Political capital is a fleeting thing. New leaders have it, particularly when they win by the sort of landslide that New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell earned back in November. But they can also easily lose it. So maybe it wasn’t wise for Cantrell to test her coattails quite so soon, or in an election that has nothing to do with how the city’s run.
A bitter two-man race for King Zulu 2019 may not be over yet.
But test she did when she endorsed George V. Rainey to be this coming year’s Zulu King. And by a tight margin, she basically flunked. Rainey lost the members-only election to preside over the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club’s 2019 Mardi Gras parade to Naaman Stewart, the group’s president, following a heated election.
To be fair, Cantrell wasn’t the only politician to put her muscle behind a candidate. State Sen. Troy Carter, Clerk of 2nd City Court Darren Lombard, Constable of 2nd City Court Edwin Shorty and City Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer also backed Rainey.
And as carnival clubs go, Zulu’s membership is pretty closely tied to the city’s political establishment.
Former Mayor Marc Morial, who endorsed Stewart, is a member. When I asked him years ago whether had had any interest in riding with Proteus after he engineered an agreement for the old-line group to finally sign the city’s mandated non-discrimination affidavit and return to the parading schedule, Morial made it perfectly clear where that he was fine where he was.
And the new City Council includes its very first former Zulu King, District B’s Jay Banks. Several years ago, Banks helped highlight for the rest of the world how closely intertwined the two worlds are when he appeared in the HBO drama “Treme.” He played a Zulu member and Nagin administration official, and his story arc centered on a Texas developer who rode in the parade in order to make political connections at City Hall.
So it’s really not that much of a stretch for these elections to take on the trappings of municipal elections, endorsements and all.
Still, the mayor might want to consider this an early warning of what could happen if she starts coming down on the losing side of future elections – particularly the kind with actual governmental stakes.