LaToya Cantrell was endorsed Tuesday morning in her bid for the District B seat on the City Council by Council President Stacy Head, a popular and influential voice in Uptown politics who twice won the seat in 2006 and 2010.
Head has been a political rival of Mayor Mitch Landrieu on a number of issues lately, and her endorsement of Cantrell stands in contrast with Landrieu’s earlier endorsement of Dana Kaplan, whom Cantrell faces in the Dec. 8 runoff.
This is a natural move. And this was precisely the right time for Head to make it. Beyond the obvious bit about Stacy not wanting to deal with a new person on the council who owes favors to Mitch, she's also trying to preserve the electoral coalition that put her where she is today.
Head's base is Uptown conservative white money combined with Uptown slightly more liberal, perhaps less wealthy, whites who are interested in "reform." Whites as a whole are a minority in New Orleans but this specific coalition of traditional conservatives with young (sort of) progressive professional class whites has been especially assertive in post-Katrina politics. Stacy Head has been the catalyst behind and primary beneficiary of that phenomenon. She's ridden that to a narrow victory in a city-wide At-Large election and may now harbor bigger ambitions. But in order to realize those ambitions, she'll have to protect the base she's built.
The only way for Head to remain a major player is to keep all those Uptown white people on the same page. This can be tricky because there are natural fissures to exploit. In their own ways, each of the District B candidates threatens to peel away the less conservative part of Stacy's coalition. But Kaplan is especially problematic for Head, in part, because she's another young white lady, but more importantly because she appears to be aligning with Mitch.
Mitch, obviously, also pulls strongly from among middle class whites. By backing Kaplan, he's laying a claim on a big chunk of Head's base. Head pretty much has to make a counter-claim here. So the stakes here are potentially pretty high. Head is trying to maintain her momentum while Mitch could seize an opportunity to break things up a bit and set the stage for some new realignments in District B... and by extension, citywide.