The most powerful political endorsements are the ones that come as a surprise, that might make voters take a fresh look at the candidate in question, reevaluate that person's prospects, or even wonder what's in it for the person doing the endorsing.
Michael Bagneris' backing of City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell in next month's New Orleans mayoral runoff is not that type of endorsement.
In fact, this one was easy to see coming. Bagneris, the former Civil District Court judge who finished in third place with 19 percent in the Oct. 14 primary, barely uttered a negative word about Cantrell during the campaign. He and Cantrell's runoff rival, former Municipal Court judge Desiree Charbonnet, pounded one another toward the campaign's end.
And there's considerable overlap between Bagneris' base and Cantrell's. While Cantrell and Charbonnet performed equally well among non-white voters, Cantrell did much better than Charbonnet with white voters, according to a precinct analysis by University of New Orleans political scientist Ed Chervenak. Bagneris's support was lopsidedly white, so if the pattern holds, Cantrell is likely to pick up more of them in the second round.
Also, the precincts that Bagneris won are, for the most part, surrounded by precincts where Cantrell came in first. So she seems to have a geographic advantage too.
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And concerns about some of Charbonnet's associates likely motivated at least some of Bagneris' supporters, which suggests Cantrell was already well-positioned to pick up their votes. Bagneris was explicit about the issue in explaining his endorsement.
“Desi may believe that she was going to be independent, but again that’s the sound bite you’ve got to give,” he said. “People who know politics in this city know there were going to be other folks running that office, no matter how much she says, 'I’m going to be independent.' ”
But if Bagneris' nod isn't likely to change much for Cantrell, she probably doesn’t mind. It's Charbonnet, who finished nine points behind Cantrell in the primary, who could really use a game-changing development.
All Cantrell needs is for things to stay the way they are.