Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
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NEW ORLEANS -- The political mean season is in full bloom with candidates in the hotly contested race for New Orleans Council At-Large, trading barbs in a series of attack ads on TV and radio.

'He routinely defends men who are accused of horrific attacks against women,' said in a Cynthia Hedge Morrell commercial about her opponent Jason Williams. 'He defended accused of attacking a pregnant woman with his car while drunk.'

'While she voted to double our sanitation fees and shut off our water, she refused to pay her own bill for 10 years,' a Williams spot said about Morrell.

Xavier sociology professor and pollster Dr. Silas Lee said in this race, attack ads make sense.

'You have candidates that are similar in many positions in terms of how they will approach the issues,' said Lee. 'So, they've tried to distinguish themselves. That's what you try to do, to some extent, with attack ads.'

There was also tough talk on the set of the Eyewitness Morning News during a debate between Morrell and Williams on Thursday. Williams referred to Morrell as a hypocrite with 'a political machine that has the arrogance to attack me for being a criminal defense attorney, defending the constitution when her own husband, Clerk of Court Arthur Morrell and her son Senator JP Morrell, also have been criminal defense attorneys in their career.'

'He talks about my husband and he talks about my son,' said Morrell. 'What I would like the voters to know he makes a choice. He chose to defend people who really have some really terrible charges against them. He has made a lot of money off that.'

Morrell said Williams does not have the experience for the job.

'I think Jason would be excellent at a beginning, entry level position so that he can learn the charter, learn what the responsibilities are, learn what falls within the realm of what a council person is responsible for.'

Williams said the status quo isn't good enough.

'We've got to be purposeful and have a strategic vision about where we want this city to be in 10 years, not just a four-year term. We have to recruit economic growth in New Orleans East, outlet malls, Bass Pro Shop, bring Six Flags back.'

The two disagreed on the controversial city residency requirement for NOPD officers.

'We've got to get past the residency requirement,' said Williams. 'We can't hold police officers to a standard our elected officials aren't going to stand by.'

Morrell, who happens to have two sons who are police officers, shot back, 'Is that the real reason why police aren't coming, what I've been told by FOP, which endorsed me, I've been told that reason is, they're not paid enough.'

Williams also claims Morrell has not done enough to create new jobs in her home district.

'Drive through Gentilly. Drive through her district. Look for the growth that you see. If all you want out of eight years is a WalMart, I'm not the guy for you,' said Williams.

'You will see Columbia Parc that I have worked very hard with the developers,' said Morrell. 'We have received many awards for it. It is now seen as one of the best mixed-income developments in the United States.'

Dr. Lee said the race is too close to call.

'It's about emotion, how voters feel about a candidate,' he said. 'It's not just about a record and what the vision of a candidate may do.'

The polls are open Saturday from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.

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