- Hey I'm Valerie June.
Coming up on Reel South.
- [Valerie] In one of the oldest cities in America, only men have been elected mayor.
But in 2015, New Orleans voters got to choose between two black women.
- I'm Desirée Charbonnet When it comes to reducing crime, failure is not an option.
- If you want to get things done, you've got to fight for it.
- [Valerie] In a historic election, relive this sea change.
- And we both deserve to be proud of that.
- [Valerie] "Watch All Skinfolk Ain't Kinfolk."
Up next on Reel South.
[laid-back blues music] [musical vocalizing] - We need your vote.
Because if I am elected as congresswoman things will be different.
We are sick and tired of being sick and tired.
And we are tired of people saying that we are satisfied.
Because we are everything but satisfied.
[energetic fiddle music] - We're gonna ask a few personal questions and each candidate will have one minute to respond.
The first question is going to be what one thing do you admire about each of your opponents both personally and professionally?
Judge Bagneris, when you look at your opponents?
- I believe that Constable Cantrell is a very, very good mother.
- And for Judge Charbonnet?
- She has great taste in shoes.
[laughter] [exciting fiddle music] - [Woman] You know I thought having two black female candidates would be this transformative moment.
Where I felt like I was really seen in a way I hadn't been.
But somehow it didn't really feel that way.
[vibrant violin music] [upbeat music] - A woman will be the mayor of New Orleans.
Desiree Charbonnet and LaToya Cantrell are headed to a November Mayoral runoff.
[cheery violin music] - [Woman] I am from New Orleans.
- [Woman] I am from California.
- [Woman] I am from here, I'm from Gentilly.
- [Woman] I'm from upstate New York.
- [Woman] This is home.
My mom is buried here.
My grandma is buried here.
My roots are here.
And everything that I love about myself is here.
[cheery violin music] - Vote for Dessee!
- I think it's fantastic that we've ended up in a runoff between two women.
Considering that there were males in the race as well.
- It's also important for them to continue to represent that change can happen and that we just need to be diligent.
And we need to stay to the course.
- [Woman] If she wins I will definitely be excited to see how she'll use her platform.
- [Woman] I'm going to cast my ballot for a black woman and it's going to feel good to.
[Cheery violin] [cars engines drown out woman chanting ] - Desiree Charbonnet has really been the front runner in this race.
She's garnered the most support or endorsements and has raised the most money.
More than $1.3 million.
- [Woman] They both strike different visuals.
One is sharp and polished in physical appearance.
One of them is high fashion.
The other is folksy regular people in physical appearance.
Regular boots on the ground, let's get this done.
- If you want to get things done you've got to fight for it.
- [Narrator] LaToya Cantrell.
- [Woman] And then one of them speaks more gentile and poised.
- I am the only candidate who sat on the bench and looked crime in the face day in and day out for a decade.
[applause] - The other speaks emphatically.
Almost in the cadence of a sermon.
- I am not running to be the first of anything.
But I am running to be the best mayor that we need to lead New Orleans forward.
- Desiree is a long time community servant who started off as a very well beloved judge.
One who was well respected.
- I'm Desiree Charbonnet.
When it comes to reducing crime, failure is not an option.
- That she has been groomed in the city's historical black middle class environment.
She would be more like an establishment candidate.
If you want to call it it that in other cities.
- Hi I'm Munch on the Mike.
I'm here with: - Desiree Charbonnet.
- Miss Charbonnet I've heard many rumors that you are considering running for mayor.
- My experience on the bench.
Understanding crime, understanding the root causes of crime.
Is important for the city.
- ♪ And a better day vote Desiree Charbonnet ♪ ♪ For mayor of New Orleans - I would say for LaToya, she is also a known quantity.
In particularly around the fight for bringing equity to the city.
- [Woman] After Katrina as many were still reeling from the storm.
In Broadmoor LaToya Cantrell was working.
Spearheading efforts to jump start recovery in her neighborhood.
An area of the city that was not slated to return.
- We are committed to our city.
- And in 2012 she won a special election for City Council District B.
- Now the residents are really just looking for her to deliver.
- Hi guys and welcome to the 504 I'm Sheba Turk.
And as we all know early voting is underway for the November 18th elections.
Which means the big runoff for mayor.
I wish we could talk about a lot more tonight.
We ae out of time.
I just want you guys to leave voters if they go into the polls and are still undecided.
When they think Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell why should I vote?
Give me a quick thought.
- Well Councilwoman Cantrell has been in the forefront of affordable housing.
Economic development, neighborhood stabilization.
I'm a proven leader with a proven track record of getting things done for our people.
I'm asking for your vote so that we can get the job done, thank you.
- Judge Desiree Charbonnet when they walk in there what should they think?
- You should vote for me because I have a proven record of leadership in this community for the last 20 years.
I have a vision for a city with a Work Class Development Program like no other.
Think about who is gonna represent you here in the city of New Orleans.
- It is my staunch belief that the vote is our most promising means of accomplishing equality in Mississippi, and in any other state which allows for discrimination.
