What had seemed like a sleepy election season in New Orleans jolted awake Friday afternoon, when a rush of 19 candidates filed to run for offices up and down the ballot.

The three-day qualifying period ended with a total of 18 candidates vying for the city’s top job, and with only one local official re-elected automatically without opposition. And, save for a head-to-head match-up between the current councilwoman and her predecessor in District C, every City Council race drew at least four candidates.

In all, 66 candidates qualified for 15 offices in New Orleans. Only one incumbent, Clerk of Civil District Court Dale Atkins, was re-elected without opposition.

The end of qualifying also brought closure to months of speculation over whether Sidney Torres IV would jump in and shake up the race for mayor. The businessman and reality-TV host announced he would stand down.

And if that weren’t enough excitement for one day of New Orleans politics, term-limited Councilwoman Stacy Head took to the steps of the Criminal District Courthouse as qualifying was wrapping up inside to call on voters to “reject platitudes” from candidates and warn of rumors that pay-to-play schemes were already taking hold in the election.

Things were less crowded on the north shore, where special elections drew 13 candidates seeking to fill four seats, and in Jefferson Parish, which will feature a likely hotly contested two-person race for a spot on the Parish Council. On Grand Isle, the widow of a former Town Council member was elected without opposition to fill her husband’s seat.

With the close of qualifying, the stage is now set for a three-month dash to the Oct. 14 primary — to be followed by runoffs on Nov. 18 where necessary.

It remains to be seen how many of the candidates are prepared to mount serious campaigns, though the new entrants include at least a handful of people with prior political experience.

By far the most action Friday came in the New Orleans’ mayor’s race. Eleven new candidates filed to replace Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who is term-limited, more than doubling the size of the field. Among the seven entrants who had already filed are the well-established campaigns of former Civil District Court Judge Michael Bagneris, City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell and former Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet.

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The last-day entrants include businessman Frank Scurlock, who has been campaigning in a top hat and colorful suits while fighting a Municipal Court assault charge stemming from an incident in which he followed and shouted at a New Orleans police officer during a protest at the since-removed Jefferson Davis monument.

A pair of familiar names also entered the field Friday: consultant Troy Henry, who is making his second bid for the city’s top job, and Tommie Vassel, a certified public accountant who has served on the Sewerage & Water Board and previously sought a seat on the City Council.

The field also now includes a variety of colorful candidates, including perennial campaigner Manny “Chevrolet” Bruno and Patrick Van Hoorebeek, the owner of Patrick’s Bar Vin in the French Quarter, who showed up in a bright red suit to qualify.

The last-minute flood of candidates was as notable for whom it didn’t contain as for whom it did. Torres, who has been floating the idea of a mayoral run since last year, announced Friday on Facebook that he had decided against a campaign. However, he said he would keep a hand in the city’s electoral politics through a new political action committee.

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The city hasn’t seen a mayoral field this crowded since 2006, when 23 candidates sought unsuccessfully to oust Mayor Ray Nagin, who was seeking a second term. But only four of those candidates got more than 10,000 votes, and Nagin would go on to beat Landrieu, then the lieutenant governor, in a runoff.

The last day of qualifying also filled out the New Orleans City Council races.

At-large Councilman Jason Williams, who had drawn no opposition until Friday, now faces four opponents. In the other at-large seat, which will be left vacant by Head’s departure, state Rep. Joe Bouie joined a field of three that also includes state Rep. Helena Moreno.

Six hopefuls are running to replace term-limited Councilwoman Susan Guidry in District A, and the same number hope to succeed the departing Cantrell in District B.

And with new entrants in the District D and E races, there are now three candidates running against Councilman Jared Brossett in D and five vying against Councilman James Gray in E in their re-election bids.

The least crowded race may be one of the most intriguing. No new candidates registered to run in District C, leaving it a two-woman contest between incumbent Nadine Ramsey and her predecessor, Kristin Gisleson Palmer. Palmer opted not to run in the 2014 race that Ramsey won.

Outside of the mayoral and City Council races, the field is sparser.

Clerk of Criminal District Court Arthur Morrell, who helps oversee elections in the city, drew a challenge on Friday from Danil Faust, who said he is campaigning on election integrity and security issues.

No new challengers emerged Friday to face Sheriff Marlin Gusman, leaving him in a two-person race against one of his former deputies, Fredrick “Freddy” Brooks, who worked at the Sheriff’s Office from 2007 to 2014.

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In January 2013, Sheriff's Office internal investigators said they received a complaint from a Walgreens pharmacy where Brooks worked a paid, off-duty detail. The store’s loss prevention officer said Brooks was paid $255 more than he should have gotten by clocking in earlier and later than his actual arrival and departure times. Brooks repaid the money. The Sheriff’s Office docked him 10 days in pay and banned him from detail work for 90 days.

His position at the Sheriff’s Office slid after that incident, according to personnel records. In June 2014, he was suspended for 20 days after a dispute with a supervisor in the kitchen facility.

Brooks blamed the Walgreens incident on former high-ranking Sheriff’s Office employee Jerry Ursin, who later pleaded guilty in federal court to off-duty detail fraud.

Brooks said that Ursin and other deputies who came to the Sheriff’s Office from the Police Department "came with their own agenda and things just didn’t go right. So I had to get out of there.”

Qualifying also came with a bit of unexpected drama Friday.

Head, who is not seeking another office this election, showed up at the courthouse and delivered a speech calling on voters to ask hard questions of the candidates, particularly on a series of her pet issues such as improving sales tax collection, requiring some nonprofits to contribute some money to the city's coffers, overhauling the city’s pension and civil service system, and fixing up blighted properties.

But she also said she has heard from three people that at least one campaign is telling city contractors that donations of $20,000 to $25,000 will be required to keep doing business with City Hall. Head would not identify the campaign.

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In Jefferson Parish, no surprise candidates jumped into the Parish Council District 4 race, which pits state Sen. Danny Martiny against Kenner Councilman Dominick Impastato in what is expected to be a bruising campaign.

In Grand Isle, Mona Santiny was elected to the Town Council District C seat when she was the only one who qualified to run. Santiny will fill the remaining three years of her husband Clifford "Dixie" Santiny's term. Dixie Santiny died in May.

"I just want to make this island keep growing and growing," Mona Santiny said, adding that she plans to focus on making Grand Isle more attractive to tourists.

In St. Tammany Parish, two races gained candidates on the final day of qualifying.

Independents Marvin Lawson, of Abita Springs, and Clark Taylor, of Covington, joined Republican Joe Freeman and incumbent Republican David Fitzgerald in a special election for the District 2 Parish Council seat.

Charles Wartelle, of Folsom, qualified to face fellow Republicans Jay Adair and Billy Burris for the 22nd Judicial District Court Division E judgeship.

Other races in the parish include a special election for the state House 77th District and a Division H judgeship at the 22nd Judicial District.

Republicans Rob Maness, Mark Wright, Casey Revere and independent Lisa Condrey-Ward qualified for the 77th House District. Republicans Reggie Laurent and Alan Zaunbrecher will compete for the Division H judgeship.

Faimon A. Roberts III, Matt Sledge and Nick Reimann contributed to this report. 

Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.​

msledge@theadvocate.com | (504) 636-7432