In what has perhaps shaped up to be the most interesting race on the Oct. 14 ballot, New Orleans Tribune executive publisher and local, longtime physician Dr. Dwight McKenna is vying for the post against the current coroner Dr. Jeffrey Rouse, who on Aug. 24, publicly announced that he was ending his campaign and did not wish to serve as coroner after the end of his current term.
Although his only opponent in the race has expressed his intent to withdraw, Dr. McKenna has continued to run a vigorous campaign.
Dr. McKenna, who, along with his wife Beverly founded The New Orleans Tribune nearly 32 years ago and more recently established the McKenna Museums, which include the George and Leah McKenna Museum of Art and the Le Musee de f.p.c., promises to bring competency, honesty, and transparency to the coroner’s office.
“One reason I have continued to campaign so strongly is because I believe in the people of New Orleans and I want to serve them,” says Dr. Dwight McKenna. “More than that, I want the people of New Orleans to know that I value their support. I am not going to rest this election on the notion that the other guy is not campaigning. I want to earn the votes of my fellow citizens.”
The other reason Dr. McKenna’s campaign has not ceased despite Dr. Jeffrey Rouse’s announcement in August that he no longer wants to be coroner after his current term ends is that Dr. Rouse has not taken the steps needed to officially withdraw from the race and his name remains on the Oct. 14 ballot. People can vote for him, and votes in his favor will count pursuant to state law.
“There is still much confusion surrounding this race. The reality is that in order to win the election, I still need 50 percent of the vote, plus one” Dr. McKenna says. “So, I can’t stop. I won’t stop. There are those so against my candidacy that they are encouraging the people of Orleans Parish to cast their votes for a man who has publicly declared he no longer wants to be coroner.”
Dr. McKenna, who has practiced medicine for more than 46 years and opened his office in New Orleans about 43 years ago, says he understands the magnitude of the coroner’s job and recognizes that families rely on the coroner’s fair, objective, factual and professional consideration to bring closure and justice in the loss of loved ones. He promises that each death will be thoroughly and professionally investigated so that every case is properly classified.
“Families rely on the work of the coroner’s office to bring closure to insurance claims. Accurate and honest cause of death findings are critical in criminal investigations,” says Dr. McKenna. “I recognize how important the job of the coroner’s office is to bringing justice and resolution to the people of New Orleans.”
McKenna, a former member of the Orleans Parish School Board who has long been a champion for equity and opportunity for young Black males, says he also will use his position as coroner to talk about public health issues, including deadly impact of violence in the community.
“Because I am an innate and integral part of this community, I know and understand the problems it faces and I want to serve as a clear and balanced voice in addressing its needs.”