On November 18th, New Orleans will elect its first woman as mayor. That woman will be African American. She will be committed to reducing crime, growing jobs and preserving affordability in Louisiana’s largest city. But for all their commonalities, mayoral candidates LaToya Cantrell, a city councilwoman, and Desiree Charbonnet, a prominent local judge, have taken opposing tacks in a heated race that can be seen as the first truly post-Katrina mayoral election, pitting a post-storm community organizer-turned-councilmember against a member of the Democratic political establishment who brandishes a local lineage dating back to the 1790s.
In last month’s Democratic primary, Cantrell came away with 39 percent of the vote, while Charbonnet carried 30 percent.
For the first time since Katrina hit in 2005, the candidates aren’t talking about recovery, rebuilding or unifying communities into the “One New Orleans” that Mitch Landrieu promised in his 2010 election. With the storm’s damages fading into memory, Cantrell and Charbonnet are focused on fixing chronic problems that bedeviled the city before the levees failed in 2005 and never abated.
“In 2010, the immediate state of the city was still tremendously uncertain,” says Andy Horowitz of Tulane University, who studies disasters and their political impacts. “When we were voting in 2010, it was much more voting out of hope and fear than strong sense of reality.”
In a city where police responded to an average of 10 shooting incidents per week in 2016 and nearly one-quarter of the population lives in poverty according to the most recent data released in 2016, it’s not surprising that the major issues driving the election are public safety, affordable housing and jobs.