In the wake of Saturday’s election, Louisiana residents have two new names to follow in state politics. Republican John Schroder, a former state representative from Covington, easily won election as state treasurer, while New Orleans City Council member LaToya Cantrell cruised to victory in the city’s mayoral race. Schroder’s new post will dramatically raise his profile at the State Capitol, and Cantrell’s role in leading New Orleans gives her an influential voice even beyond the city limits. We congratulate Schroder, Cantrell and candidates throughout Louisiana elected to office Saturday.
Although the national political climate has been shaken recently by electoral upsets, Saturday’s elections across Louisiana offered few surprises. In a deeply red state, Schroder had an overwhelming advantage over Democratic rival Derrick Edwards, a New Orleans attorney and political newcomer. Cantrell’s victory over former Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet concluded a race defined by a Democratic field from the start. Saturday’s results affirmed an underlying political reality in Louisiana and many other parts of the country: Republican dominance in suburbs and rural areas, with Democrats maintaining a stronghold in urban centers.
But the practical urgencies of city administration – public safety, drainage, maintaining streets and attracting jobs – call for leadership that’s more pragmatic that partisan. It’s why Cantrell, like outgoing Mayor Mitch Landrieu, might reasonably be expected to lead from the center.
Before taking office, Cantrell has already made history as the first woman elected mayor of New Orleans. It’s a moving milestone, though we suspect that Cantrell’s constituents will be less interested in who she is than what she does. There is, after all, so much to do.
Thanks to Landrieu’s leadership, New Orleans is in much better shape than in the days after Hurricane Katrina, when Cantrell entered public life as a community activist. Landrieu, collaborating with two successive city councils, stabilized municipal finances and secured a $2.4 billion settlement with FEMA to help fix the city’s infrastructure.
But crime, lack of affordable housing and the threat of flooding continue to threaten the city’s progress. Those challenges should inspire a call to common purpose that includes not only New Orleans’ newly elected mayor and city council, but residents at large. Cantrell’s own origins as an unelected civic activist point to the good that can be done even by those who don’t hold public office.
At a time of deep cynicism about the work of government, those who cite the need for accountability among their elective officials should remember that citizens have responsibilities, too.
The most basic responsibility of a free people is to vote, and Saturday’s low turnout revealed an obligation unmet. On an election night with few surprises, the low turnout wasn’t shocking.
But it should be.