Danae Columbus: Mayor Cantrell lays it all on the line for Nov. 16 election

Mayor LaToya Cantrell and Gov. John Bel Edwards on Monday announce the Essence Festival’s contract extension to 2024. (Danae Columbus)

Mayor LaToya Cantrell is working harder than the candidates themselves in this election cycle. Just like an Energizer bunny, she won’t slow down because she has so much to lose. Cantrell is betting on a robust turnout among the African-American and millennial voters who first got her elected to pass her tax package and re-elect Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Many older black voters rely on traditional paper ballots circulated by the big four groups — BOLD, SOUL, LIFE, and COUP — all of whom produced glossy pieces this year featuring the candidates who helped pay for them, including Edwards and Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin. To get millennials to the polls, Cantrell has been tweeting up a storm – kind of like a president we all know – and constantly updating her Instagram feed. A high-energy leader who prefers her own counsel, Cantrell likes nothing better than keeping the momentum going by stirring up young progressives.

House District 99 candidate Candace Newell, left, encourages early voting Saturday with pastor Debra Morton and Mayor LaToya Cantrell. (courtesy of Newell campaign)

Cantrell spent last Saturday in the East with the Rev. Debra Morton and House District 99 candidate Candace Newell, whom she has endorsed. With Gov. Edwards at her side, Cantrell signed a new five-year contract for the Essence Music Festival.

Cantrell spoke out in favor of allowing Entergy to receive higher profits in exchange for a $75 million commitment for Sewerage & Water Board electrical improvements. She voiced her displeasure with the Civil Service Commission. Cantrell announced disaster recovery loans for businesses impacted by the Hard Rock construction project and held the hands of family members waiting for their loved ones’ bodies to be recovered from the site.

Joined by elected officials from throughout the region, Cantrell also cut the ribbon to open the new era at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.  All in all, Cantrell’s been extremely busy campaigning while governing.

The stakes are high. Cantrell’s approval rating is based in large part on her pledge to rebuild the city’s infrastructure — including the Sewerage & Water Board and streets. She feels pressured to live up to that commitment. If the tax package fails, Cantrell could have hell to pay in neighborhoods across the city.

Edwards’ re-election is also extremely important to her and the city of New Orleans. With the state House and Senate firmly in Republican hands and the long-simmering animosity of rural and north Louisiana legislators toward New Orleans, Cantrell needs a governor who will feel obligated to pump cash into the city’s coffers. Republican Eddie Rispone would never think that way. During the Essence press conference, Cantrell made a not-too-subtle point that re-electing Gov. Edwards is essential to the city’s future.

The retirement of legislative heavyweights like Walt Leger, J.P. Morrell and even Neil Abramson is leaving the New Orleans delegation with reduced bargaining power. Several of the returning legislators are nice people but no match for their more conservative opponents. Cantrell’s close friend state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, Algiers powerhouse Sen. Troy Carter, and newly elected Sen. Jimmie Harris will step up to fill the void. In addition, the new legislators who will be elected Nov. 16 will need time to become leaders. Without a governor in her corner, Mayor Cantrell will be scrambling to move her agenda forward. In Baton Rouge, clout is earned, not given. Clearly New Orleans needs more.


Kea Sherman is flanked by moms Carrie Marks and Emily Kupperman at Wednesday’s fundraiser. (courtesy of Sherman campaign)

House District 91 candidate Kea Sherman believes her campaign has hit its stride. She held a successful fundraiser last night, recently picked up the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, and just received results of a new poll showing her in the lead against opponent Aimee Adatto Freeman. Commissioned by Education Reform Now Advocacy, the poll suggests that Sherman has greater name recognition than Freeman and will beat her on Nov. 16.

Freeman says recent research by her pollster, the nationally prominent Ron Faucheux, indicates that she will be victorious. Freeman is also celebrating endorsements by Mayor Cantrell and former opponents Ravi Sangisetty and Carlos Zervigon, her cousin by marriage.

Though Sherman and Freeman are both strong on most issues important to the district, there are subtle differences. Freeman is an accomplished and dependable business and civic leader, mother and grandmother steeped in the culture of her Uptown neighborhood. Though born in New Orleans, Sherman grew up in Lafayette and came back to help reopen schools after Katrina. She married a local boy, started several small businesses and has a daughter, Hayden, still in kindergarten. Her youth and energy are evident. Voters are lucky to be able to choose from these two excellent candidates.

