It's entirely possible that the next mayor's name hasn't even been mentioned yet.
Election season is never far away in New Orleans. Qualifying for mayor and all seven City Council seats is only three-and-a-half months away, in mid-July. That means potential candidates already are jockeying behind the scenes, even if voters aren't yet engaged.
The only declared candidate for mayor so far is former Judge Michael Bagneris, who retired in 2013 to run against Mayor Mitch Landrieu. The incumbent mayor defeated Bagneris and then-NAACP New Orleans leader Danatus King in the 2014 primary. Now Landrieu is term-limited, which portends a large field of would-be successors.
District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell told a crowd last fall, "I am ready to lead this city," but stopped short of expressly declaring mayoral intent. (Cantrell's office denied knowing who recently paid for a downtown billboard with only the word "LaToya" on it.) Other serious possibilities include state Rep. Walt Leger III and state Sen. J.P. Morrell, who are longtime friends — so much so that many expect only one of them to run. Then again, politics has strained friendships before.
The list of potential candidates goes on: state Sens. Karen Carter Peterson and Troy Carter; Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet (who demurs for now because state law would force her to resign her judgeship the minute she declares for any non-judicial post); and the wild card, trash magnate and reality TV star Sidney Torres, who has commissioned polls on his chances. All are Democrats.
Still others get mentioned but appear less likely to run. At-Large Councilman Jason Williams isn't term-limited and would easily win another term on the council; he is seen as a potential candidate for district attorney down the road. Speaking of district attorney, incumbent DA Leon Cannizzaro has been mentioned as a potential mayoral candidate, but few see him giving up a job he clearly loves. At-Large Councilwoman Stacy Head, who is term-limited, has said in the past she isn't running, but politicians often change their minds.
In the end, it's entirely possible that the next mayor's name hasn't even been mentioned yet. New Orleans' last three mayors officially announced relatively late compared to their opponents.
One major change looms large: this will be the first citywide election cycle in which Super-PACs appear likely to play a major role. So-called "independent expenditures" that are not subject to campaign finance limits could outstrip candidate spending — and tip the balance in a close race.
Meanwhile, all seven City Council seats will be up for grabs, but only two council members are term-limited: Head and District A Councilwoman Susan Guidry. District B is a mystery until Cantrell declares her intentions. The remaining district council members — Nadine Ramsey (District C), Jared Brossett (District D) and James Gray (District E) — are not term-limited. The open council seats, like the mayor's race, could be hotly contested.
In addition to the mayoral and council contests, Sheriff Marlin Gusman also is up for re-election, along with Clerks of Court Dale Atkins and Arthur Morrell.
All in all, 2017 will be a very busy political season in the Crescent City. Stay tuned.