The next mayor of New Orleans, Louisiana, will be a woman, a first in the city’s nearly 300-year history.
Although the city has not yet elected its new mayor, both of the candidates to emerge from the first round of voting on Saturday are women.
The top two contenders, City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell and former Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet, will now face each other in a runoff election on Nov. 18. (New Orleans uses a top-two “jungle primary” system in which nonpartisan elections proceed to a runoff if no candidate gets over 50 percent on the first ballot.)
Cantrell received 39 percent of the vote to Charbonnet’s 30 percent. In the field of 18 candidates, former Civil District Court Judge Michael Bagneris came in a distant third place with 19 percent.
Cantrell, a community organizer who thwarted an effort to raze her Broadmoor neighborhood after Hurricane Katrina, is regarded as the more progressive of the two candidates.
Cantrell’s support for a $15 minimum wage and criminal justice reform earned her the backing of local left-leaning organizations like Step Up Louisiana and national groups like the Working Families Party. As a city councilwoman, Cantrell spearheaded the successful 2015 effort to ban smoking in New Orleans’ bars, restaurants and casinos.
Progressive groups backing Cantrell see in her bid an opportunity to add to a string of recent victories in local races. Candidates endorsed by the Working Families Party and its allies have won mayoral elections in recent months in Jackson, Mississippi, and Birmingham, Alabama, as well as a seat on the city council of South Fulton, Georgia.
“LaToya Cantrell ran a campaign focused on making New Orleans a city that truly works for all its communities, not just a wealthy few,” Joe Dinkin, a spokesman for the Working Families Party, said in a statement. “Across the country, voters are rewarding candidates who are running on that kind of transformative progressive message.”
If elected, Cantrell, 45, would also be the city’s first non-native mayor, according to Tulane University political scientist Rosalind Blanco Cook. Cantrell grew up in Los Angeles, California, and moved to New Orleans to attend college at Xavier University of Louisiana.
Charbonnet, by contrast, comes from a political family with deep roots in the area and has been in city politics since the late 1990s.
Both candidates are running on reducing violent crime and ensuring greater access to affordable housing.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu (D) is leaving office after two terms due to city term limits. He did not endorse a mayoral candidate in the first round of voting.