House District 94 candidate Tammy Savoie talks with voters Malik Moffett and Chris Shinaberry at the Bean Gallery Coffee Shop in Mid-City. (Danae Columbus)

House District 94 contender Tammy Savoie is also talking up a new poll that she says has her within striking range of incumbent state Rep. Stephanie Hilferty. “I’ve been the underdog in this race, but my message has caught on with the voters,” said Savoie who claims to have knocked 1,500 doors in the last week. “Voters believe in what we are offering,”  she said. A psychologist and retired member of the military, Savoie is a favorite among teachers groups, having received numerous endorsements from that constituency.

A popular Realtor and young mother active in early education, Hilferty should have had an easy re-election but was forced into a run-off by Republican challenger Kirk Williamson. Since the primary election, Republicans have rallied around Hilferty to keep the seat firmly in their hands.  Hilferty canceled a previously scheduled interview about the race and also declined to submit a current campaign photograph.

State Rep. John Bagneris, second from left, listens to Governor Edwards speak at Mayor Cantrell’s Essence press conference earlier this week. Bagneris is running for State Senate District 3. (Danae Columbus)

Rep. Joseph Bouie, a Senate District 3 candidate, attends a ribbon cutting Oct. 29 for his alma mater, Booker T. Washington High School. (courtesy of Bouie campaign)

After suffering through all the dirty politics in the governor’s race, it’s a breath of fresh air to watch state Rep. Joe Bouie and state Rep. John Bagneris wage a genteel campaign devoid of name-calling. They seek to replace term-limited Sen. J.P. Morrell in Senate District 3. Both Bouie and Bagneris support Cantrell’s tax package.

“I am doing what I have to do to win, day and night,” said Bagneris. “I have continued to make myself available to the voters anywhere and everywhere they are,” said Bouie.

Though Bagneris seems to have the inside track with Cantrell and her inner circle, Bouie has received the majority of endorsements including Gambit, former opponent Kathleen Doody and most recently the African-American newspaper Data News.

City Council President Helena Moreno and U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond headlined an event earlier this week for House District 99 candidate Adonis Expose, a former king of Zulu. Among those in attendance were his Queen Donna Glapion; her mother former School Board President Gail Glapion, former opponent Jameel Shaheer, Lisa Diggs, Renee Lapeyrolerie, Bishop-elect Tyrone Jefferson, pastors Raymond Brown and Tyrone Smith, Laverne Saulny and Lisa Manning Ambrose.

House District 99 candidate Adonis Expose, center, with Rep. Cedric Richmond and City Council President Helena Moreno. (Danae Columbus)

“Our campaign is continuing the hard work we began in the primary,” said Expose. “I am connecting with voters from District 99 daily, to listen to their concerns about the future of our city and to also share with them why I believe I am the best candidate to serve them and their needs in Baton Rouge.”

Expose is facing off against attorney Candace Newell, a member of BOLD, who just barely missed a victory in the primary. Mayor Cantrell hosted a fundraiser for Newell recently that was attended by state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, Council members Cindy Nguyen, Kristin Palmer and Jay Banks, Clerk of Court Austin Badon, state Rep.-elect Kyle Green and former Councilwoman Cynthia Willard Lewis.

“As the only lawyer in the race, I am uniquely qualified to serve the citizens of District 99,” said Newell. “I worked at the Legislature while at Southern University’s Law Center and had the opportunity to learn the behind-the-scenes process. I still have relationships with staff, lobbyists and legislators who are not term-limited. Those relationships matter.”

Newell is also supporting all of Mayor Cantrell’s tax initiatives. To ensure her victory, Newell says, she is continually canvassing the district knocking on doors, visiting churches and neighborhood association meetings.


Gov. John Bel Edwards will spend part of election eve in New Orleans wooing female voters at a luncheon to be held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Nov. 15. Edwards’ supporter Julie Schwam Harris is encouraging women to attend to “make it known that President Trump can’t tell us who should be our governor.” Schwam Harris also says that Gov. Edwards has made great strides in several areas, particularly health care. Individual tickets ($45) or tables of 10 are available here.


The Orleans Parish Republican Executive Committee has come out against the proposal to amend Article V of the City of New Orleans Home Rule Charter that would establish a local Human Rights Commission. “This proposal is a very dangerous attempt of action by the city against the private sector, and is a clear overreach by the government,” said Jay Batt, chairman of the Republican Executive Committee. “It will also likely hurt any attempt to recruit and retain businesses, while certainly, hospitality will also be in the crosshairs.”

Early voting continues through Saturday, Nov. 9. Election day is Saturday, Nov. 16.

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 District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, City Councilman Jared Brossett, City Council President Helena Moreno, Foster Campbell, former Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former City Councilwomen Stacy Head and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.

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