Council seats head for runoffs

The races to fill two spots on the New Orleans City Council appeared to be headed for runoffs late Tuesday after voters apparently failed to give any one candidate a majority of the votes to claim the vacant districts B and E seats.

With 72 of 81 precincts reporting at press time, District B appeared to be a toss up between LaToya Cantrell, who had 38 percent of the vote, and Dana Kaplan, who had 32 percent of the vote, according to the Louisiana Secretary of State.

Eric Strachan had 25 percent of the vote, while Marlon Horton trailed his District B competitors with 5 percent.

With 23 of 57 precincts reporting in District E, Austin Badon led with 40 percent of the vote, while James Gray was in second place with 33 percent, according to Secretary of State numbers.

The rest of the field was tightly bunched: Dana Henry, Jerrelda Drummer Sanders and Mary Fontenot Smith each had about 9 percent.

A runoff election is set for Dec. 8.

Former District B Councilwoman Stacy Head vacated that seat, which includes parts of Uptown, Broadmoor, Central City, the Central Business District and Mid-City, after she was elected to an at-large position. Head replaced former Councilman Arnie Fielkow, who resigned his spot to take a job with the National Basketball Retired Players Association.

Former state Sen. Diana Bajoie has served as an interim council member for the district.

The District E seat opened unexpectedly this summer when former Councilman Jon Johnson pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges and resigned from the council in the same day.

Johnson, a former state senator and representative, was elected to the council in March 2010. He admitted in July to conspiring to funnel federal rebuilding grants to his unsuccessful 2007 campaign for state Senate. The grants had been awarded to the Ninth Ward Housing Development Corp., a nonprofit he managed.

Johnson’s sentencing was moved recently from Oct. 25 to Nov. 15 after his attorney asked for more time to prepare for the hearing. Johnson faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Ernest Charbonnet has filled Johnson’s seat on an interim basis.

District E is a sprawling swatch of land that includes the Lower 9th Ward, the majority of eastern New Orleans and parts of Desire.