City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell will get a full term in District B unopposed. Former Orleans Parish School Board President Lourdes Moran jumped into what’s now a three-way contest in the District C council race, and entertainer Manny “Chevrolet” Bruno confirmed he will make his fourth quixotic bid for mayor, no doubt bringing some levity to the campaign season.
Those were among the highlights on the last day of qualifying for the Feb. 1 New Orleans primary elections, although there was not as much drama in the last moments as there could have been.
There had been speculation that candidates would be swapping their names in and out of the two at-large council races right down to the wire. This was the first time that hopefuls had to declare for one seat or the other, rather than join a free-for-all in which the top two vote-getters won the offices. So any of the candidates this year could have made a last-minute switch to shake things up and perhaps improve their chances.
Instead, the last few hours of qualifying passed in a more or less orderly way at the clerk’s office in Criminal District Court, where the typical crowd of political consultants gathered to watch the action and talk shop along with U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, who showed up in blue jeans and a baseball cap.
Still, the run-up to qualifying this year did have its unexpected turns. Kristin Gisleson Palmer threw open the District C race last week with her decision to bow out after one term. At-large member Jackie Clarkson kept people guessing for a while before confirming she would try to replace Palmer in Clarkson’s former seat. And Michael Bagneris finally put weeks of speculation to rest by resigning his judgeship in Civil District Court, only to allow 24 hours to pass before finally confirming he would challenge Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
“This election cycle has been like a soap opera,” pollster Silas Lee said.
“People thought the mayor’s race would be something of a coronation,” he added. “Naturally, Mayor Landrieu does have the resources, but Michael Bagneris is a former judge, and he does have access to some political networks. So that helps him remain competitive.”
The mayor’s race also will have some comic relief. Bruno, appropriately enough, opened his campaign with a joke at his own expense and a nod to his slim chances against Landrieu, Bagneris and local NAACP head Danatus King: “You know what they say, fourth time’s a charm.”
Moran’s decision to run for the council came as somewhat of a surprise. Though her name came up after Palmer said she wouldn’t seek another term in District C, Moran had Clarkson’s support when she first ran successfully for a seat on the School Board in 2004. Now Moran will face Clarkson and former Civil District Court Judge Nadine Ramsey in the race for a council seat that represents an area roughly similar to her old board territory.
In a prepared statement, Moran, who lost her last re-election bid, said, “This election is an opportunity to serve and improve the quality of life for all citizens of District C.”
Cantrell, who did not even draw a challenge this time around from Marlon “10th Ward Buck” Horton, a bounce artist who had pledged to run, said she was “humbled” by the apparent show of approval demonstrated by her failure to draw a single opponent. “There’s a sense of confidence in the leadership that I’ve been able to provide,” she said in a brief interview. “You know there’s more to come. We’ve just gotten started.”
Assessor Erroll Williams also won another term automatically, as did Civil District Court Clerk Dale Atkins.
But Arthur Morrell, the clerk in Criminal District Court, drew a last-minute challenge from a little-known candidate named Robbie Keen, who did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Also, the District E race, where incumbent James Gray is facing former Councilwoman Cynthia Willard-Lewis, got another contender: Andre Kelly.
In District A, Susan Guidry saw the number of challengers for her seat multiply to five, all relative newcomers to city politics: Jason Coleman of the Coleman Cab Co. family, who lost a School Board race last year; Stephen Gordon, the owner of a business called Flashtech; Reid Stone, the head of a public relations firm called Herofarm; defense lawyer David Capasso; and Drew Ward, a doctoral student at Tulane University.