[blues music] - [Woman] Black women are tried and true as we've always been.
Particularly with our loyalty to Democrats showing up at the booth.
And it's a tradition I think that we have.
It's a tradition that is important.
And I feel as a black person I have a debt that I owe to my ancestors.
Somebody bore a whip.
Somebody picked cotton and tobacco.
Somebody was raped.
Somebody did these things.
Because I now have the freedom to live my life as an individual in this country.
There is a long tradition of black women always showing up and voting.
Once we advanced in the Suffrage Movement.
- [Woman] And then there's the cohort of black women that really never voted or were empowered or knew how to or who are now coming out and voting.
Because the marginalization that we're feeling and seeing is still playing out.
It's those two types of black women voters coming together.
I think black women in general have put in the diverse more progressive, more liberal people in office.
- Earlier today we heard the beginning of the Preamble to the constitution of the United States.
"We the people".
It's a very eloquent beginning.
But when that document was completed on the 17th of September in 1787 I was not included in that "We the people".
I felt somehow for many years that George Washington and Alexander Hamilton just left me out by mistake.
But through the process of amendment.
Interpretation and court decision.
I have finally been included in "We the people".
[mellow organ music] - [Woman] Historically we've always had a black mayor.
Growing up, of course I was in elementary school during the Morial era.
And the Nagin and the Barthelemy.
Those were families that were rooted and had deep, deep roots in the city.
It was just a given.
We just knew we'd have a black mayor.
- [Woman] But there has never been a woman mayor in this city.
It makes sense that there have been so many black mayors.
It's a 60% black city.
But what's surprising to me is that there's never been any black female mayors.
Or any female mayors at all.
And that's something that guess I thought there would be more enthusiasm around.
- Joining us right now is Jarvis DeBerry.
Deputy Opinions Editor for NOLA.com.
Jarvis what have been the dominant issues that voters in New Orleans want to see the next mayor address?
- The streets are horrible as they've always been horrible.
Crime is bad as it's been bad for a long time.
Economic development is not where people want it to be.
A lot of people are complaining about the intrusion of Airbnb.
That's really destroying the character of a lot of New Orleans neighborhoods.
Those are the issues.
- One thing I do hope, I hope black folks turn out in New Orleans regardless of who they vote for.
- [Woman] Do you know who you're gonna vote for?
- [Woman] I'm probably one of those anomaly people who doesn't vote along the party line.
Specifically or things like that.
I really am a person who pays attention to what is said.
Which is why this race has been particularly difficult for me because as I've watched the televised debates and things of that nature.
I get frustrated that I don't feel that things are being stated in concise and clear forms.
- [Woman] Breaking news.
- LaToya Cantrell's use of the city credit card.
- City credit card.
- City credit.
- [Man] What it calls questionable spending.
- [Woman] About $9,000.
- [Man] 600.
- [Woman] $42,000 in charges.
- [Man] The travel expenses were - [Woman] Political and personal expenses - [Woman] Including 30 trips around the country.
- I didn't see the need to have all those credit cards running all over the place.
And we've been very circumspect about when and how.
And having measures in place to make sure that those expenditures were only for public matters.
- There was no findings of any wrongdoing.
- [Woman] "Oh look at that out of control not financially responsible black woman over there."
She's gonna steal money from you to pay her bills, right?
- [Man] Charbonnet gave contracts to elected officials.
- [Woman] And if she's mayor, city contracts would go to you lucky few.
[laughter] - [Woman] The media's bought just like any institution, entity, or person could be.
This is the first time that we're seeing political PACs coming out with significant amounts of money.
- [Woman] Paid for Not For Sale NOLA.com PAC.
Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.
- [Woman] This narrative that Desiree is the mouthpiece for this political league that wants to get back into City Hall and give contracts to their friends.
- Throughout this entire campaign there have been no promises to anyone.
- [Woman] They would never say that about a black man.
Or even a white man.
Or any other man.
- I've said she's gonna have skin in the game.
She's gonna have low hanging fruit.
Boots are gonna be on the ground.
I know that for sure about her.
- Desiree Charbonnet and LaToya Cantrell are throwing shade at one another.
Three recent polls show Councilwoman Cantrell with a lead over Charbonnet.
Jarvis what in the world's going down in the Crescent City?
- I think Cantrell, like with the Tortoise and the Hare kind of thing where Charbonnet was way way way out ahead in the fundraising, and really scaring all the other candidates.
And Cantrell just kept a slow and steady pace.
After being a front runner for months and having the clear fundraising advantage.
She came in nine points behind Cantrell in the primary.
- [Woman] The leanings of our local media publications deeply, deeply shape discourse about these candidates in ways that hasn't been as obvious with other races.
We have two black candidates.
We have two black female candidates.
The vote for them is not split on racial and economic lines in ways that we can recognize.
What do we do?
None of our stories hold up.
This is a whole new genre.
- [Woman] I think just stating "I'm a black woman".
