New Orleans' mayoral primary is finally over, and the runoff pairing is set. But before we embark on Phase Two of the race to replace Mitch Landrieu, here are some parting thoughts.
1) Money only goes so far. Former Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet, who finished a surprisingly distant nine points behind to City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, raised about as much as Cantrell and third place finisher Michael Bagneris combined. Given her high profile office, Cantrell in particular underperformed on the fundraising front.
But that doesn't mean that Charbonnet didn't have a fight on her hands. She had at least two, actually, both expensive attack campaigns by outside groups alleging that a Charbonnet City Hall would be a patronage pit, which the candidate strongly denied. One adversary was a PAC backed by some of the city and state's most prominent businesspeople, who stayed in the shadows until legally forced to reveal their identities. The other was a PAC with a single, very public face: Sidney Torres, the former trash contractor and reality TV figure who had considered running himself.
While Bagneris jumped into the fray too, Cantrell stayed on the sidelines. Still, she was an indirect beneficiary of the anyone-but-Charbonnet dynamic, which is likely to carry into the runoff.
One thing to watch for is a possible endorsement of Cantrell from Bagneris. Based on the way he and Charbonnet went after one another in the race's final days, he'd have a lot of explaining to do if he suddenly threw his weight behind her.
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2) There was some expectation that Charbonnet, whose family has deep roots downtown, would dominate those precincts, and that Cantrell would perform best Uptown, where she represents City Council District B. Cantrell did indeed own the precincts above Canal Street, with the exception of some largely white areas that Bagneris won. But she also showed surprising strength in what was supposed to be Charbonnet's home base, where she won a quite a few precincts outright. That's got to be a concern to the Charbonnet camp.
3) The runoff won't just feature an upriver/downriver showdown. It will also offer some other obvious contrasts.
With a bucketload of endorsements and contributions from people who do business with the city, Charbonnet is the establishment candidate in the race. Cantrell, who collected few major endorsements other than from newspapers, came up through grassroots community organizing and is running more as a populist.
Charbonnet is a native who frequently mentions her New Orleans lineage, which stretches back generations. Cantrell is a relative newcomer (by New Orleans standards, anyway), who grew up in California and came to town to attend Xavier University and who calls herself a New Orleanian by choice.
And Charbonnet has a cool, lawyerly bearing, while Cantrell tends to be more demonstrative.
One distinction that won't come into play, obviously, is gender. No matter who triumphs on Nov. 18, New Orleans will mark its 300th birthday by swearing in its first female mayor.
It took a while, until well after Louisiana elected a female governor and senator, and Shreveport and Baton Rouge chose women as mayors. But it's certainly a milestone worth celebrating.