Dominic Massa with reporting by Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS – Qualifying wrapped up Friday evening for statewide and local races on the Nov. 6 ballot, with metro area congressional representatives picking up more opponents and a former New Orleans City Council member signing up to run for her old seat, in what will be one of the closely-watched city races.
In the City Council race, former District E council member and state lawmaker Cynthia Willard-Lewis was a late entry in the race, qualifying just before the 5 p.m. deadline. She recently suffered a diabetic stroke but apparently is well enough to mount a campaign.
Willard-Lewis, who held the District E seat for nearly 10 years before running unsuccessfully for an at-large post earlier this year, faces five other candidates in the race to replace Jon Johnson. He resigned after pleading guilty to federal charges. The others in the race are: state lawmaker Austin Badon (who lost the race to Johnson in 2010); attorneys Dana Henry and James Gray; activist Jerrelda Drummer Sanders; and Mary Fontenot Smith.
In the race for City Council District B, there are five candidates. The post was vacated when Stacy Head was elected to an at-large post. The candidates signed up to run are: Broadmoor community activist and neighborhood leader LaToya Cantrell; Dana Kaplan of the Juvenile Justice Project; Eric Strachan, who has worked on the council staffs for Jackie Clarkson and Stacy Head; Donald Vallee, the former president of the New Orleans Landlord Association; and bounce artist Marlon “10th Ward Buck” Horton.
Statewide, Democrats were unable to attract candidates for all of Louisiana's U.S. House races, as the election sign-up period closed Friday.
All of the state's congressional representatives drew opposition for their re-election bids, though several face challenges from little-known candidates who have done no fundraising so far.
Libertarians filed paperwork to run in more congressional races than did Democrats, as the party continues to struggle in a state where Republicans have gained significant ground in recent election cycles and the moderate "Blue Dog" Democrats who once held most statewide offices have dwindled.
Democrats signed up to run in three of six congressional districts. Libertarian candidates qualified for five of the races.
"I just think it shows the decline of the Democratic Party," said Jason Dore, executive director of the Republican Party of Louisiana.
The most high-profile congressional race is in the 3rd District, where two Republican incumbents -- Charles Boustany of Lafayette and Jeff Landry of New Iberia -- were placed in one district after Louisiana lost a congressional seat due to population shifts. Come January, the state's number of congressional representatives will go from 7 to 6.
A Democratic candidate for the district emerged Friday as Ron Richard, a Lake Charles personal injury lawyer who'd never run for office, signed up for the race a few hours before the candidate qualifying period ended. He joins GOP and Libertarian challengers for the seat. They will all square off in the open primary contest, with the runoff election set for Dec. 8.
In the New Orleans metro area congressional races, incumbent first district Rep. Steve Scalise, a Republican, picked up four opponents: another Republican, two independents and one Democrat. They are: Gary King, Vinny Mendoza, Arden Wells and David “Turk” Turknett. Mendoza and Wells have run for office before, never successfully.
In the second district, incumbent Cedric Richmond will face three challengers, all considered by many to be political novices: Republicans Dwayne Bailey and Josue Larose; Democrat Gary Landrieu and Libertarian Caleb Trotter.
Landry and Boustany are squaring off against three other candidates in the third district. The redrawn district now includes parts of St. Charles, Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes, as well as much of southwestern Louisiana.
Boustany and Landry both qualified to run, facing Republican Bryan Barrilleaux, Democrat Ron Richard, and Libertarian Jim Stark.
Locally, all seven members of the Orleans School Board are seeking re-election, and most are facing multiple opponents. District 5 member Seth Bloom did not see any opponents and will be re-elected without opposition. In other races, candidates are running for seats on the board which will receive even more scrutiny in the coming year, with several schools poised to return to local control after several years under the leadership of charters or the state’s Recovery School District
There are also several judicial races on the metro area ballot. In Orleans Parish, three candidates will run for a Criminal District Court judgeship, with Judge Lynda Van Davis’ announcement that she will be stepping down. Juvenile Court Judge Tracy Flemings-Davillier will run for the post, facing defense attorney Glen Woods and former prosecutor Kimya Holmes-Simmons, now with the Capital Defense Project of Southern Louisiana.
Some Municipal Court and Traffic Court judgeships are also on the New Orleans ballot as well as Second City Court clerk and constable posts.
There are also several appeals court judgeships on the ballot, covering various local parishes along with a Public Service Commission seat, covering several parishes.
In Jefferson Parish, only one candidate signed up in the race to replace Judge Patrick McCabe, who announced his retirement. Attorney Michael Mentz will be elected to the post since no one else qualified as of Friday evening.
On the north shore, Abita Springs voters will elect a new mayor, with two candidates signing up to run for the post held by Louis Fitzmorris, who was elected St. Tammany Parish assessor.
-- With reporting by Melinda Deslatte / Associated Press