LaToya sign

"LaToya" can be seen by drivers traveling into the Central Business District on the Pontchartrain Expressway from Metairie on Friday, Jan. 6, 2017. Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell announced in November that she was considering running in the 2017 mayoral election. 

Jessica Williams

It wasn't a traditional announcement. There was no hotel ballroom packed with supporters, and there were no rousing speeches. You can't drop balloons on the internet.

But a declarative sentence on New Orleans City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell's web site made the long-expected news official. She is now explicitly seeking donations for a mayoral bid, which means she's now a candidate to replace Mayor Mitch Landrieu, whose term expires just over a year from now.

The election's sneaking up on us sooner than Landrieu's departure date would suggest, due to a change in state law that moved municipal elections from February and March back to October and November, with qualifying just over three months from now. And Cantrell's understated announcement typifies the way the most consequential local election since Landrieu stormed in to office in 2010 is developing.

Cantrell is the biggest name to jump in so far. Former Civil Court Judge Michael Bagneris, who challenged Landrieu in 2014, also says he's a candidate, as does businessman Frank Scurlock. Eight or so more are holding back for now, including two closely-watched lawmakers, state Sen. J.P. Morrell and state Rep. Walt Leger, who will both carry heavy loads in the upcoming legislative session and who aren't expected to announce their intentions until at least mid-May, or possibly later.

Speaking to a breakfast sponsored by the Bureau of Governmental Research last week, Landrieu said he plans to "finish strong."

"I've never been a lame duck in anything," he said. 

The longer the race to replace him takes to develop, the easier it will be for him to achieve that goal.

Follow Stephanie Grace on Twitter, @stephgracela.