To represent the people, you need to be personable.
At least, that’s how John Bagneris, a transportation manager who is running for the Louisiana House of Representatives in District 100, sees it. In a recent interview, he painted himself as a bridge-builder and derided opponent Alicia Plummer Clivens as someone who doesn’t play well with others.
In response, Clivens, a businesswoman and consultant, highlighted her professional relationships, which she said have helped speed the district’s recovery. She said Bagneris is spreading a false narrative about her to deflect from his own lack of accomplishments.
Mud-slinging aside, voters must decide Saturday who is better suited to represent the still-recuperating New Orleans East, a swath of the city both candidates say local officials seemingly have forgotten.
The race is one of three undecided legislative contests where candidates seek to represent parts of the East; the others are House districts 99 and 103.
Bagneris and Clivens, both Democrats, are competing to succeed Austin Badon, who is barred by term limits from running again.
In the Oct. 24 primary, Bagneris, 65, gathered 38 percent of the vote to Clivens’ 28 percent.
Ahead of the second round of voting, Bagneris has decided to throw some punches. In a recent interview, he pointed up his own experience in the 1970s and early 1980s as an aide to former state Rep. Louis Charbonnet. And he disparaged Clivens’ people skills, as well as her efforts to bring businesses to the area.
“If she’s done what she’s said she’s done, why are we still devastated?” Bagneris said.
Clivens, 56, has touted her role as a former member of the board that oversees the recently reopened New Orleans East Hospital and her work with former Mayor Ray Nagin’s recovery point-man, Ed Blakely, on recruiting Costco to the city. She also serves as vice president of the New Orleans East Business Association.
But after taking office in 2010, Mayor Mitch Landrieu ousted Clivens and other board members at the hospital, and the Costco ended up on Carrollton Avenue instead of the East. Clivens and others sued Landrieu over the hospital board ouster.
Clivens said Bagneris is hyping her public spat with the mayor because he has nothing but the Bagneris name to point to for himself.
“My opponent is running on his brother’s name and the record of his brother,” Clivens said, referring to former mayoral candidate and retired Civil District Court Judge Michael Bagneris, who garnered 33 percent of the vote in the 2014 mayoral race.
She dismissed claims that she is ill-tempered. “Before I decided to run for this office, that narrative was already decided (by) the political machines,” she said. “If I was hard to deal with, I couldn’t do the things that I’ve done.”
Clivens said she stands by her efforts on the hospital and Costco. She also mentioned working to try to bring a Bass Pro Shop to New Orleans East — another move she claims was thwarted by Landrieu — and an Office of Motor Vehicles station, which was successful.
It remains unclear who is the leader in fundraising at this point. Bagneris has filed only a single campaign finance report that is available on the state Ethics Administration’s website. It is more than a month old and shows no expenses or contributions.
Bagneris could say only that his accountant handles the filings, but he insisted that he was, in fact, raising money.
State ethics laws require candidates seeking district-level office to file timely campaign finance reports. Those who don’t may be subject to fines.
Clivens has drawn contributions from City Councilwoman Stacy Head, several prominent lawyers and developers, and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers. Overall, she’s netted close to $20,000.
Follow Jessica Williams on Twitter, @jwilliamsNOLA.