Only a few months ago, 2017 was shaping up to be a big election year in New Orleans but relatively calm elsewhere. Now it appears all of Louisiana will get in on the fun.
The New Orleans citywide primary is Oct. 14, with runoffs Nov. 18. The October ballot will be particularly crowded.
In addition to an open race for mayor (Mitch Landrieu is term limited) and contests for all seven City Council seats, New Orleans will see elections for sheriff, clerks of court and assessor. Given the controversy surrounding Sheriff Marlin Gusman's tenure, that race could be as hotly contested as the mayoral contest.
No one has officially declared for the mayor's race, but a number of potential candidates are looking at it. Qualifying for all offices on the October ballot is only six months away — July 12-14 — which is why we will soon see lots of polling, fundraising and jockeying for position.
Several state lawmakers are eyeing Landrieu's job, but first they'll have to get through at least one — possibly two or even three — legislative sessions dealing with the state's growing deficit and the governor's push for tax reform. Candidates who are not legislators will have the luxury of running without having recently voted on tax measures. That said, the biggest issues are likely to be crime and streets, not taxes. (Landrieu and the current council deserve credit for getting the city's fiscal house in order; keeping it that way ought to be a major election issue as well.)
Statewide, voters will choose a successor to former Treasurer John Neely Kennedy, who has succeeded David Vitter in the U.S. Senate. That special election coincides with the citywide races in New Orleans and is sure to draw a host of candidates. First to announce was state Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington. Look for others to join him soon.
Jefferson Parish will see a special election of its own to replace District 4 Councilman Ben Zahn, who will become mayor of Kenner. That race, too, will be in October and November. State Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Kenner, already has declared his candidacy for the council and no doubt will have the backing of Sheriff Newell Normand, his longtime political ally. That will make him a formidable candidate, but that doesn't mean he won't have a fight on his hands. Kenner politics is always volatile.
Jefferson voters also could be deciding whether to recall Parish President Mike Yenni. Polls show Jefferson voters would toss Yenni in a heartbeat if given the chance — but recall organizers have yet to garner the 90,000-plus signatures on their petition. Getting the signatures they need by April 10 will take a Herculean effort.
And for opening acts, Gretna and Westwego have municipal primaries on March 25, with April 29 runoffs. Those are the same dates for special elections for state representative in the Kenner area, and for Civil District Court judge and Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal judge in New Orleans.
All in all, it's going to be another busy year.