We continue this week with our endorsements in the Nov. 6 elections. We note that Gambit historically does not endorse in judicial races. We therefore make no recommendations in the elections for judge at Criminal District Court or the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal. In prior weeks, we announced our recommendations in the Orleans Parish School Board races and for the nine proposed constitutional amendments. Following are our recommendations for Congress and the New Orleans City Council.
For Congress: Cedric Richmond and Steve Scalise — No, they're not running as a team, but they often serve as one for the benefit of southeast Louisiana. Richmond, a New Orleans Democrat, and Scalise, a Jefferson Republican, rarely vote alike on issues of national significance. However, the two men — whose friendship dates to their days in the Louisiana House of Representatives — could teach their colleagues a lot about building bipartisan coalitions.
On at least three recent occasions, Richmond, who represents solidly Democratic District 2, and Scalise, who represents thoroughly Republican District 1, put aside party differences to forge consensus on issues of vital importance to the region. In July 2011, they joined forces to direct $6.8 million to increase dredging in the Mississippi River to keep shipping lanes open. The very next day they added $1 million for coastal restoration, which took it out of the "non-starter" category of federal projects and put it in the pipeline for future allocations.
Perhaps their biggest success was helping pass the RESTORE Act, which they coordinated with U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu in the Senate. The act ultimately will send billions to Louisiana for coastal restoration. "We built a very big coalition," Scalise says. "It was very important to the five Gulf Coast states, but we were all on very different pages. It took lots of juggling, but at the end of the day, it all worked out for Louisiana. We will get the most money by anybody's estimate."
There was a time when such cross-party coordination was routine in the Louisiana delegation — and at the highest levels of Congress. Sadly, such bipartisanship is rare these days. In fact, both parties seem to punish members who reach across the aisle. Fortunately, Louisiana has two members of Congress who get the notion that bipartisanship moves the region — and the country — forward. We recommend both men be re-elected.
For City Council, District B: Dana Kaplan — Voters in District B are blessed to have three very strong candidates seeking to succeed Stacy Head as their council member. We found lots to like about LaToya Cantrell, Dana Kaplan and Eric Strachan. In the end, we give the nod to Kaplan. Her experience as head of the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana put her on the front lines of the fight against crime, in terms of both intervention and policymaking. A leader in the Safe Streets movement, Kaplan played a key role in establishing the city's Independent Police Monitor. No other candidate we interviewed articulated as deep an understanding of the complex causes and potential solutions to our city's endemic crime problem as did Kaplan. She has a knack for consensus building and grassroots organizing (she qualified to run by getting more than 1,000 voters to sign a petition supporting her candidacy, rather than just plopping down cash to qualify), and she displays a rare combination of energy, independence, maturity and temperament that will serve her diverse district — and the city — very well.
For City Council, District E: James Gray — This is another race that has attracted a strong field of candidates. That's especially important in this district, which has been underserved on the council for too long. District E faces the same problems as the rest of the city, only more so — crime, blight, infrastructure, economic development and more. In our view, no candidate is better prepared to lead the effort to bring back eastern New Orleans and the Lower Ninth Ward than James Gray. An attorney and Vietnam veteran, Gray has the maturity and training to lead as well as the humility to serve. He currently serves as chair of the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee, teaches trial practice at Tulane Law School, chairs the prestigious Louisiana Law Institute (whose members are the state's most respected legal scholars), and serves on the boards of the National Urban League, the Boy Scouts of America and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Gray promises to focus on crime, economic development, youth programs and parks and playgrounds. We think he will serve District E well.
On Nov. 6, voters across America will cast ballots for president, Congress, U.S. Senate and a host of local and statewide contests. While Louisiana does not have a U.S. Senate race on the ballot, there are lots of important local elections to be decided. Regardless of whether our readers agree with our recommendations, we hope all of them will vote next Tuesday, Nov. 6.