Jul 132017

Candidates for mayor by noon Thursday were (from top left) Michael Bagneris, LaToya Cantrell, Desiree Charbonnet, Charles Anderson, Bryon Cole, Matthew Hill, Johnese Smith. (photos by Danae Columbus for UptownMessenger.com)

Danae Columbus

Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

For anyone who loves politics, qualifying days for the October 14 election are exciting. It’s a time of reckoning when those who have been telling the public they will run have to pay the qualifying fees. All is revealed.

Close to 40 candidates along with family and friends and a large contingency of local media have already crowded into the offices of Clerk of Criminal Court Arthur Morrell, where the process takes place. Each candidate first completes the necessary paperwork and then raises his or her right hand to swear the accuracy of information presented. Candidates whose information – including compliance with residency and tax requirements – later proves to be inaccurate often face legal challenges.

Sheriff Marlin Gusman has presided over our prison system since 200. Seeking a fourth term, Gusman was first to qualify. Before the morning ended, Gusman drew one opponent – Algiers resident Freddy Brooks.

Assessor Erroll Williams has been an Orleans Parish elected or appointed official since 1978. Williams will face Jamaica native Anthony Brown, who brought along his personal copy of the U.S. Constitution.

Coroner Jeffrey Rouse arrived in his white lab coat. Opponent Dwight McKenna showed up in scrubs.

Civil District Court Clerk Dale Atkins, the state’s longest serving official elected to the same office, came with her niece Ebony who has grown up around the courthouse. Atkins has recently introduced electronic filing at Civil District Court. Atkins began her service at Civil District Court as a deputy under former Clerk Dan Foley. Yesterday, Foley accompanied his latest protégé – District A City Council candidate Joe Giarrusso.

Civil District Court candidate Omar Mason arrived with more than a dozen family members including his parents, wife, children, and assorted aunts and uncles. Opponent Nicole D. Sheppard showed up with a large contingent as well.

District C Councilmember Nadine Ramsey also brought a large contingency including several nephews who could be future candidates. Ramsey will face former Councilmember Kristin Gisleson-Palmer who did not seek re-election four years ago. District E Councilmember James Gray drew three female opponents with former interim Councilman Freddy Charbonnet expected to qualify today.

It was the candidates for mayor who drew the most attention. Though potential candidate Sidney Torres IV has said he might – or might not – qualify Friday afternoon, six other candidates did pay the $750 qualifying fee yesterday.

The current field includes three women — two of whom are the current leading candidates. Desiree Charbonnet has raised the most funds. She was joined by her mother, her uncle former State Rep Louis Charbonnet, Constable Ed Shorty, and Clerk of 2nd City Court Darren Lombard. Charbonnet will use her experience as a judge to attack the city’s crime problem and rebuild the police force without raising taxes.

Councilmember LaToya Cantrell, who leads the early polls, posed for a selfie with her husband Jason and her daughter. Cantrell says the city must also focus on the need for more affordable housing and economic development in order to reduce crime.

Madalyn Bagneris accompanied husband Michael, who is making his second bid for the city’s top office. Bagneris first unveiled a comprehensive public safety plan and is focused on re-establishing the NOPD’s community trust.

New faces included Byron Stephan Cole, the son of the late famed civil rights leader Dyan French Cole. Cole inherited his mother’s fiery rhetorical style and will surely spice up the forums. Cole told election officials that he is “an unemployed full-time college student” and wants to focus on the needs of undeserved citizens.

Uptown resident Matthew Hill says he is an executive coach who moved to New Orleans almost 10 years ago after his adopted mother – a native of El Salvador – introduced him to the city. Hill, an independent, will use his experience as a coach to address government inefficiencies.

Candidate Johnese Smith, a resident of Algiers, wore a veil and dressed in black. A registered Democrat, Smith said God inspired her to run. Announced candidate Frank Scurlock is out of town and will not qualify until Friday.

A small crowd of political insiders is expected to gather outside Criminal District Court before qualifying ends Friday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. to see if Torres – or any other last minute candidates – appears. It will be a bittersweet ending to what has already been a full-filled week. Now on to the election!

Danae Columbus, who has had a 30-year career in politics and public relations, offers her opinions on Thursdays. Her career includes stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board and former clients such as District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, City Council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, Foster Campbell, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell. Her current clients include District B City Council candidate Seth Bloom.

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