Charbonnet appeared before a large crowd of supporters who assembled in the Sheraton’s ballroom, many of them wearing buttons that read “Desi for Mayor.” Charbonnet ticked off a list of her accomplishments and resume highlights and touched on some of the broader themes she’s likely to address during the campaign, but the announcement was notably light on specifics about what she’d do.
Her speech also touched on economic themes, hinting toward a jobs-and-development agenda that she said would be further outlined in a platform released in the coming weeks. She spoke of leveraging the city’s medical corridor for economic development as well as educational institutions, saying she wants “meaningful economic development” that will translate to well-paying jobs.In addition to speaking about her record, Charbonnet also reminded supporters that she could have made a very different career choice. As he introduced Charbonnet, state Sen. Troy Carter noted that Charbonnet had a “clear path” to a seat on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals but instead chose to run for mayor.
Carter’s appearance at the event was the clearest sign of who she’s lining up to help her navigate New Orleans’ complicated and sometimes thorny political alliances. Carter, who described Charbonnet as a longtime friend, was weighing a second mayoral run earlier this year.
“Because the city needs strong, effective leadership, she chose to pass on the easier road to take on the challenge,” Carter said.
Charbonnet described her decision this way: “This isn’t about advancing my political career. It’s about moving this city forward.”
“Doing great things is hard, and being the mayor of this city will not be easy,” Charbonnet said. “We face decreasing political infighting, expanding affordable housing and creating an economy that works for everyone.”
Charbonnet’s unlikely rise to the candidacy of the city’s highest office comes amid growing indications that the city will have an unusually small field of candidates for mayor. Michael Bagneris, a former judge, officially announced his candidacy on May 11; City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell announced her candidacy on her website and is not planning a formal event.
State Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, who is the most prominent white mayoral candidate weighing a bid for mayor, has not declared his intent. Frank Scurlock, an outsider candidate best known for his bounce house business and for paying for skywritten messages, has also announced he’ll run for mayor.
Official qualifying begins on July 12.
The announcement on Monday followed a brief period of will-she-or-won’t-she as Charbonnet gave early indications that she’d run for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal instead of mayor. But Charbonnet’s supporters persisted in urging her to run, and her decision to resign her judgeship gave the clearest indication of her political plans, as Charbonnet was not allowed to raise money while serving as judge.
Charbonnet will now face the challenge of introducing herself to voters at large. She has a long history of citywide electoral wins dating to the 1990s, but many of those races were below the radar: Judicial races are rarely given much notice, and it’s been almost 20 years since she ran for Recorder of Mortgages and became the first woman in that position.
But Charbonnet does have the advantage of ties to a prominent political family. Bernard Charbonnet, a prominent New Orleans lawyer who worked in the administration of former Mayor Sidney Barthelemy, is her brother. She is also a cousin of former state Rep. Louis Charbonnet III. Her cousin now runs Charbonnet Family Services funeral home.