Mike Perlstein / Eyewitness News
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NEW ORLEANS -- He's been a civil court judge since 1993. Now Judge Michael Bageneris could become candidate Bagneris as he eyes a campaign to unseat incumbent New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

We spoke to Bagneris by phone as he cleaned out his courthouse office, but he said he was not ready for a public announcement.

'I'm not going to comment right now on any mayoral aspirations. I'm not being coy, but I must be very cautious because judges are restricted about what they can say in the political arena. There's a 24-hour waiting period, so that will be over by tomorrow.'

Political analyst Dr. Silas Lee said Bagneris' eleventh-hour candidacy should not come as a surprise.

'The mayor probably would like to have his re-election without a challenger, but in today's political environment, you don't see coronations. You see competitive campaigns for election or re-election and that's what you see here,' Lee said.

The Landrieu camp offered no comment today on the possibility of a big-name challenger, but when the mayor qualified Wednesday, he seemed to welcome a battle.

'Political races are competitions,' Landrieu said. 'They're always rough-and-tumble affairs, especially in the city of New Orleans, but that's what democracy calls for. I've stood for office many, many times and at important points in time you stand on your accomplishments.'

Even with all the speculation, it's not official until a candidate signs on the dotted line. So look for all eyes to be on the courthouse Friday where the Clerk of Court wraps up qualifying at 4:30 p.m.

If Bagneris jumps into the race as anticipated, he will join another previously announced challenger, local NAACP President Danatus King.

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