor Cantrell shows obviously that she doesn’t want to engage with other candidates and voters,” Crouere said. The audience cheered as each of the four mayoral candidates who were present echoed Crouere’s remarks.
New data on Mayor Cantrell’s re-election prospects and local quality-of-life issues were released earlier this week. The post-Ida poll was underwritten by ACORN International, United Labor Unions Local 100 and A Community Voice. Additional issues tested include Entergy, garbage, crime, the city’s recovery and the $15 minimum wage. The poll surveyed 815 Orleans Parish registered voters via interactive voice response. Conducted Sept. 29 and 30 by an out-of-state pollster, the margin of error was plus or minus 3.4%.
In Council District B — which includes a large swath of Uptown neighborhoods, the CBD and parts of Mid-City — voters were not happy with their garbage collection service before Hurricane Ida (let alone after) and are equally unhappy about the service Entergy provides. They strongly support the $15 minimum wage. District B poll participants agree Cantrell has done a good job leading the post-Ida recovery but don’t feel as safe since she became mayor. Based on her performance during the last four years, not quite half of District B’s voters are ready to re-elect Cantrell.
Even without a formal evacuation order, 58% of District B voters left town for Hurricane Ida. By neighborhood, about 62% of residents living in Uptown and Carrollton (grouped together in the survey report) as well as 60% in Central City and the Garden District (also grouped together). Citywide, 64% of respondents indicated they did evacuate including 71.5% of Black respondents, 53% of White respondents and 49% of respondents classified as Other (Latino, Asian and multicultural).
Hurricane Ida only exacerbated the garbage pickup problems that have been plaguing many New Orleans neighborhoods. The pandemic and low wages for hoppers and drivers have contributed to the problem. The survey tested pre-Ida customer satisfaction. Only about 30% of District B voters were satisfied with pre-Ida trash services. Nearly 37% of Carrollton and Uptown residents and 31% of those who reside in the Garden District and Central City were satisfied. Respondents citywide were almost equally divided. While 44% voiced satisfaction with their service, 43% voiced dissatisfaction, and 12.5% were undecided. White (57%) and Other voters (46%) were more satisfied than Black voters (37%). Support was highest among Republicans (51%) and White males (59%).
Between hiring paid actors to get City Council sign-off for the New Orleans Power Station, ongoing service delivery issues and the massive blackout precipitated by Hurricane Ida, Entergy’s popularity has been waning. The poll gauged public satisfaction with Entergy. Only about 30% of District B voters approved of Entergy’s performance. About 34% of those who reside in the Carrollton and Uptown neighborhoods and 31% of Central City and Garden District residents said they were satisfied. Citywide only 38% of respondents signaled their satisfaction, while 47% voiced disappointment and 16% were undecided. Satisfaction was highest among Republicans (44%) and Other males (50%).
The $15 minimum wage for city workers and all contractors is wildly popular in District B, with 74% of voters voicing their support. Uptown and Carrollton voters showed a 59.5% support the measure while Garden District and Central City voters weighed in at more than 71%. Citywide 70% of respondents back the initiative, 14% oppose it and 16.5% are undecided. Support was highest among Black respondents (79%) and Democrats (76%) and weakest among White respondents (53%).
New Orleans voters generally appreciate Cantrell’s leadership in helping city recover from Hurricane Ida. Slightly more than half of District B voters (51%) believe that Cantrell has done a good job since the storm. Residents of Uptown and Carrollton rate her recovery performance at nearly 43%, while Central City and Garden District residents weigh in at 49%. Citywide, almost half of citizens (47%) approve of her recovery leadership versus 30% who are dissatisfied and 23% who are undecided. Her support is strongest among Black (59%) and Democratic (53%) voters.
Homicides, shootings and carjackings have been a problem across the city in 2021. The survey asked whether citizens feel safer now than they did before Mayor Cantrell took office. Among City Council District B residents, only about 20% of poll respondents indicated they feel safer. Carrollton and Uptown residents weighed in at 18% feeling safer and Garden District and Central City residents at 20%. Citywide only 19% feel safer now, 45% do not feel safer and 35% are undecided. White (62%) and Republican (70%) respondents were less likely say they felt safer under Cantrell.
More than 60 candidates qualified for New Orleans’ municipal primaries, which will be held Nov. 13. Among that group, 13 candidates qualified to compete against Cantrell for the office of mayor. Survey participants were asked, based on Cantrell’s performance during the past four years, whether they would prefer to vote for her or another candidate. In District B, fewer than half (46%) of voters surveyed were prepared to re-elect her. In Carrollton and Uptown, 38.5% of voters backed her re-election, as did a similar number (nearly 39%) of voters in the Garden District and Central City.
Citywide, 45% of voters said they are committed to returning her to office. Thirty-three percent said they would prefer another candidate and the remainder (22%) were undecided. Cantrell’s support for re-election is strongest among Black (58%) and Democratic (52%) voters.
Cantrell only needs a small portion of undecided voters to carry her over the top in November. Several of her 13 opponents, all underfunded and mostly unknown, are working to force a runoff. Joining that last-ditch effort is a newly formed grassroots coalition, Hold ‘em Accountable NOLA.
The days remaining before the primary election are passing quickly. Early voting begins Oct. 30 and ends Nov. 6.
NEW “DEAR OFFICER #THANK YOU” CAMPAIGN SEEKS CITIZEN PARTICIPATION
The Metropolitan Crime Commission has launched a grassroots campaign to demonstrate to law enforcement the community’s trust, respect and appreciation. Free postcards are available to send to officers who have made a difference. To receive a card, call the MCC office at 504-524-3148.
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 former 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 is a member of the Democratic Parish Executive Committee. Columbus can be reached at email@example.com.