It’s official: State Rep. Helena Moreno is running for an at-large seat on the New Orleans City Council.
Surrounded by dozens of supporters on the top floor of Basin Street Station on Thursday, Moreno confirmed her candidacy in the October election, one of the first major announcements of the city’s political season.
“I’ve really enjoyed working on state policy. I have,” said Moreno, a former television news anchor. “But I’ve been listening to you, and I’ve heard you, and there’s more to do right here at home.”
She said she will seek the Division 1 at-large seat now held by Stacy Head, who is term-limited.
Moreno, a Democrat, had been eyeing the seat for months and made her announcement one week after District A Councilwoman Susan Guidry announced that she would not seek the Division 1 seat and instead will leave city politics.
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Councilman Jason Williams, who holds the other at-large seat, is now widely expected to run for re-election, instead of for mayor, as some had speculated he would.
For decades, it has been an unwritten rule that the council's two at-large seats go to a white member and a black member, with a few exceptions. If the trend holds in this election, it could mean that Williams, who is black, would take one seat, and Moreno, who is white and Hispanic, would take the other.
New Orleans City Councilwoman Susan Guidry, who had considered running in the fall for one o…
But many other candidates could jump into the races, and there’s no law stopping a black candidate from running against Moreno. That black candidate could be Councilman Jared Brossett, who said Thursday that he is "seriously considering" signing up for Head's seat.
All at-large candidates now run for a designated seat, rather than in a single field, as was long the case.
No matter who runs, Moreno, 39, said she plans to run her entire campaign “like I’m behind” in the polls. “I’m just running my own race,” she said.
A former WDSU-TV reporter, Moreno took her first dive into politics in 2008, when she challenged former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson for his 2nd Congressional District seat. She made the runoff, but Jefferson, a local political powerhouse despite the federal indictment for bribery that hung over his head at the time, beat back the challenge.
Two years later, Moreno won the House District 93 seat that Karen Carter Peterson, now a state senator, had vacated.
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Moreno has held the seat ever since, working to pass legislation to protect women and children from domestic violence and sponsoring a bill aimed at closing the wage gap between men and women.
State Sen. J.P. Morrell, who had been encouraging Moreno to run for months and is also pondering a mayoral run, praised Moreno’s work Thursday.
“I probably harassed her more than anyone else to take this step,” Morrell joked. “She is a role model for every young woman in our city right now.”
Brossett has long been close to the Morrell political clan, once serving as a top aide to former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, J.P. Morrell's mother.
In her short speech Thursday, Moreno focused on issues of crime, fixing streets, affordable and quality housing, and improving the city’s education system.
Qualifying for the October municipal elections will be in July.
Staff writer Jeff Adelson contributed to this report.