NEW ORLEANS - New Orleans' City Council will once again have a vacancy after District "B" Council member Stacy Head claimed one of the at-large seats this weekend.
Head beat former Council member Cynthia Willard-Lewis by less than 300 votes and as expected, experts say turnout played a big role.
After a tug-of-war of voting returns Saturday night, Head defeated Willard-Lewis by just 281 votes for the city council at-large seat.
“It's been such a long, exciting, but hard day that tonight, we're just in the spirit of celebration,” Head said Saturday after the win.
Willard-Lewis didn't concede Saturday night, saying instead she'll keep a close eye on the opening of the machines on Tuesday to make sure all votes were counted accurately and no votes were left uncounted.
“The actual numbers are less than one person per precinct and the art of politics is about crunching the numbers,” Willard-Lewis said.
Election analyst Greg Rigamer said the interest in the race generated turnout larger than in the primary, with 24 percent of voters casting a ballot.
He said voters crossing racial lines pushed Head to victory with Head even securing more than 20 percent of precincts that are mostly African-American.
“We expected it to be very close but we're really excited that it came out the way that it did,” Head said.
Experts said Mayor Mitch Landrieu's endorsement of Willard-Lewis late in the game helped narrow the gap between the two candidates.
With Head now in a leadership role on the Council, one question that has arisen is whether that endorsement by Landrieu will affect their working relationship. Head said it won’t.
“When the mayor is moving forward doing the right thing, which is the vast majority of the time, I will continue to stand with him, support him and move those agendas forward,” Head said. “When I do believe that he's not making the best decisions for the city, I'll be very careful in my dialogue with him.”
The seat opened up after Arnie Fielkow resigned. Now the City Council will appoint an interim replacement for Head in District "B" until a new council member can be elected to finish out her term.