New Orleans is about to elect its first female mayor. Credit candidates Desiree Charbonnet and Latoya Cantrell for resisting the temptation to play the sexist card. Unfortunately, one of Charbonnet's most prominent supporters, Louisiana U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, couldn't help himself during a live election night interview on WDSU television. A reporter asked Richmond about those attacking Charbonnet. Richmond called them sexist and racist.
Richmond knows a little something about sexism after making national news this year when he told a distasteful, crude and authentically sexist joke about President Donald Trump's staffer Kellyanne Conway. Both Republicans and Democrats condemned Richmond, with Chelsea Clinton calling the congressman's joke despicable. He eventually issued what seemed like a half-hearted apology.
Richmond also knows a little bit about the race card. He plays it often. Over the summer, he accused U.S. Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican, of executing traditional “white privilege” because he had the audacity to raise the issue of the violent crime problem in New Orleans during a congressional hearing. Richmond demanded that King shut up, even threatening him. “I am not going to sit here and let him (King) do that. If the gentleman (King) persists on it, then let’s go in the back and have a conversation on New Orleans,” Richmond said. Then Richmond issued another threat by shouting to King, “If it takes walking across over there, then I am prepared to do that, too.” King was visibly taken aback by the threat and told Richmond he should remove himself from the room if he can’t restrain himself.
Richmond's also fond of labeling those he disagrees with as white supremacists. When Trump fired Steve Bannon, Richmond said, “So yes, Bannon needs to go — as do other white supremacists working in this administration.” Richmond also has described Trump's support of voter ID legislation as racist. How is requiring a picture ID before voting racist?
Richmond is more than just a casual supporter of Charbonnet's. Her campaign paid for a TV commercial featuring him endorsing her. What does that tell us about Charbonnet? Looking at their supporters may be the best way to contrast and compare the two remaining mayoral candidates because both seem to hold the same basic worldview and political philosophy.
For Charbonnet to make up her deficit to Cantrell, she'll have to win over a considerable portion of Michael Bagneris' voters. Bagneris had the most success in more conservative, white precincts, such as Lakeview, according to an analysis by University of New Orleans professor Ed Chervenak.
Charbonnet does not seem to be the preferred candidate of some big-money business leaders. They've pooled their cash and launched ads attacking her. They view much of Charbonnet's support coming from those who stand to win or keep lucrative city contracts and who are connected to the "swamp" that is New Orleans city government. Now that Charbonnet made the runoff, she will have to expand her tent to include more conservative voters. I would expect her ad featuring Richmond will disappear, and she will probably ask him to stop accusing her critics of racism and sexism.
With the two final candidates so similar in beliefs, the adage may be true when it comes to the New Orleans mayors race: You are known by the company you keep.
Dan Fagan, a former TV and radio broadcaster who lives in Metairie, writes a column that appears Wednesdays and Sundays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LaToya Cantrell and Desiree Charbonnet have already shattered the glass ceiling. Next year, a woman will for the first time take charge of Cit…