Self-described "serial entrepreneur" Sidney Torres IV saw his new reality show debut on CNBC Wednesday, but if he's at all serious about jumping into this fall's New Orleans mayoral race, another recent development might be even more auspicious: Torres was prominently featured on a Carnival float.
The parade was the bitingly satirical Krewe d'Etat, and the depiction wasn't exactly flattering. Torres, who lives in New Orleans but comes from a prominent St. Bernard family, was portrayed as a dog in shrimp boots peeing on a fire hydrant. The title of the float, which was part of the "Zoo d'Etat" parade? "101 Chalmations."
But no matter. Being pictured on a float means you've penetrated the public consciousness. And at this early stage in a race that is just beginning to take form, that's a definite leg up.
As Sidney Torres IV — sheathed in black, sunglasses on, hair slicked into a tidy man-bun — s…
Actually, the real estate and trash collection magnate isn't only potential mayoral candidate who's been depicted in styrofoam and papier maché. Last year City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell was featured on a Krewe of Muses float, part of a "Sweet 16" themed parade in which each float riffed on a type of candy. Cantrell's successful crusade to ban smoking in the city's drinking establishments earned her the title "Ms. Goodbar."
Unlike Torres, Cantrell isn't just talking about putting together a campaign to replace the term-limited Mitch Landrieu, but is starting to do something about it. She hasn't formally announced her intentions, but has emailed supporters that she feels the "call to serve." So that's one well-known candidate who's a likely "yes."
The rest of the field is starting to sort itself out as well, if only behind the scenes.
It's not even Mardi Gras yet, but candidates are already starting to officially line up for …
State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, who also heads the Louisiana Democratic Party, won a big election over the weekend to become the Democratic National Committee's new vice chair of civic engagement and voter participation. She hasn't said as much, but for handicapping purposes, this new national role probably precludes a run for major local office.
Otherwise, here's how many insiders see the race shaping up as we head towards qualifying in July and the primary election in October.
Retired Civil District Court judge Michael Bagneris, who challenged Landrieu the last time around, appears to be in. State Sen. Troy Carter is said to be thinking about it, and City Councilman Jason Williams is showing signs of leaning against.
State Rep. Walt Leger is actively exploring a run, and is expected to show his hand soon now that the special legislative session is over. State Sen. J.P. Morrell is unlikely to make a decision until much later, following the Legislature's regular session.
Not that it's necessarily an advantage to be early out of the gate. If history is any guide, the opposite is true.
Landrieu, who already had a high profile as lieutenant governor, son of a former mayor, brother of a U.S. senator and a two-time candidate himself, jumped into the 2010 race at the last minute. Earlier, Ray Nagin, who was an unknown businessman eyeing a field of insiders, got in late too, as did Marc Morial, another high-profile mayoral son. So that's three winners in a row who took their time in deciding.
Which brings us back to Torres, who recently teased a run in an interview with The Advocate's Keith Spera, but said he won't make a final decision until qualifying looms.
“Honestly, I will not decide until probably 10 minutes before qualifying closes,” he said. Meanwhile, he has “put together a great team of people” to lay out “what I think needs to happen with the city as far as education, crime, roads."
He's got that luxury. Unlike his potential competitors, he doesn't need to start raising money. Torres said if he runs, he'd write a check for $4 million or $5 million to self-finance.
Until then, he'll be lurking in plain sight on billboards around town promoting the new reality show, "The Deed," in which he helps troubled real estate investors get back on track by offering both advice and cash. There's also a new Fox crime drama loosely based on his French Quarter crime-fighting app.
Both national shows paint a more positive picture than the Krewe d'Etat float. And indeed, locals who've followed Torres' many public exploits know they haven't been without controversy.
But hey, when you're trying to keep your brand out there, there's no such thing as bad publicity.
Email Stephanie Grace at firstname.lastname@example.org.