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A political hot 7: races to watch on Election Night

A look at City Council, Jeff Parish Council and state treasurer races

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In addition to the New Orleans mayor's race, there are plenty of local contests to get citizens fired up about the Oct. 14 primary. The New Orleans City Council will gain at least three new members, one new face will join the Jefferson Parish Council and Louisiana will get a new state treasurer. All these are key positions.

   Early voting begins Saturday, Sept. 30, and continues through Oct. 7.

  Five of the seven New Orleans City Council races made our list of the hottest races to watch on Election Night. Here's a closer look at them and other contests in New Orleans and Jefferson Parish.

New Orleans City Council At-Large, Div. 1

The City Council At-Large race in Division 1 will bring a newcomer to the council in state Reps. Helena Moreno or Joseph Bouie or businessman Kenneth Cutno.
  • The City Council At-Large race in Division 1 will bring a newcomer to the council in state Reps. Helena Moreno or Joseph Bouie or businessman Kenneth Cutno.

State Rep. Helena Moreno, state Rep. Joseph Bouie and businessman Kenneth Cutno are running to succeed the term-limited Stacy Head.

  Moreno counts victories in criminal justice reform as well as stronger protections against sexual assault and domestic violence. Bouie chairs the Legislative Black Caucus and cites his leadership in the House as a strength he will bring to the Council.

  Both candidates want to incentivize property owners to retain existing New Orleans tenants at affordable rates. Moreno's campaign has been more visible because of her fundraising edge and a slew of endorsements, but Bouie is perhaps the city's best grassroots campaigner and organizer. While they are legislative colleagues, this contest could heat up in the final days.

Joe Giarrusso III and Aylin Maklansky are among those vying for Susan Guidry's City Council seat.

New Orleans City Council District A

Joe Giarrusso III and Aylin Maklansky are among those vying for Susan Guidry's City Council seat.
  • Joe Giarrusso III and Aylin Maklansky are among those vying for Susan Guidry's City Council seat.

The frontrunners here are Joe Giarrusso III and Aylin Acikalin Maklansky. They hope to succeed term-limited Susan Guidry. District A encompasses Lakeview, parts of Mid-City, Carrollton and Uptown.

  Giarrusso has served on many high-profile neighborhood and professional boards, including the Young Leadership Council, the Lakeview Security District Association and the Lakeview Civic Improvement Association, as well as on the board of directors of KIPP: New Orleans. He says he wants to leverage his past work with business and civic groups to make sure all neighborhoods feel represented at City Hall.

  Maklansky has worked as a staffer in the U.S. Senate and as legislative director for Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey. Her priorities for District A include expanding youth services via intervention efforts and trauma-informed care. She also has proposed that every new millage dollar marked for the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) should be matched with dollars for workforce development as well as mental health and substance abuse treatment.

  Giarrusso was considered a favorite in the early days of the race, but Maklansky has waged an aggressive campaign.

New Orleans City Council District B

The large field of candidates in this race includes political veterans Jay Banks and former Orleans Parish School Board member Seth Bloom, along with newcomers Timothy David Ray and Catherine Love. A runoff appears likely.

  Gov. John Bel Edwards recently announced his support of Banks, a longtime leader in the black political group BOLD and director of the Dryades YMCA. Banks' priorities include youth intervention programs, a review of the city's tax code, ensuring compliance with the federal NOPD consent decree and increasing NOPD pay to compete with other municipalities.

  Bloom's public safety focus includes treating drug addiction as a public health issue rather than a criminal one, and promoting education and youth services as preventive measures. Bloom cites his past battle with opioid addiction as evidence of his commitment to this issue. He also wants competitive compensation for NOPD to help retain and attract officers.

  Ray proposes additional subsidies to aid low-income and moderate-income households and incentives for developers to add affordable units, in addition to leveraging Housing Authority of New Orleans' (HANO) properties as a way to increase affordable housing. He also would consider reintroducing the rental registry idea the City Council floated earlier this year. An attorney, Ray cites his experience in mediation as a strength he will bring to the council.

  Love is a veterinarian whose practice focuses on saving rhinos and elephants in faraway corners of the world. She says her job keeps her in New Orleans nowadays, and her campaign emphasizes women's issues (she is the only woman in this race). She says NOPD isn't losing officers because of pay but because of low morale. She proposes taking steps to improve officers' working conditions to retain more cops.