It's not even safe for us to really state our issues on those platforms.
And it's interesting watching this race and seeing these women go through the same exact thing.
Of talking around the issue.
And not really saying things that I know they're thinking.
If we can't even state who we are how can we talk about anything else?
Everything else will just be a performance.
- [Woman] You represent a trend for more women and specifically black women to get involved in politics and go after elected office.
- Yes I specifically recommend a trend for more women and specifically black women to enter into politics.
I happen to believe that there's certain aspects of legislation that probably would be given much more attention if we had more women's voices in the halls of the legislatures on the city, state, and national level.
Legislation that pertains to daycare centers.
Education, social services, mental services.
The kind of legislation that has to do with the conservation and preservation of the most important resources that any nation has.
And that is it's human resources.
[audience cheers] [organ music] - [Woman] Because of the ingrained racism and sexism that is in our political culture, neither candidate can come out and say "I am a black woman.
I am running for this office."
And champion issues and ideas and thoughts that put black women as a whole, at the forefront.
- [Woman] I think some of the things that are important for me as a black woman are the same things that are important for citizens generally.
How you handle the criminal justice system here.
- [Woman] Crime, we got crime.
There are things you can do to mitigate and make crime less.
But are you gonna get in there and solve crime?
I think you're not.
- [Woman] Somebody in this damn city needs to talk about this shoddy education system.
- [Woman] Even though black women are not the most educated in America, they're also still underpaid under white women.
And there's still a significant number of black women who are living below the poverty line.
- [Woman] I need better healthcare policies but I ain't got time to think about all that.
Because all these other issues are plaguing my life.
I feel our black people in New Orleans have been pushed out so quickly.
The play areas we had in the city.
Where these children had access to now they've been pushed out of the city.
And I see these little black children playing in the street.
And I see them being bored and getting into mischief.
The new dynamic and the new face in New Orleans.
And now you see their children playing in that.
We owe it to the people who are from here to be able to stay here.
The cathedral will still be there.
The Superdome will still be there.
The river will still be there.
But the people that give it that New Orleans no other place in the world flavor.
Those people are slowly but surely gone.
- [Woman] We are the highest voting population in this state and in this city.
But we don't have the representation to reflect that.
The idea that our mayor regardless of the outcome is gonna be a black woman?
We're all excited.
However, when we talk about reform or change or doing something in the way that is supposed to be good for everybody.
We also have to recognize that women as a whole if they're not addressed specifically they are being left out.
And if black women aren't addressed specifically apart from white women then we're being left out.
And then we're left out of those conversations and that dialogue on a consistent basis.
[organ music] - We shouldn't just be thanking women of color for electing progressive leaders.
We should be electing women of color as those leaders.
[cheering] [car engines drowning out cheering] - [Woman] What do people whom share experiences that we have owe to us once they obtain a position of power?
And I think in some ways we still believe that electing folks who look like us.
Who share experiences with us.
Perhaps will be put into positions of power and the work that they do there will be informed by those experiences.
And I think we're voting that way still.
I'm voting that way still even though there are parts of me that know that isn't always true.
And in fact there are things that suggest once a person who has been formally oppressed obtains some sort of power they then adopt the tools of the white power structure.
And use them against people who they used to be like.
I'm not sure that black and brown folks in positions of power can resist using tools of white supremacy once you are inside of that system of power.
- I don't need somebody to tell me what it means to be black.
I really don't.
I actually think that it's the height of prejudice to assume that you know what people think because of their color.
And that you have the right to design their lives for them.
And to tell them what they will think or do.
That's the height of prejudice.
And the height of hubris really.
[Happy violin music] - If you are just joining us we are waiting the arrival of mayor elect LaToya Cantrell.
- [Woman] I think LaToya won because she did a lot of work behind the scenes.
She went door to door.
She did a lot of face to face time with people.
And that made her feel more down to earth.
And I think that that really made the difference.
[Cheering] - [Woman] I don't think just because she's mayor makes the city change .
I would never put that kind of responsibility on just one individual because it's in our hands.
It's in our power.
I feel like it can help.
But it's not the answer.
- Prior to coming out I did have an opportunity.
I received a call from Miss Charbonnet.
And I said to her congratulations on standing with me.
On making history because our history was two women who made that runoff.
And we both deserve to be proud of that.
We have spoken.
The people of our city have spoken.
And no one will be left out.
No one will be left behind.
Because we're focused on the future of the city of New Orleans.
Where all of us matter.
This has been the people's campaign from day one.
I started this campaign going listening to our people.
Hearing your cry.
But also understanding that we are in a true position to ensure that we are no longer about the haves and the have nots.
That we are going to ensure that our city continues to grow.
And be strong and give real opportunity.
That pies get larger so that each and every one of us can share in it.
That each and every one of us can win in our city.
This win tonight is not for me nor my family.
This win tonight is for the city of New Orleans.
[cheery violin music] ♪ ♪ [Mellow jazz music] ♪ ♪ [laid-back blues music] ♪