Non-typical campaign season as New Orleanians face big election

Political pundits think Mayor Cantrell is in good shape as she seeks re-election
Published: Oct. 12, 2021 at 10:10 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - In a month, New Orleans voters will decide key political races after Hurricane Ida disrupted campaigning, still political pundits think Mayor Cantrell’s re-election bid is in good shape.

Meanwhile, the League of Women Voters is working to educate voters distracted by the hurricane about the candidates and issues on the ballot.

FOX 8 Mike Sherman says it is not a typical campaign season.

“To call this mayor’s race lethargic is probably an understatement. I don’t think most folks in this city realize that there’s a mayor’s race,” said Sherman.

Along with the mayor’s and city council races there is a slew of other municipal contests on the November 13 ballot. The election was originally scheduled for October 9 but was pushed back due to the catastrophic hurricane.

Mayor Cantrell who is seeking reelection attracted 13 challengers.

Besides Cantrell, the following contenders qualified for the race according to Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s website:

Joseph Amato

Eldon Delloyd “El” Anderson

Belden “Noonie Man” Batiste

Douglas Bentley

Manuel “Chevrolet” Bruno

Byron Stephan Cole

Luke Fontana

Leilani Heno

Matthew Hill

Nathaniel “Nate” Jones

Reginald Merchant

Vina Nguyen

Johnese Lamar Smith

Cantrell’s challengers appear to be running grassroots campaigns.

“There was an opportunity for a major candidate to get into the mayor’s race but those major candidates who’ve held elective office, who can race money, they choose to run for the council instead,” said Sherman.

Cantrell’s last campaign finance report filed with the state which covers April 3, 2021 to July 1, 2021 shows contributions of $ 409,271.50 and she had $682,363.41 on hand at the close of the reporting period.

Of Cantrell’s challengers, Leilani Heno is the only one who reported raising more than $2,500. Heno’s July 10, 2021 report through October 4, 2021 shows total receipts of $35,938.56 and funds on hand totaling $18,708.20.

Sherman said it is difficult to oust a sitting mayor.

“In the modern era, incumbent New Orleans mayors just don’t get beat,” said Sherman. “So there’s really not much campaigning going [on] because there’s no major opponents while there are a dozen folks trying, many are folks who have run time and time again. Very few are taking the race seriously.”

He was asked if having a lack of big-name politicians as challengers gives Cantrell more flexibility in not spending a lot of money on the campaign.

“The mayor clearly is evidencing that she doesn’t think she has a major opponent because she’s not actively campaigning, devoting most of her time to hurricane response,” responded Sherman.

Cantrell’s camp provided FOX 8 two TV campaign ads. And Heno has videos on her social media page. In an email, Heno also said she has five billboards, newspaper banners and yard signs.

“The mayor has had decent fundraising and really good poll numbers leading up to the qualifying period. I think that kept a lot of challengers out of this race, some of them may be scratching their heads right now wishing they had gotten in,” said Sherman.

Rosalind Cook of the League of Women voters says they are working to educate voters who are distracted given the August 29 hurricane.

“The league is putting finishing touches on our voter’s guide, it’s an electronic guide where we ask the candidates questions and in their own words, they answer it and then we have it put out, it’ll come out on October the 15th,” said Cook.

She agrees voters have other things dominating their attention.

“The electorate seems to be at a disadvantage because of so much distraction going on with Hurricane Ida and trying to get back to the so-called normal, even our candidates have been hampered in how they campaign,” Cook stated.

Sherman thinks some of the councilmanic races could spice things up in the homestretch.

“I think we’re going to see a race to the finish for those hot council races but without a great competitive mayor’s race that didn’t even draw a single major challenger I don’t expect to see much excitement at all,” said Sherman.

Cook says the League of Women Voters wants everyone to participate in the democratic process by voting in the election. Early voting begins October 30.

“As far as city politics are concerned it’s a very, very important election,” she said.

October 14 is the next deadline for campaign finance reports to reflect campaign contributions for the 30th day prior to the primary.

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