2 defeated council candidates announce endorsements

Runoffs for two New Orleans City Council races heated up Friday, with defeated candidates in both District B and District E throwing their support behind former adversaries.

Council District E candidate James Gray gained the support of a former challenger when Mary Fontenot Smith gave the New Orleans lawyer her endorsement. Council District B candidate LaToya Cantrell got the backing of Eric Strachan.

Cantrell will face off against Dana Kaplan when voters go to the polls on Dec. 8.

Cantrell led the field of four candidates during the Nov. 6 primary, capturing 39 percent of the vote, while Kaplan came in second with 31 percent.

Strachan came in third with 24 percent of ballots cast. Marlon “Buck” Horton, who trailed in fourth place with 5 percent of the vote, has not announced any endorsements.

The two each hope to fill the district seat Stacy Head vacated when she was elected to former Councilman Arnie Fielkow’s at-large position.

Strachan said Cantrell has a strong record of results-getting leadership as a civic activist and leader of the Broadmoor Improvement Association and can make a difference in multiple areas.

“She will be tough on crime, but she will also work to improve District B, making it a better place for everyone. From working with the council, I know you can count on LaToya to deliver,” said Strachan, former chief of staff to Head.

“Eric ran a strong campaign, and he focused on vital issues like crime and safety,’’ Cantrell said. “His endorsement shows that we’re connecting with District B’s diverse electorate.’’

Strachan joins Council members Kristin Palmer and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, state Sens. J.P. Morrell and Edwin Murray, and state Rep. Neil Abramson in endorsing Cantrell.

Kaplan in the runup to the primary received the endorsement of several high-profile elected officials, including Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Rep. Cedric Richmond, Sheriff Marlin Gusman, Assessor Erroll Williams and state Rep. Jared Brossett.

Head has not endorsed anyone in the District B race.

Gray, who drew 30 percent of the vote in the District E contests, came in second to Austin Badon, who took 47 percent of ballots cast, during the Nov. 6 primary. Since neither man earned more than 50 percent of the vote, they will square off during the Dec. 8 runoff.

Smith, a longtime community activist and Lower 9th Ward resident, rounded out the field of five candidates with 6 percent of the vote. She joined Mayor Mitch Landrieu in endorsing Gray.

Third-place finisher Dana Henry earlier this week threw his support behind Badon.

Fourth-place candidate Jerrelda Drummer Sanders has not announced an endorsement of any candidates.

Gray said he welcomed Smith’s support since she shares with him concerns about quality-of-life issues and economic development opportunities in eastern New Orleans, the 9th Ward and Desire, which are included in the council district’s footprint.

“I look forward to working with Mrs. Fontenot Smith and her passionate supporters,” Gray said.

The District E seat opened unexpectedly this summer when former Councilman Jon Johnson resigned after pleading guilty to federal corruption charges.

Badon and his former contenders attacked Gray early on in their campaigning when they questioned his residency and made claims that he hasn’t lived in his eastern New Orleans home since Hurricane Katrina.

Henry took at jab at Gray and his residency in announcing his support for Badon, but Gray’s campaign noted that challenges to his candidacy have gone all the way up to the state Supreme Court that found he remains legally domiciled at his Winchester Park Drive home.

Most recently a campaign spokesman dismissed any talk about Gray’s residency as a “cheap shot.”