Mayor Landrieu looks safe in poll, and other New Orleans-area political news

Mayor Mitch Landrieu would easily win re-election against either local NAACP President Danatus King — his only announced challenger so far — or Civil District Court Judge Michael Bagneris, who is rumored to be considering a run but hasn’t commented on the possibility, according to a poll commissioned by the mayor and obtained by The New Orleans Advocate.

A survey of 600 likely voters conducted last month by the consulting firm GBA Strategies gave Landrieu 75 percent of the vote to King’s 18 percent in a two-way race, with a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.

A theoretical match-up between Landrieu and Bagneris, who has clashed with the mayor recently over where to build a new courthouse, showed Landrieu leading 73 percent to 21 percent.

The numbers won’t come as a shock. The latest University of New Orleans survey, released in October, gave Landrieu a 65 percent approval rating, which, combined with a formidable campaign war chest and the advantage of incumbency, will make any challenge in February’s elections a steep climb.

Qualifying for the mayor’s race and other city offices begins Wednesday and ends Friday.

Poll: Sheriff’s race likely competitive

The race for sheriff, on the other hand, looks competitive. The consulting firm Win Partners tweeted some results from an October survey of 836 registered voters that showed incumbent Marlin Gusman leading the field, but with only 22 percent of the vote.

Charles Foti, who served as sheriff before Gusman took over, came in a close second with 18.7 percent. That’s just within the poll’s margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

State Rep. Austin Badon, meanwhile, got 16.1 percent, and attorney Jason Williams 7.9 percent, though neither has said he will run for sheriff. Williams has been raising money to run for an at-large seat on the New Orleans City Council. Badon hasn’t said what office he might seek, though he told The Times-Picayune he was “quite encouraged” by the poll and is now mulling a run.

It was unclear why the poll was released so long after it was conducted, though some observers speculated it might have been an effort to help Badon line up potential donors.

A fair bit has changed since the poll was done: Not only has Williams declared other intentions, but the race now has a third announced candidate alongside Gusman and Foti: Orleans Parish School Board President Ira Thomas. The poll did not measure Thomas’ support.

Potential candidates weigh options

Meanwhile, the race for the District C seat on the City Council is getting more interesting. With incumbent Kristin Gisleson Palmer announcing this week that she won’t run for a second term, other potential candidates are weighing their options.

The only candidate to make it official so far is Nadine Ramsey, a former Civil District Court judge and mayoral candidate.

Craig Mitchell, a lawyer who serves as vice chairman of the City Planning Commission, confirmed Friday that he may jump into the race. “Anyone who knows me and what I’ve been up to as far as civic involvement would think it’s a mistake for me not to seriously consider it,” he said.

And even though Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson initially denied any interest in running again for her old seat, she is starting to sound less certain after a barrage of phone calls. “I’m being plagued,” she said Friday. “I should be flattered, but instead I’m exhausted. Have I made up my mind? No.”

Clarkson will be forced out of her at-large seat on the council next year by term limits, but she would be eligible for the district seat, which she has held before.

Councilman Gray could face challenge

The District E council seat may be competitive as well. Rumors about Cynthia Willard-Lewis jumping in to challenge James Gray, who has been serving out the remainder of Jon Johnson’s term, were apparently close to the mark.

Asked this week about the possibility, Willard-Lewis — who represented District E for eight years, and also served as a state representative for a swath of New Orleans East — gave a big smile and said, “We’re considering all of our options.” She added, “You know how much I love public service.”

Willard-Lewis said she would make a final decision “shortly.”

Removing St. Charles blight up to owner

Owners of blighted property in St. Charles Parish have traditionally been able to get the parish to provide them with a free Dumpster rental if they promise to clean up the blight.

Those days may be over, thanks to a recent attorney general’s opinion.

St. Charles Parish Councilman Paul Hogan asked the AG’s Office in September whether the parish could use public money to pick up the tab for private property owners remediating blight.

It cannot, according to Assistant Attorney General Lindsey Hunter.

“The parish may continue providing commercial dumpsters to property owners in order to assist them in cleaning up property which has been formally declared as blighted,” Hunter wrote in the office’s formal opinion. But he said state law prohibits “the gratuitous alienation of public funds,” and he found that the parish must work to recover any expenses it incurs.

The price tag for providing the Dumpsters has mounted since 2009, Hogan said, ranging from a couple of hundred dollars in some cases to as much as $14,560.

The parish has spent more than $140,000 on the service overall, according to records he obtained.

“This isn’t something that’s a life-or-death situation,” Hogan said in an interview. “It’s: Is the spending of the taxpayer funds this way authorized or not? And if it’s not, then it needs to be stopped.”

Compiled by Andrew Vanacore, Gordon Russell and Richard Thompson.