From left to right: Who is challenging Mayor LaToya Cantrell?

Lily Mae Lazarus, Managing Editor

For more than 80 years, a sitting New Orleans mayor has not served fewer than two terms in office. This year, a number of candidates, including a traffic cone, have their eyes on the position. 

The New Orleans mayoral primary is set for Nov. 13. If needed, a general election will occur on Dec. 11. In the wake of Hurricane Ida, Gov. John Bel Edwards postponed Louisiana’s elections due to damage from the storm.

Louisiana uses the majority-vote system in elections, during which all candidates compete in the same primary. A candidate can win the election by receiving more than 50% of the vote, nullifying the general election. If no candidate receives this majority, the top two vote recipients move on to the general election.

The deadline to register in person or by mail was Oct. 13. However, residents can register to vote through the GeauxVote Online Registration System until Oct. 23. Early voting begins on Oct. 30 through Nov. 6.

There are 13 candidates challenging New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell among which four are Democrats, four are Independents, one is Republican and four list no party affiliation. Cantrell is the only candidate with experience in an elected office. 

Cantrell is no stranger to controversy. In 2017, she owed over $95,000 of unpaid taxes to the Internal Revenue Service. Cantrell appealed the IRS decision and no longer owes the agency back taxes. Earlier this year, Cantrell also made headlines after implementing a vaccine mandate in the city for high transmission locales. 

Among the issues on the ballot, crime, infrastructure, COVID-19 and the local economy are at the top of many candidates’ platforms. Here is a glimpse into their mayoral agendas.

LaToya Cantrell

Courtesy of Ballotpedia

Cantrell is the incumbent candidate and one of five Democrats running in the election. She is originally from Los Angeles and earned a bachelor’s degree from Xavier University of Louisiana and received executive management training at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

Cantrell assumed office in May 2018 and was preceded by Mitch Landrieu. During her first term as mayor, Cantrell helped secure $50 million in funding for the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board and spearheaded the city’s COVID-19 response. 

As the first female mayor of New Orleans, Cantrell navigated the pandemic, Hurricane Ida, a cyberattack on government servers and the Hard Rock Hotel collapse. 

During her time in office, Cantrell acquired over $200 million through the Fair Share Agreement, aimed to repair and upgrade the city’s infrastructure. According to Cantrell, she will continue to use these funds to complete and create various projects.

Cantrell’s platform also hinges on a commitment to prioritizing affordable housing, raising the minimum wage to $15.00 and improving equity and accessibility in New Orleans. 

When it comes to crime and policing, Cantrell said she prefers a “holistic approach” that connects public safety to public health. According to Cantrell, addressing crime goes beyond focusing on the New Orleans Police Department and must also address the greater system. Most recently, Cantrell created a 911 alternative for mental health crises. 

Eldon Anderson

Courtesy of Facebook

Anderson is a Democratic candidate and New Orleans native. He graduated from Delgado Community College in 2019. In 2018, Anderson was a special election candidate for District 93 of the Louisiana House of Representatives.

Anderson has three campaign messages: represent all his constituents “fatefully,” to establish diverse policies that are equitable, honest and fair and to use businesses to educate high school students on “relevant skillsets.”

Anderson believes the most important role of mayors is to create policies and programs that “benefit the citizens, not work against them.” He cites the use of city business resources to allow high schoolers to work for elective credits and create summer work programs that would sustain the local economy.

Belden “Noonie Man” Batiste

Courtesy of Ballotpedia

Batiste is a Democratic mayoral candidate and a flag boy in the Yellow Pocahontas of the Mardi Gras Indians. In March 2021, Batiste ran and lost as an Independent in a special election to represent Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Among the issues on Batiste’s platform, he wants to address the link between mental health and crime. According to Batiste, to combat crime, he would bring back community policing and increase wages for police officers and firefighters.

“We need a mayor who is workin’ not twerkin’,” Batiste said.

Luke Fontana

Courtesy of Ballotpedia

​​Fontana is a Democratic candidate running on an anti-vaccination platform. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Spring Hill College and a Juris Doctor from Tulane University School of Law. Fontana worked as a civil rights attorney and was the president of Save Our Wetlands, a nonprofit organization.

Fontana’s campaign has three goals: to reject the proposal to relocate New Orleans City Hall to the Municipal Auditorium in Tremé, to abolish proof of COVID-19 vaccination requirements for business patrons and to revitalize the New Orleans economy by reopening the city to tourism. His campaign slogan is “Make New Orleans Great Again,” an homage to that of former President Donald Trump.

Should he be elected, Fontana said “I will announce to planet Earth that New Orleans is open for business and will not only expose the World Health Organization and Center for Disease Control as a corrupt criminal empire, but will sue the criminals for $133 billion dollars in actual damages plus punitive damages they have vomited upon the City of New Orleans.”

