NEW ORLEANS – The bench at Municipal Court will be down a body at midnight.

Might the bench of mayoral hopefuls be up by one then?

By all indications, Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet will announce herself the next candidate for mayor, joining a thin field of candidates who’ve said they will run while a larger field of possible candidates linger in the background as they survey the landscape.

State law prohibits a judge from running for a non-judicial office, and rumors have swirled recently that Charbonnet, 48, will seek the mayor’s office. She hasn’t denied those rumors.

“I can’t say I’m making an official announcement. I’m still a judge,” she told reporters who met her Friday morning before she accepted an award from the Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse. “I will be prepared to talk to with you guys over the weekend.”

Charbonnet on Tuesday mailed a resignation letter to the Secretary of State, as WWL-TV political analyst and Gambit columnist reported Wednesday. It was a no-frills resignation letter that simply stated she would resign her position “effective Friday, April 21, 2017, at midnight.”

“Charbonnet adds a new dimension to the mayor’s race: a second female candidate,” Dubos said.
District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell has said she’ll run for mayor, as has former Civil District Court Judge Michael Bagneris.

All seek to replace Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who is term-limited.

While a Municipal Court judge isn’t necessarily someone the general public will instantly recognize, Dubos noted that Charbonnet has deep local ties – her family runs a well-known Treme funeral home -- and has won citywide election a number of times since 1998.

“She also is expected to have significant political support from Congressman Cedric Richmond and possibly other big political names as the race unfolds,” Dubos said.

Still, informal talks among the city’s old-line black political organizations about whom to back haven’t happened yet, people familiar with that situation told The New Orleans Advocate.

Any financial backing Charbonnet might get would be much needed.

Campaign finance reports made public earlier this week show Cantrell taking in more than $183,000 in the first quarter of the year. Bagneris has $86,000 on hand – of which $50,000 is his own money.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Walt Leger III, who is said to be ramping up behind the scenes for a campaign, raised $103,000 and spent $130,000 this quarter.

Another name pitched more seriously as candidate for mayor is state Sen. JP Morrell. State Sen. Troy Carter had been tossing around the idea but is likely to decide against it since he would draw support from a number of the same people as Charbonnet.

Real-estate developer Sidney Torres has been a wild-card candidate, not saying one way or the other whether he’ll run. City Councilman Jason Williams, state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson and District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro have all been mentioned as candidates but do not appear to be leaning toward running.

Qualifying is July 12-14. The primary is Oct. 14.