LaToya Cantrell is officially running for mayor of New Orleans, placing her among the most high-profile female candidates ever to run for the top job at City Hall.
Rumors that the New Orleans councilwoman has had her eye on the mayor’s second-floor office have circulated for months. And she has privately told campaign donors recently that she is indeed running. But she made things official this week, tweaking her website with an explicit mention of the campaign.
The site offers a preview of rhetorical themes to come. Cantrell describes arriving in New Orleans to attend Xavier University in 1990 and discovering the city’s “two truths” during her daily commute, transferring from the St. Charles Avenue streetcar to a bus that took her past the Magnolia public housing complex.
“That’s what drew me in and kept me in the city of New Orleans,” Cantrell writes. “Those disparities that made me care about people, wanting to make life better for everyone in every neighborhood of this city.”
Cantrell, who was among the first to say publicly that she was considering a mayoral bid, is the third candidate to say she is definitely in the race. The others are former Civil District Court Judge Michael Bagneris, who ran unsuccessfully against Mayor Mitch Landrieu in 2014, and businessman and would-be Six Flags developer Frank Scurlock.
The rest of the mayoral field remains murky, with several others widely seen as possibilities.
Campaign disclosure forms showed that Cantrell recently started accepting donations of $5,000 apiece, taking the big checks from Barry Kern of Mardi Gras World; Keli Lee, a donor from California; and Matthew Morgan Wisdom of TurboSquid, a company that makes 3-D models.
Were Cantrell running only for re-election to her District B seat on the council, she would be allowed under state ethics laws to accept checks of no more than $2,500 per donor.
Technically, Cantrell could take $5,000 donations without mentioning the mayor’s race on her disclosure forms, as long as she told contributors she was considering a run for higher office.
But after receiving questions about the donations from The New Orleans Advocate this week, Cantrell’s website was updated to show she had taken the plunge.
“This website has been planned for a long time, this revamp,” spokesman David Winkler Schmit said. “And that portion (about her candidacy) was always going to be on there.”
He added that a more formal announcement, which will detail Cantrell’s full campaign team, is forthcoming.
Cantrell's announcement for mayor clears the District B field for council candidates including Jay Banks, director of the Dryades YMCA’s School of Commerce, who reigned as King Zulu last year; Eric Johnson, an urban development specialist; and Seth Bloom, a former Orleans Parish School Board member.
Banks and Bloom had said they would consider jumping into the District B race should Cantrell run for mayor; Johnson said he would run regardless.
Other candidates believed to be weighing a run for mayor include District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, state Sens. Troy Carter and JP Morrell, and state Rep. Walt Leger III.
Also being mentioned are City Councilman Jason Williams, Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet and state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, who are often brought up as possible candidates but who have seemed recently to be less keen on the idea. Former U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite has ruled himself out of consideration.
Finally, there is businessman Sidney Torres IV. The trash-hauling company owner who now stars in a reality TV show about flipping houses in the city could self-finance his campaign, but he has said he won’t make up his mind on the race until just before the sign-up period for it ends in July.
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