New Orleans City Council District C

Incumbent Nadine Ramsey's lone challenger is former Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer, who preceded Ramsey on the council from 2010-2014. This is perhaps the most hotly contested council race.

  District C includes Algiers, the French Quarter, Marigny and Bywater. The two candidates are at odds over short-term rental (STR) enforcement and other things. Ramsey counts the passage of the STR rules among the council's successes and says it's too early to judge the program. Palmer says neighborhoods are oversaturated with STRs, which have displaced locals and hurt local businesses who rely on local customers. Palmer supports adding a homestead exemption requirement for STRs.

  Ramsey says she has kept her promises to bring economic development to neighborhoods with residents' approval and to improve drainage and streets. "I don't run from the fire," she says. "I do what I think is best for the community and I listen to both sides."

  Palmer cites her record of "getting things done" during her one term on the council. She promises to be "an independent voice to challenge the status quo" if returned to the council.

New Orleans City Council District E

Incumbent James Gray, who was re-elected to the seat in 2014, faces Alicia Plummer Clivens, Cederick Favaroth, Dawn Hebert and Cyndi Nguyen in the district race covering the Lower 9th Ward and New Orleans East, neighborhoods that have struggled to mirror the kinds of gains seen in development downtown and in more affluent areas of the city following Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures of 2005. All candidates emphasize a need for economic development and blight reduction.

  Gray cites several economic development projects as examples of his effectiveness on that front. "When I first ran for the council, the New Orleans East Hospital was not yet a reality, but it is now," Gray says. "I also helped attract major businesses like Walmart that have in turn helped spur redevelopment of local businesses nearby. There will be more announcements soon of important economic development projects."

  Clivens, Hebert and Nguyen all criticize Gray for not doing more to improve economic development, and they say New Orleans East does not need any more multi-family housing, which Gray has supported in some instances. All have long ties to local neighborhood and civic associations and all pledge to increase economic development efforts.

  District E contests are historically close, making this race another one to watch.

Jefferson Parish Council District 4

State Sen. Danny Martiny and Kenner Councilman Dominick Impastato are battling for a seat on the Jefferson Parish Council.
  • State Sen. Danny Martiny and Kenner Councilman Dominick Impastato are battling for a seat on the Jefferson Parish Council.

The race to fill a vacancy on the Jefferson Parish Council is perhaps the most intensely fought political battle in the metro area. District 4 includes north Kenner and much of West Metairie.

Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn resigned from his parish council seat after winning a special election to succeed Parish President Mike Yenni as Kenner’s mayor. Since last year, Yenni has gone from rising star to national disgrace in the wake of a sexting scandal — and he has become a political millstone around the neck of one of the candidates.

Two well-known names are on the ballot in this contest: state Senator Danny Martiny and Kenner Councilman Dominick Impastato. Martiny is allied with former Jefferson Sheriff Newell Normand; Impastato is backed by many Kenner officials who have political ties to Yenni, including Zahn.

Both Impastato and Martiny have records for getting things done in their respective jobs, but both also have launched attacks against each other. Martiny hits Impastato for being “Yenni’s candidate,” saying Impastato’s election would help Yenni try to win re-election in 2019 and allow Yenni to have four votes on the seven-member Parish Council. Martiny cites a text from Yenni to a local Republican parish executive committee member urging support for Impastato as proof that Yenni supports the Kenner councilman. Impastato denies being allied with Yenni and says he told the embattled parish president “in no uncertain terms” he did not want Yenni’s help in this campaign. Impastato also blasts Martiny for being hired as an attorney to represent Normand’s office, saying that arrangement effectively gives Martiny a second public job at taxpayers’ expense.

State Treasurer

Six candidates are vying to become Louisiana’s state treasurer. The job is essentially being the state’s banker and chairing the state Bond Commission, but those duties seem drowned by much of the rhetoric emanating from some of the campaigns.

The leading candidates are Derrick Edwards, the lone Democrat in the contest; state Sen. Neil Riser of Columbia; state Rep. John Schroder of Covington; and former state Commissioner of Administration Angele Davis. Riser, Schroder and Davis are Republicans.

Riser emphasizes his role as a banker and his tenure in the state Senate, where he has chaired the committee that deals with bond issues and capital outlay projects. Schroder recently began airing video ads railing against taxes (though the treasurer has nothing to do with tax rates), and Davis’ ads portray her as a leading supporter of President Donald Trump. For his part, Edwards has struggled even to get support from his fellow Democrats.

A runoff appears certain, and virtually any two of the four leaders could make the cut.

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