Johnese Smith

Courtesy of Ballotpedia

Smith is a Democratic candidate in the mayoral election and a New Orleans native. Smith ran and lost as a Democrat in the 2017 New Orleans mayoral election. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the Tulane University College of Paralegal Studies.

If elected, Smith said she would focus on creating generational wealth for New Orleanians. According to Smith, New Orleans needs to diversify the local economy beyond tourism and recruiting large businesses would benefit local small businesses.

Regarding improving policing and reducing violence, Smith said change is necessary within NOPD and within the broader culture of New Orleans.

Vina Nguyen

Courtesy of Ballotpedia

Nguyen is the only Republican candidate in the mayoral election and a small business owner. Nguyen said her platform focuses on opening the New Orleans economy and abolishing the COVID-19 policies instated by Cantrell.

Nguyen described New Orleans as “crippled on all fronts” due to Cantrell’s COVID-19 mandates.

In terms of policing, Nguyen said the consent decree established by former mayor Mitch Landrieu hinders NOPD by limiting when officers can engage in car chases or stop and search residents. She also said she would increase the number of police officers by raising wages, improving training and giving away abandoned homes to officers.

Nguyen does not support efforts to increase the number of contracts given to minority-owned businesses, describing these efforts as “crutches.”

Manny “Chevrolet” Bruno

Courtesy of Ballotpedia

Bruno is one of four non-partisan candidates running for Mayor of New Orleans and a Los Angeles native. Bruno ran and withdrew from the 2014 New Orleans mayoral elections and ran and lost in the 2017 New Orleans mayoral elections.

If elected, Bruno said he would create a nine-day weekend and would help restore normalcy in New Orleans. According to Bruno, violent crime, inadequate schools, broken streets and patronage in New Orleans are “just the way it is.”

Bruno is the only candidate sympathetic to Cantrell’s COVID-19 response.

Byron Cole

Courtesy of Facebook

Cole is a non-partisan mayoral candidate and New Orleans native. He ran and lost in the 2017 mayoral election.

Cole’s platform focuses on addressing poverty, redevelopment, taxes and jobs. Among the topics he supports, Cole is in favor of raising the minimum wage to $17.00 and establishing tolls  for non-New Orleans residents.

Leilani Heno

Courtesy of Ballotpedia

Heno is a non-partisan mayoral candidate and a New Orleans native. She earned both her bachelor’s degree and graduate degree from the University of New Orleans and is a business owner. If elected, Heno would be the first openly LGBTQ+ mayor.

Heno’s campaign has three central tenants: community input, the environment and local businesses. Like many of her fellow candidates, Heno is critical of Cantrell’s COVID-19 response. According to Heno, mask and vaccine mandates should be at the discretion of businesses.

Heno said she hopes to improve NOPD by reversing changes to the police promotion system, thus providing the administration more control over which officers receive promotions. She also said she would combine Uptown police districts to release more deskbound police officers. 

Joseph Amato

Courtesy of Ballotpedia

Amato is an Independent mayoral candidate from Metairie, Louisiana. He earned a bachelor’s degree from UNO and owns Vieux Carre CBD.

Among the issues on his platform, Amato said he is committed to creating a street repair efficiency board, expanding the city’s solar power capacity, burying power lines and increasing the minimum wage across the employment spectrum.

Regarding COVID-19 policies, Amato said he opposes vaccine mandates for bars and restaurants, but does support them for larger festivals and events. Unlike many of his fellow candidates, Amato said Cantrell’s response should have been more aggressive at the start of COVID-19 outbreaks.

Matthew Hill

Courtesy of Ballotpedia

Hill is an Independent candidate from El Salvador. He ran and lost in the 2017 mayoral election. Hill received a bachelor’s degree from George Mason University and he is a restaurateur. He is currently affiliated with the Barman’s Fund.

If elected, Hill said he will use his knowledge of the Lean Six Sigma management style to revitalize the city’s infrastructure by ensuring the city has enough employees. Among Hill’s mayoral ideas, his changes could include creating a police unit designated for transporting people to jail and consolidating roadwork and utility projects to improve efficiency.

Hill supports the legalization of marijuana and the construction of more casinos to increase local revenue. He also said that selling city properties could generate funds and lower taxes.

Nathaniel Jones

Courtesy of Ballotpedia

Jones is an Independent candidate and a New Orleans native. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University and has experience working in transportation and hospitality. 

According to Jones, the most important mayoral responsibilities are crime and tourism. His campaign has three messages: the city needs “soul searching in these hard times,” he has a “Plan B” for Mardi Gras and New Orleans needs to preserve its “mystique.”

Douglas Bentley I

Courtesy of Ballotpedia

Bentley is an Independent candidate and a New Orleans native. He received an associate degree from Florida Career College and served in the United States Navy for seven years. 

According to Bentley, he is running for office because he loves his city. “I will not stand by and watch it be handed over to tyrants, and big business or to collusions that only want to capitalize for themselves,” Bentley said.