Voters in New Orleans are heading to the polls Saturday to decide several citywide offices. Runoffs will decide two council seats, the sheriff, the coroner and a request for funds from the Audubon Nature Institute.
University of New Orleans political science professor Ed Chervenak says Sheriff Marlin Gusman came close to winning re-election last month, but he’s still facing a challenge from former Sheriff Charles Foti.
“He’s the incumbent, and so obviously that gives him the advantage," Chervanak says. "He’s also been more successful in fundraising and being able to advertise.”
A City Council at-large seat is being decided between Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell and attorney Jason Williams. That race has been marked by candidates hurling accusations of misconduct at each other.
“Most campaigns employ negative advertising. It’s an effective tool. That’s why they use it. But it also indicates to me that it’s a very close race,” Chervanak says.
In District C, Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson is attempting to reclaim the seat she held before taking over one of the two at-large positions. She’s facing former Judge Nadine Ramsey. Chervenak says race is likely to play a role in that contest because Clarkson, who is white, is attempting to represent a district with a black majority — and Ramsey is African-American.
“It’s typically right there in the subtext, so you can’t deny it. And, yes, it is a majority black district, which gives the advantage to Ramsey. However, white turnout tends to exceed African-American turnout and that gives the advantage to Clarkson."
New Orleans is also picking a coroner. Jeffrey Rouse, who has worked in the office since 2002, is facing front-runner Dwight McKenna, a general practitioner and surgeon.
Additionally, voters are being asked by the Audubon Institute for a 50-year tax commitment for its programs.
In all contests, the biggest opponent may be voter apathy. Chervenak expects the turnout to be 15 to 20 percent of all registered voters.