Scurlock's half-million down to $14,500   

Frank Scurlock, the New Orleans businessman who made himself a notable candidate for mayor by lending his own campaign more than half a million dollars, doesn't have much left in the tank. 

His latest financial disclosure form, filed late Thursday, shows he has paid himself back about $270,000 of his loan. He has already spent $215,000 and hasn't raised much else, leaving only about $14,500 on hand as of last week.  

In an interview, Scurlock insisted that his campaign is still active and noted that some of his advertising buys will run through the Oct. 14 election. He said he took the money out of his campaign to purchase an out-of-town manufacturing business, which he hasn’t closed on yet.

But he also sounded frustrated about how the race has gone thus far, even accusing certain unspecified groups of demanding money in return for endorsements. “They invite you to make a presentation and then you get a phone call saying, 'We want to sell you this,' ” Scurlock said, declining to name anyone in particular.

Gloves come off in Orleans mayor's race

The first shots have been fired in a heretofore low-key New Orleans mayoral race, but it's as yet unclear who's behind a slick mailer and website targeting candidate Desiree Charbonnet.

A political action committee called Not For Sale NOLA is accusing the former Municipal Court judge of "cronyism, corruption and sweetheart deals."

Those accusations, highlighted with a caricature of Charbonnet accepting money and images of smoke-filled rooms overlaid with photos linking her to a controversial associate and to disgraced former U.S. Rep. Bill Jefferson, landed in mailboxes Wednesday and launched online at notforsalenola.com.

And the ad, billed as "Chapter 1" in "The Desiree Charbonnet Tales," appears to be only the first in a series.

Kevin Stuart, a media consultant for Charbonnet's campaign, called the effort a "false and baseless" attack that raises the "specter of dark money and dishonesty" in the race.

"Our opponents have failed to capture the attention of the voters, so it’s predictable they would attack the front-runner. There was no hint of patronage or corruption in her record," Stuart said.

Officials with the campaigns of both of Charbonnet's top opponents, former Civil District Court Judge Michael Bagneris and City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, said they did not know anything about who was behind the PAC, which hasn't endorsed any alternative to Charbonnet. 

The ad, which includes citations to various publications and lawsuits to back up its claims, largely focuses on Charbonnet's decision to replace about two dozen workers shortly after she was elected as recorder of mortgages in 1998.

The new hires included Ike Spears, a controversial political operative and attorney allied with both Charbonnet and U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, who is backing Charbonnet. 

Another hire was a niece of U.S. Rep. Bill Jefferson, who is now serving a 13-year federal sentence for unrelated corruption charges.

Charbonnet also hired Paulette Irons, then a state senator and an ally of Charbonnet's, who in 2002 took a leave of absence from her position in the recorder's office to run for mayor.

The ad also highlights a 2000 report suggesting Charbonnet may have been awarded a $1,500-a-month contract with the New Orleans Aviation Board because of the support her brother, lawyer Bernard Charbonnet, and the COUP political organization threw behind Marlin Gusman, then Mayor Marc Morial's chief administrative officer, in a City Council race in District D.

"The allegations are absolutely false, and we think the judge's record both speaks for itself and speaks very highly for her character," Stuart said. 

Exactly who is behind the group remains a mystery, though it taps into charges already leveled privately by some, particularly those in the business and development communities, about Charbonnet's deep political connections.

Those criticisms were in part fueled by the massive $869,000 haul shown on her first campaign finance report. The total dwarfed that of any of her opponents.

The group has not yet disclosed its donors and will not have to until just days before the Oct. 14 primary.

Bar Assn. members back two candidates

New Orleans Bar Association members gave overwhelming support to two candidates running for seats on the state 4th Circuit Court of Appeal and Orleans Parish Civil District Court, the group said Thursday.

The poll, which received responses from 190 members of the local bar, does not represent an endorsement, but it does signal that some of the city's attorneys have clear preferences in the judicial elections on the Oct. 14 ballot.

Civil District Court Judge Tiffany Chase received the support of 86 percent of the responding lawyers in her bid to fill a vacant seat on the appeals court. Her opponent, Criminal District Court Judge Tracey Flemings-Davillier, garnered 13 percent of the vote. Two percent of the bar members gave no response.

Meanwhile, bar members also weighed in on the race to fill the vacant Division J spot on the Civil District Court bench. First-time candidate Omar Mason, a partner at the law firm of Aaron & Gianna, received 62 percent of the vote.

Edward Morris and D. Nicole Sheppard each received 12 percent. Morris Reed Sr., a former president of the local NAACP, got 4 percent. Ten percent of bar members expressed no preference.

Compiled by Andrew Vanacore, Jeff Adelson and Matt Sledge