The race for mayor of New Orleans just got a lot more interesting. Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet will resign her judgeship effective midnight Friday so she can officially run for mayor. She had been rumored as a possible candidate for at least a month. Starting Saturday morning, she will be one.
Charbonnet, 48, first won elective office in 1998 when she unseated incumbent Michael McCrossen to win the citywide Recorder of Mortgages post. In 2007, she easily won a special election for a seat on Municipal Court with 57 percent of the vote. She ran on a platform of partnering with local agencies to reduce domestic violence.
In 2001, while Recorder of Mortgages, Charbonnet backed Paulette Irons for mayor; in 2006, Charbonnet lent her support to mayoral candidate Ron Forman against then-incumbent Ray Nagin.
As a judge, Charbonnet was featured favorably
in an Atlantic Monthly
article in February 2016 for her diversion program, which focused on female offenders and the mentally ill. “She has taken the time to learn more about certain types of repeat defendants, including those charged with prostitution or who have mental illness and substance issues, to better understand not how to sentence them, but what approaches might keep them out of the criminal-justice system—rather than on an endless cycle in and out of jail,” the magazine wrote.
In a text statement to Gambit
, Charbonnet was circumspect about her political future because, technically, she is still a judge. A source close to the judge confirmed to Gambit
that she had overnighted a letter of resignation to Secretary of State Tom Schedler on Tuesday. Louisiana law bars judges from running for non-judicial offices — unless they resign first — which is why Charbonnet submitted her resignation before declaring her intentions officially.
“The City is too important to me to just sit on the sidelines,” Charbonnet told Gambit
. “As per the Judicial Canons, there are limits to what I can say at the moment. At the appropriate time, I will provide a more thorough explanation.”
So far two other candidates have officially declared their intentions — former Civil District Court Judge Michael Bagneris and District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell. Qualifying is July 12-14 and the primary will be Oct. 14. Current Mayor Mitch Landrieu is term-limited.