Challengers grapple with incumbent fundraising and media benefits – Mid-City Messenger
By Danae Columbus, Opinion Columnist
Republican mayoral candidate Vina Nguyen was delighted to be able to address a group of supporters on Wednesday evening (September 29) during a fundraiser in the French Quarter. “I promise to be a different leader – one who comes from a long road of obstacles who taught me to be kind to others and listen to their concerns,” Nguyen told the compact crowd who included. Republican Party Chairman Louis Gurvich, entrepreneur Gregory Holt, Stephen Mosgrove, District C Council candidate, and Juliet and Tim Laughlin, who hosted the event. “We cannot treat our citizens like this mayor does, and I promise we will do better. We should show companies looking to continue trading here, or to move here for the first time, that the last four years of indecency are over. The sun will rise again over our great city.
A small business owner, Nguyen has developed a finely tuned platform that focuses on crime and infrastructure. “Together we must build a safer, stronger and better New Orleans,” she said. Without significant resources and paid media, many potential voters may never have the opportunity to hear Nguyen’s platform. This is why events like the Wednesday night fundraiser are so important.
One of 14 candidates qualified to run for mayor, Nguyen and his non-incumbent colleagues are struggling to raise funds and get their messages across at a time when media attention continues to focus almost exclusively on current office holders. While some challengers were visible before the storm, Hurricane Ida changed the course of the races.
It also put the brakes on most fundraising. With just six weeks away from the election, the challengers – especially those in the mayoral race – are locked in a battle to raise the few dollars still available and gain visibility where possible. “Our campaign recognizes the unfair amount of free media the incumbent president has received during this election,” proclaimed Nguyen, who recently organized several days of garbage collection in Lakeview.
“The campaigns seem to be in suspended animation. They seem to work in place, ”said Edward Chervenak, political scientist at the University of New Orleans, director of the UN Survey Research Center. “Opponents of the incumbents don’t seem able to get traction. ”
While most citizens still assess the damage from the storm, Chervenak said he believes New Orleans will return to normal pretty quickly. He also believes that as the post-Ida era continues, citizens may become more angry at the city’s inability to provide essential services. Although he has not seen any ongoing research, Chervenak suspects that voter support for Cantrell, which has enjoyed high approval ratings, may have waned due to the recent ‘sanitation catastrophe’ .
At least one mayoral candidate, Belden Batiste, has criticized elected officials for continuously receiving media attention by distributing water, food and tarpaulins to affected citizens – supplies often donated by aid groups and others rather than paid for by the politicians who distribute them. He advocates that elected officials should “stay real” by doing the necessary work instead of always campaigning and posing for pictures. “People have played a lot of games,” said Batiste. Several mayoral candidates “are working towards the same goal of getting rid of Mayor Cantrell” and will take the highly unusual decision to canvass together in the coming weeks, Batiste says.
Chervenak sees the distribution of hurricane supplies as just one of the responsibilities of an elected official. “They are in the community at the service of their constituents. They are doing their job, ”he said. The media are naturally drawn to publicizing the activities of incumbents because they are better known, he said.
The Federal Communications Commission once had a fairness doctrine in place that required balanced coverage of controversial ideas and equal time for opposing candidates. Chervenak said the doctrine had a chilling effect and was repealed in 1987. Many challengers want the mainstream media to still embrace the concept of equal time as a good faith measure.
The concerns of other challengers about racing vary. Mayoral candidate Leilani Heno said she was waiting for someone to call this year’s Candidate Forum process. Although Mayor Cantrell was not present at many forums, she received almost all approvals.
“The current mayor blatantly disrespects the forums by not showing up, and yet they still approve of him,” said Heno. “Some committee members tell me behind the scenes that they feel like the organization ‘needs to support’ the incumbent. When I ask them to support the city, they just shrug their shoulders. Heno said one group was more interested in who was donating to their campaign and how much rather than their political positions.
Roz Thibodeaux, District B candidate for the council, also criticized the preference that support groups give to the most funded candidates. “Organizations support whoever has the money, not whoever has the plan,” Thibodeaux said. She said leaders of one group told her she was their favorite candidate, but added: “You will never get the money you need to win, which is why we cannot give you the money. to support.”
“The donor class in New Orleans sees political donations more as investments than donations; they hedge their bets in favor of incumbents like Mayor Cantrell. Few business owners can afford to go against it, ”said Matthew Hill, an independent running for mayoralty. “The political machine has shaken the citizens so much that no one knows where to turn. You have a situation where citizens want massive change but don’t know who will be their torchbearer.
General Council candidate JP Morrell has a different opinion. he watches this moment is a boon for those who “challenge the broken system” and those who have perpetuated it. “Free media earned are of no use if they just remind voters that all the problems we are currently facing were predictable and preventable,” Morrell said.
“We know so much has not worked in years – from garbage collection and unfinished street construction to soaring housing costs,” Morrell added. “People can see now that we need a new direction, a better way and a new urgency to get things done. “
None of the non-incumbent challengers in the race for mayor and other city offices will be able to raise as much money or garner the free media attention that is generally available to incumbents. Still, the challengers are moving towards election day.
Further candidate forums are planned in the coming weeks by the Urban League of Louisiana (October 5-7), the Broadmoor Improvement Association (October 6) and other organizations. Check them out to find out more about all the candidates running in our November 13 primary. elections. Early voting will take place from October 30 to November 6. Postal ballots are currently available.
Danae Columbus, who has had a 30-year career in politics and public relations, offers her opinions on Thursdays. Her career includes stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board and former clients such as former District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, City Councilor Jared Brossett, City Councilor Helena Moreno, Foster Campbell, former Lieutenant Governor Jay. Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former City Councilors Stacy Head and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell. She is a member of the Democratic Parish Executive Committee. Columbus can be contacted at [email protected]