Cantrell, Gray set to take office

James Gray
James Gray

Fresh after winning City Council seats in Saturday’s runoff election, LaToya Cantrell and James Gray each said they were prepared to start working immediately.

The two will take office after the Louisiana Secretary of State confirms the results of the election, which is expected to occur in the next few days.

Cantrell won the District B seat with 54 percent of the vote compared with Dana Kaplan’s 46 percent, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Gray secured the District E seat with 58 percent of the vote while Austin Badon, who narrowly missed an outright win in the Nov. 6 primary, received 42 percent.

Unlike the primary that included the presidential election, Saturday’s runoff election drew a small number of voters.

About 16 percent of the 52,406 registered voters in District B voted Saturday while 58 percent turned out for the Nov. 6 primary.

In District E, 18 percent of the 40,949 voters turned out Saturday while 64 percent voted on Nov. 6.

Regardless of the number of people who put them into office, each of the candidates vowed to work to better their areas.

“My first goal is to wrap my head around the priorities of the district,” Cantrell said as she celebrated her victory Saturday night during a party at Dijon Restaurant on Annunciation Street in the Lower Garden District.

Cantrell said she’ll spend the next several days organizing her staff and preparing to transition into the office.

Gray, who celebrated his victory at Nia’s Halftime Sports Bar & Grill on Bullard Avenue in eastern New Orleans, said he has grand visions for District E.

“We have tremendous assets out here, both physical and human,” he said. “We can do well and do better than we’ve been doing.”

Gray said he’s already working to organize a cleanup day in the 9th Ward as he prepares to move into his new City Hall office.

The elections to fill the council seats were special elections called after former District B Councilwoman Stacy Head was elected to an at-large seat while former District E Councilman Jon Johnson resigned the same day he admitted to federal corruption charges.

Because of that, the newly-elected council members will have about 16 months in office, rather than a full four years. Each one has a different view of how to handle his or her time.

Cantrell, who trailed in fundraising but earned Head’s coveted endorsement, said she’ll need to set “reasonable” expectations because of the truncated term.

“All of it will be about improving the quality of life,” she said.

Meanwhile, Gray, who trailed Badon in fundraising but received the backing of Mayor Mitch Landrieu, said he’ll work as if he was elected to a full term.

“I’m going to move forward as if we’re setting plans for the long-term future of the district and city,” he said. “I’m going to work on long-term solutions because I’m only interested in those.”