Cantrell, Kaplan ready for District B runoff

It’s been months since the residents of City Council District B have had a permanent representative. That will change Saturday when voters head to the polls to elect a new council member.

LaToya Cantrell and Dana Kaplan are in a showdown for the seat that represents parts of Uptown, Broadmoor, Central City, the Central Business District and Mid-City.

Council President Stacy Head vacated the seat when she won an at-large spot that opened when former Councilman Arnie Fielkow resigned to take a job in the private sector.

Voters failed to elect a new District B council member during the Nov. 6 primary, necessitating a runoff election that is set for Saturday.

In the primary, Cantrell captured 9,465 votes, or 39 percent of the ballots cast. Kaplan, meanwhile, clinched 7,511 votes, or 31 percent of the ballots. Voter turnout for the District B race totaled 24,285, or 46 percent of registered voters, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

Turnout is expected to be lower this time, though, since there is no presidential election. That, the candidates said, has meant pounding the pavement to remind people that their votes are needed now more than ever.

“Going out for the primary was great,” Cantrell said recently, “but this election will determine if blight gets removed, if crime is headed down in your community.”

Cantrell, a Los Angeles native, is known in New Orleans as a civic activist and organizer who has served as president of the Broadmoor Improvement Association.

Cantrell has said that she wants to work to alleviate poverty through education, job creation and access to health care and wants to see a more unified City Council.

Cantrell has secured the endorsements of former contender Eric Strachan, Councilwomen Kristin Palmer and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, and, most notably, former District B Councilwoman Stacy Head.

Kaplan said recently that in the month since the primary she has worked to reach as many people as possible, including canvassing neighborhoods to contact those who voted for other candidates during the primary in an effort to get their support and remind them about the election.

“We want to make sure they know voting isn’t over because the presidential election is over,” Kaplan said.

Kaplan, who is executive director of the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, moved to the city after Hurricane Katrina.

Before going to the JJPL, she worked for the Center for Constitutional Rights, assisted in forming Safe Streets/Strong Communities and worked to help develop the Office of the Independent Police Monitor.

She has focused on crime, education and children, jobs, blight reduction and infrastructure improvements.

If elected, Kaplan has said, she will work to help bring change to the juvenile justice system in an effort to make it a national model.

Kaplan has received the endorsements of several high-profile city leaders, including Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman, Assessor Erroll Williams, former contender Marlon Horton and Fielkow.