Jefferson Parish Councilman Ben Zahn's run for mayor of Kenner has big-name backing _lowres

Kenner City Councilwoman Maria DeFrancesch, left; and Jefferson Parish Councilman Ben Zahn, right, in 2015. 

The qualifying period is more than a month away, but the race for mayor of Kenner has started.

On Thursday, households around the city began receiving mailers from at-large City Councilwoman Maria DeFrancesch declaring her the best-qualified candidate to become the Jefferson Parish municipality’s “next great mayor.”

A day later, Parish Councilman Ben Zahn said he will “absolutely ... be making a formal announcement in the near future for mayor of Kenner.”

DeFrancesch and Zahn long have been rumored as likely candidates in the Nov. 8 primary for the remainder of former Mayor Mike Yenni’s term. Qualifying will be July 20-22.

One other potential candidate has been vocal about his aspirations for the seat: civic activist Al Morella, who has run for elected positions a few times without success.

City Councilman Keith Reynaud, also widely seen as a likely candidate, said he has strongly considered making the race, but he has yet to say whether he will.

Kenner Chief Administrative Officer Mike Quigley and Jefferson Parish Justice of the Peace Kevin Centanni have previously echoed Reynaud, saying they were mulling their prospects but weren’t ready to divulge their plans.

DeFrancesch acknowledged that some might think it was premature to send out a mailing more than five months ahead of the primary. But she said no potential voter with whom she has spoken questioned the timing of the piece, which asserts that a three-decade career in teaching and educational administration as well as a 10-year tenure on the City Council demonstrated her commitment to the people of Kenner.

Zahn has not put out any explicit campaign materials. But there has been a large hint of his intentions.

Previous Zahn logos mentioned his position as the parish councilman for east bank-based District 4. However, he recently began using a new logo that omits his parish position and simply reads “Ben Zahn 2016.”

“There’s only one race I’d be looking at in 2016,” he said.

Zahn switched his logo after the release in March of a poll whose results were favorable to him. Paid for by a group of local businesspeople, the poll suggested that Zahn would have an easier time winning the mayor’s race than other potential candidates such as DeFrancesch and Reynaud, both of whom disputed the survey’s findings.

Zahn also is expected to tout his time representing Kenner residents, having served on the City Council from 2006 to 2012 and on the Parish Council for four-plus years.

Yenni stepped down as mayor of Kenner in January to be sworn in as Jefferson Parish president. The mayoral term ends in 2018.

City Councilman Mike Sigur is serving as interim mayor through the end of this month. City Councilman Dominick Impastato will then start serving a stint as interim mayor July 1.