The big question in the two New Orleans City Council at-large races may not be who wins but whether the winners can avoid facing runoffs.
Unlike the close contest in the New Orleans mayoral race, both at-large campaigns are dominated by front-runners familiar to the city’s electorate, according to a poll conducted for The New Orleans Advocate and WWL-TV.
Two weeks before the Oct. 14 primary, the New Orleans mayoral race remains a toss-up among t…
The poll, done by the Clarus Research Group, shows City Councilman Jason Williams and state Rep. Helena Moreno each with more support than the rest of the field in their races combined. However, figuring in undecided voters, both appear to still be short of winning more than 50 percent of the vote, the threshold required to win outright in the Oct. 14 primary.
“At this stage of the game, they look like they would be considered prohibitive favorites to win those seats,” Clarus President Ron Faucheux said.
Although for many years candidates for the at-large seats ran in the same field, with the top two vote-getters gaining election, voters now cast ballots for the two seats separately.
Williams, a Democrat running against four challengers, has 40 percent of the vote in his bid for re-election, according to the poll.
Moreno, running against two other candidates for the seat being vacated by Councilwoman Stacy Head, has the support of 45 percent of those surveyed.
The poll, conducted last week, surveyed 500 registered voters likely to cast ballots in the election and has a margin of error of 4.3 percentage points.
"At this stage in the game, they both have 40 percent or more of the total vote, and over 60 percent of the decided vote,” Faucheux said. “Their opponents seem to be scattered and not really getting much.”
Moreno’s closest opponent in the race for the Division 2 seat is her fellow Democratic state lawmaker, Rep. Joseph Bouie, who has 18 percent of the vote. About 27 percent of voters are undecided in that race, according to the poll.
"Bouie clearly needs name recognition, and he clearly needs a much bigger campaign than he has had so far. If he had that, he could possibly be competitive,” Faucheux said. “But the time is running out, and the gap is pretty wide."
Moreno, who was born in Mexico and made her name in New Orleans as a TV reporter and anchor before getting into politics, gets much of her support from white voters but has strong crossover appeal in the black community as well, Faucheux said. According to the poll, 57 percent of white voters and 36 percent of black voters support her, compared with 9 percent of white voters and 23 percent of black voters backing Bouie, who is black.
“Anytime a candidate can cross that (racial) line in a citywide race makes them a very strong candidate," Faucheux said.
The poll found Kenneth Cutno, a travel consultant, taking only 5 percent of the vote in the Moreno-Bouie contest. That’s the same as Eldon Delloyd “El” Anderson, another candidate who appeared in the poll despite being disqualified shortly after signing up for the race. Both Cutno and Anderson are also Democrats.
While garnering less of the overall vote than Moreno, Williams is potentially more secure in his re-election bid. All of his challengers are still in the single digits, according to the poll.
Those include David Baird, a Republican, with 7 percent of the vote; David Gregory Nowak and Jason Coleman, Democrats who each are getting 5 percent; and Aaron “Ace” Christopher, who has no party affiliation and came in with 4 percent.
About 39 percent of the voters in that race are undecided, according to the poll.
While Moreno and Williams have strong leads, Faucheux said it’s not over until it's over in politics.
“We haven’t seen what happens in the last week, and sometimes that can change things,” he added.
Staff writer Jim Mustian contributed to this report.