Viewpoint: Will incumbents rule the day in Saturday’s election?

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Danae Columbus

Voters in the 12th Ward, part of Council District B, cast their ballots at McMain High School.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s re-election became even more of a certainty after her announcement Tuesday (Nov. 9) that she is abandoning the idea of relocating City Hall to the Municipal Auditorium in Armstrong Park. Even with the anti-Cantrell vote and the personal support her 13 opponents have garnered, Cantrell is still expected to take it in the first round.

Four years ago she won with 60% of the vote. Opponents who could win at least a small portion of the votes include small business owner Vina Nguyen, fitness expert Leilani Heno and activist Belden Batiste. 

Many of the other incumbents on the ballot might not coast to victory as easily as Cantrell. Sheriff Marlin Gusman hasn’t had this tough a race during his almost 20 years in office. Aided by the Justice PAC, primary opponent Susan Hutson and prison reform advocates have pounded Gusman relentlessly. Mental health advocate Janet Hays, who has been working Uptown and Lakeview, should pick up some votes in both neighborhoods. Other candidates include activist Quentin Brown Jr. and law enforcement professional Christopher Williams. 

Long-time Assessor Erroll Williams has attorney and financial adviser Carlos Hornbrook on his tail. Hornbrook, who says he has spent more than $25,000 on television spots and social media, might not be able to stop Williams’ victory on Saturday but could be positioning himself for the next race in four years. Contractor Anthony Brown and Andrew “Low Tax” Gressett are also candidates in the race. 

In the Council District B race, incumbent Jay H. Banks is pulling out all the stops to secure himself a runoff slot against one of his three female opponents: attorneys Lesli Harris and Rella Zapletal and realtor Roz Thibodeaux. 

With five challengers — including former Councilman Oliver Thomas — District E Councilwoman Cyndi Nguyen should also glide into what could be a tough runoff. Others who qualified include former state Rep. John Bagneris, activist Vanessa Gueringer Johnson, minister Aaron Miller and health advocate Michon Copelin.

Incumbent Joe Giarrusso is well-liked in District A. He has had a relatively easy re-election campaign against two first-time candidates, progressive Bob Murrell and libertarian Amy Misko, each of whom have made valid points. 

One of the most appreciated elected officials in Orleans Parish, Council President Helena Moreno, continues to take on more responsibilities — now adding chairmanship of the council’s budget committee to her list. While opponent Kenneth Cutno has good ideas, he lacks the broad voter appeal necessary to make him a real threat to Moreno’s at-large City Council seat.

Perhaps the most contentious campaigns are those with no incumbent. Former state Sen. JP Morrell and Councilwoman Kristin Palmer are battling down to the wire for the other at-large seat. Also on the ballot are Green Party candidate Bart Everson, whose campaign focuses on environmental issues, and Councilman Jared Brossett, who stopped campaigning after a third drunken driving arrest. It’s likely that Morrell and Palmer will proceed to a runoff.

Runoffs are also expected in the candidate-heavy Council Districts C and D races. With 14 candidates, the Council District D race is much more of a wild card competition.  Real estate broker and property manager Eugene Green is the best known candidate and has the longest track record working in government at the local and federal level. Among the other top contenders are nonprofit leaders Timolynn Sams and Troy Glover, transgender activist Mariah Moore, small business owner Mark  “Johari” Lawes, neighborhood leader Morgan Clevenger, media specialist Kevin Griffin-Clark, youth service specialist Chantrisse Burnett and project manager Chelsea Ardoin, the lone Republican in the race. Others who qualified include retired businessman Bob Murray; activists Dulaine Troy Vining, Keith Parker and Kourtney Youngblood; and bed-and-breakfast operator Anthony Doby. The D race is all about who can get best out their vote.

In District C, four of the seven candidates reside in Algiers, where most of the voters are also located. It’s possible that two of the West Bank candidates — attorney Freddie King, nonprofit executive Stephanie Bridges, consultant Stephen Mosgrove or public policy expert Barbara Waiters — could make the runoff. King is the early favorite. No East Bank resident has served in the District C slot since Mike Early more than 30 years ago. Candidates who reside on the East Bank include author and historian Frank Perez, cosmetologist Vincent Milligan Jr. and small business owner Alonzo Knox. 

In the local judiciary branch, all three candidates vying to replace the retiring Arthur Morrell as Criminal District Court Clerk and the parish’s chief elections officer have been trying to position themselves as the candidate who can best modernize the Clerk’s Office. Patricia Boyd Robertson is thought to have support among Black women voters. First and Second City Court clerks Austin Badon and Darren Lombard are also in the competition. Lombard and Boyd Robertson both previously worked in the Clerk’s Office. With three highly motivated candidates campaigning hard, a runoff is expected.

Early voting started slow but gradually picked up throughout the week. In the end, turnout was decent — 22,826 voters or 27% of total votes possible. Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin is predicting a 35% turnout in Orleans Parish.  Other campaign experts believe that the turnout will be lower.

The polls open Saturday at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Voters in line at 8 p.m. will be allowed to vote. See here to find your polling place and view a sample ballot. 

Danae Columbus

Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

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 swampednola@gmail.com.

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