The busy period before qualifying for major elections is usually dominated by one key question: Who's in? This time, though, the more central question is who's out.

Rather than candidate announcements, the news building up to the sign-up period that starts Wednesday and ends Friday has been dominated by statements from well-known figures who are taking a pass this time around.

Some of these statements weren't exactly surprises. State Sen. and Louisiana Democratic Party chair Karen Carter Peterson had done little to build a campaign until recently, when she put out word that she was considering running to replace New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Days later, she said she was out after all.

And state Rep. Walt Leger III's campaign activity peaked months ago, when he reported having spent $130,000 on research and other preliminary activities. He put all that on hold during the legislative session but didn't confirm that he won't run until Tuesday morning.

Nor did former New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas do much other than float his name as a potential opponent to Sheriff Marlin Gusman, whose troubled jail is under federal oversight. Still, Serpas' announcement that he would not qualify suggests Gusman could have an unexpectedly easy road to reelection.

The one announcement that has shaken up a race came last week from state Rep. Julie Stokes.

The Kenner Republican has been all-in as a candidate for state treasurer ever since the man who held that job for years, John Kennedy, was elected to the U.S. Senate. But a breast cancer diagnosis changed those plans, and Stokes will now spend the fall in treatment rather than on the campaign trail.

Stokes' departure leaves the race without a major player from the New Orleans area who had the potential to attract Democratic votes in a field dominated by Republican candidates with more ideological voting records (her legislative colleague John Schroder, of Covington, is also running, but his appeal among cross-over voters is likely more limited). Look for Angele Davis of Baton Rouge, a former top aide to both former Gov. Bobby Jindal and Landrieu when he served as lieutenant governor, to make a play here. Or maybe someone else will surface at the last minute to fill the void.

We'll know soon enough. Starting Wednesday, the news will no longer be about what might have been. And that's when the fun begins. 

Follow Stephanie Grace on Twitter, @stephgracela.