Judge Desiree Charbonnet was in a political predicament if she wanted to run for New Orleans mayor: She would be the only candidate in what looks to be a four-way race who couldn’t raise money.
That changed Friday (April 21) with her resignation from the Municipal Court seat, freeing her to begin building a campaign coffer that she hopes will rival state Rep. Walt Leger, City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell and former Judge Michael Bagneris. According to campaign finance filings, Cantrell leads the money race with $253,800 on hand, Leger follows with $83,400 on hand and Bagneris has $71,600.
The primary on Oct. 14 won’t have an incumbent as Mayor Mitch Landrieu can’t run again due to term limits. If there is a runoff, the election will be held on Nov. 18.
Of those four politicos filing campaign finance accounts, Leger and Charbonnet haven’t officially announced. Leger filed his campaign finance report as an unnamed “future” office he’s seeking.
In an interview, Charbonnet said her resignation from the bench after 10 years set her into fundraising mode, saying, “I could not do that as a sitting judge.
“Clearly I have a desire to serve this community, and I’m looking at the mayor’s race, obviously, but I can’t say I’m running today,” she added.
Although Charbonnet may not be an announced candidate, her potential entry into the race may already be having an effect. LaPolitics’ Jeremy Alford on Friday reported that state Sen. Troy Carter began telling supporters this week that he’s no longer eyeing a run for mayor.
Carter did not return a call to confirm his decision, but he would have had a tough time in a field with three other well-known black candidates in a citywide primary that often breaks down along racial lines.
Considering Bagneris has never pulled enough votes to make a mayoral runoff, political observers will be tightly focused on the Cantrell-Charbonnet dynamic, both of whom will fight to maintain key voter bases — especially older black voters and women.
Cantrell has the benefit of being able to run a much longer active campaign that so far has included fundraisers, appearances at house parties and other major events. Charbonnet, meanwhile, has the benefit of a long electoral history — she first won citywide office as Recorder of Mortgages at age 28 in 1998 — and a family name that is instantly recognizable for longtime New Orleans voters.
Charbonnet is the sister of Bernard “Bunny” Charbonnet, who served in the administration of former Mayor Sidney Barthelemy and was an adviser to Judge Paulette Irons when she ran for mayor. She is also a cousin of former state Rep. Louis Charbonnet III.
Although Charbonnet says she’s still in decision-making mode, for anyone looking ahead to the next six months of the race, she will be in the “when,” not “if” category. Asked when she thought an official announcement would come, Charbonnet said, “I don’t feel pressured to announce but if I was going to run I don’t think I’d go past some point in May.
“I don’t have a hard fast rule right now,” she said.