Legislator may get into mayor's race

There might be another major entry into the New Orleans mayor’s race after all.

State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson told Gambit last week that she was doing the “due diligence that a serious potential candidate has to do,” including polling and beginning to put together a campaign team and strategy.

She said she would make a decision before the start of qualifying July 12.

The state senator has declined to take multiple calls from The New Orleans Advocate about the mayoral race in recent weeks.

The race to replace term-limited Mayor Mitch Landrieu has, so far, drawn few major contenders, at least compared with the large fields in the past when the seat was open. That encouraged lots of speculation about whether another candidate would hop into the race at the last minute, a strategy that benefited each of the last three mayors in their first successful runs.

So far, major candidates in the race include City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, former Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet and former Civil District Court Judge Michael Bagneris.

Much speculation has focused on Peterson, who could be a formidable candidate because of her local and national political connections. She chairs the state Democratic Party and serves as vice chair of civic engagement and voter participation for the Democratic National Committee, potentially giving her the ability to raise money and recruit consultants from far beyond the metropolitan area.

In addition, Peterson, who has been in elected office for two decades, has strong connections to BOLD, the Central City-based political organization that remains one of the most active groups of its kind in the city.

BOLD responded to Gambit’s article by sharing it on social media with the comment, “This would be a game changer.”

Peterson told Gambit that she had spoken with Cantrell, who was backed by BOLD in her City Council campaign, to let her know she was considering getting into the race. She said they are “truly dear friends.”

Landrieu to try again to deliver speech

Maybe the third time's the charm.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu has set a new date for his annual State of the City speech after having to cancel two previous attempts.

The speech is now set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Civic Theatre, 510 O'Keefe Ave. The speech, which comes as Landrieu is in his final year in office, is expected to focus on the accomplishments of his administration and issues that remain for the next mayor.

The speech was originally set to be given June 14 but was canceled when news broke that U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, and others had been shot that morning during practice for a congressional baseball game.

It was rescheduled for a week later, only to be canceled again as Tropical Storm Cindy breezed through the area.

Candidate forum is 'off the record' 

Organizations that host candidate forums during election season usually want as many people as possible to hear how the candidates respond to questions about what the group considers to be the major issues.

So it was a bit strange that the organizers of a forum held last week by the groups Justice and Beyond and A Community Voice seemed determined to block any coverage of their event.

After a round of introductions at the forum for mayoral and City Council candidates put on by the two community organizing groups, Justice and Beyond head Pat Bryant announced that the entire affair would be off the record.

That’s the norm for Justice and Beyond’s regular meetings. The group’s gatherings have devolved into fiery disputes often enough for its leaders to know that reports in the news about the contentiousness may not reflect well on the organization.

But it’s unusual for a candidate forum — in which the focus is on the contenders’ statements, not the identities of those in the audience — to be completely off the record.

The Alliance for Good Government’s candidate forums often allot time at the end for members to go behind closed doors and decide on their endorsements. But questions first are asked publicly, with reporters free to relay what is said for the benefit of readers and listeners.

Indeed, the Justice and Beyond affair had been widely shared on social media sites beforehand, with the stated goal of “get(ting) the issues in the forefront of candidates' minds and to inform the community on where they stand,” according to the public invitation.

The “community” apparently did not include readers of The New Orleans Advocate or its website.

The move even appeared to affront a handful of candidates — obviously interested in getting their message out to a broader audience — who apologized to a reporter after the event.

Bryant’s crew says it plans to host such forums regularly, with the next one scheduled at the end of July. But candidates attending apparently will be limited, as they were last week, to reaching the 100 or so people in the room.

BGR appoints new research director

The Bureau of Governmental Research has promoted longtime staff member Stephen Stuart to vice president and research director.

He succeeds Peter Reichard, who is leaving for Salt Lake City, where he will be president of the Utah Foundation, a group that says it offers "thorough, well-supported research" on public policy issues and makes "practical, well-reasoned recommendations for policy change" — pretty much what BGR does.

Stuart has been with BGR for 15 years, most recently as senior analyst, and has "extensive knowledge of the organization and the local and regional public policy issues that frame its work," the group said.

He was the principal author of many BGR reports, including some that earned national recognition by the Governmental Research Association.

"Stephen possesses a unique combination of diligence and skill that has benefited BGR for many years. Those who have encountered him in the field know, as I do, that BGR is lucky to have Stephen in this new role," said President and CEO Amy Glovinsky.

Stuart is a graduate of Loyola University and a former business reporter.

Compiled by Jeff Adelson, Jessica Williams and Bruce Eggler