Landrieu endorses in six council races

Mayor Mitch Landrieu, waiting until just four days before the primary, announced endorsements in most of this year's City Council races Tuesday, but he remained silent on who should succeed him in the city's top job.

An aide to Landrieu said it is possible that he would endorse a mayoral candidate before the expected Nov. 18 runoff but that he would not back anyone before Saturday's vote.

What that means for the front-runners — Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell and former judges Michael Bagneris and Desiree Charbonnet — is uncertain. Landrieu is still a relatively popular mayor, according to a poll commissioned recently by The New Orleans Advocate and WWL-TV, which put his approval rating at 57 percent.

On the other hand, the candidates have distanced themselves somewhat from Landrieu over certain hot-button topics, like the persistence of violent crime and the mayor's handling of the Sewerage & Water Board, which drew angry criticism in August after the agency's pumps failed to prevent flooding during a severe downpour.

“We're making a lot of progress, and New Orleans is headed in the right direction," Landrieu said in a statement. "There's a lot more to do, so I look forward to working with these candidates to continue to move New Orleans forward together.”

In the council races, Landrieu gave his nod mainly to incumbents and front-runners.

He's backing state Rep. Helena Moreno for the Division 1 at-large seat and Jason Williams for re-election in Division 2.

In District B, Landrieu's pick is Jay Banks, a longtime figure in the BOLD political organization.

In District C, Landrieu is endorsing Nadine Ramsey for re-election over Kristin Gisleson Palmer, who held the seat from 2010 to 2014.

In Districts D and E, Landrieu is backing incumbents Jared Brossett and James Gray, respectively.

The mayor did not release an endorsement in District A, a crowded race featuring a half-dozen candidates.

Anonymous group targets Nadine Ramsey

In the lead-up to Saturday’s election, the District C council race has become increasingly heated — and one unknown group is apparently out to stoke the fire.

It's pulling for Kristin Gisleson Palmer, who is looking to reclaim the seat she once held from Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey. And the group’s chief claim is succinctly captured in its web address:

The site, whose backers have not formally registered their political spending with the state’s ethics administration, accuse Ramsey of ignoring her constituents’ needs and of kowtowing to the deep-pocketed developers and Airbnb advocates who have contributed to her political campaigns.

It says Ramsey has presented herself as tough on blight but meanwhile owns a blighted property on Canal Boulevard, something Ramsey disputes. 

Ramsey punched back on Tuesday, denying the site’s claims and turning the conversation toward Palmer, who said she has no involvement with the site.

“My opponent continues to push this narrative in the press and in attack mailers in an effort to distract public attention from the real issues, including the fact that as a public official Kristin Palmer has been fined nearly $3,000 for her repeated failure to follow Louisiana ethics laws,” Ramsey said.

Reached by phone, Palmer said her fines — which were assessed after she failed to file timely financial disclosure forms — have all been paid.

Of the attack site, Palmer said, “I can’t stop individuals who feel like they’ve been left out of the process from doing what they are doing."

In one video clip posted to the site, a 2-year-old girl admonishes an adult about the perils of not voting in Saturday’s election. “Don’t you know about Nadine?” the toddler asks. “Condos everywhere. The Algiers ferry. Airbnb money.”

Another post accuses Ramsey of having a 45 percent stake in a firm that owns a blighted Lakeview property, 5530 Canal Blvd. The firm, GRAB LLC, fought in court to gain control of the property after its owners, Robert and Marjorie Velten, refused to sell. A judge ruled in GRAB’s favor in 2015, but that order wasn’t recorded in city land records until last week, documents provided by Palmer’s campaign show.

Ramsey said Tuesday that GRAB never took ownership of the property. And while a public filing in May showed that she owned 45 percent of the company, she claims that she has only 15 percent. 

Bouie disavows email attack on Moreno

It's been a relatively tame match-up between state Reps. Joseph Bouie and Helena Moreno for the City Council at-large Division 1 seat. 

But that changed Monday, when Bouie’s campaign shot off an email deriding Moreno for awarding a Tulane University scholarship worth more than $150,000 to the son of her paid political consultant, Greg Buisson, who is white, instead of to deserving black students in her district.

Moreno fired back, accusing Bouie of awarding his own Tulane scholarship to one student and then handing it to another before the first one could earn a degree. 

One problem, though: Bouie did not authorize the original attack, he said Tuesday. Seeing the email himself after it went out, “I said, ‘Man, where did that come from?’ ” Bouie said. 

Jeff Thomas, a political blogger who has handled communications for Bouie’s campaign, later issued a retraction. He said the email was drawn up and paid for by a source independent of the Bouie campaign, though he would not name the source. “This was our mistake," he said. 

As for Moreno's retaliatory claim, Bouie said he reviews his scholarships annually and awards them, based on need, to qualified applicants. 

Henry supporters to protest TV debate

Supporters of Troy Henry are calling for a protest to physically block three of his opponents in the mayoral race from taking part in WWL-TV’s Wednesday night debate. They object to the fact that their candidate, who runs fourth in polls,  didn’t make the cut for the forum.

The debate, the last one to be televised before Saturday's primary, will feature candidates Michael Bagneris, LaToya Cantrell and Desiree Charbonnet. It will be broadcast live on WWL-TV from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. and rebroadcast at 10 p.m. on WYES-TV.

The three invited candidates were chosen based on the results of a poll commissioned by The New Orleans Advocate and WWL-TV, which showed them leading the field with numbers in the high teens to mid-20s.

Henry came in below 4 percent in the poll. WWL-TV had set the threshold for inclusion at 5 percent before the results of the poll were released.

“Our criteria was set long ago and was well-publicized: any candidate at 5 percent or above in our WWL-TV/The Advocate poll would be invited to participate in our mayoral debate,” WWL-TV Executive News Director Keith Esparros said in an email. “Mr. Henry polled at less than 4 percent and therefore did not meet the established criteria. To make an exception and allow him to participate would be unfair to all the other candidates.”

Jeff Thomas, who has worked with the Henry campaign and runs the Think 504 blog, put out a call for protesters to “deny other candidates entrance into the debate” because Henry will be excluded. A protest with about a dozen people also took place Tuesday afternoon outside the WWL-TV studios on North Rampart Street.

Sterling Henry, Troy Henry’s campaign manager and brother, said the campaign is not behind the protest but supports their effort. “I love them,” he said.

Troy Henry has also taken to Facebook to urge supporters to call WWL-TV and complain.

Henry has never managed to break into the top tier of candidates this election cycle. But Sterling Henry argued that his brother has gained momentum from previous televised debates since The Advocate/WWL-TV poll was taken two weeks ago and should be included.

“I know if we get one more debate where he’s compared with the other candidates, he’s going to be in great shape,” Sterling Henry said of Troy Henry.

Compiled by Andrew Vanacore, Jessica Williams and Jeff Adelson

Follow Jessica Williams on Twitter, @jwilliamsNOLA​.