Kenner businessman Brian Brennan expected to fill soon-to-be-vacant City Council seat _lowres

Keith Conley stepped down from his Kenner City Council seat earlier this year to become the chief operating officer of Jefferson Parish's government. The race to replace him is heating up, as a three-day qualifying period for the Nov. 8 election opens July 20.

The race for an open Kenner City Council seat has been largely quiet so far, but that is changing as the sign-up window for the Nov. 8 primary approaches later this month.

Long rumored to be potential candidates, state Rep. Tom Willmott, former City Councilman Kent Denapolis and businessman George Branigan — known for his involvement with local playgrounds — all recently confirmed they are strongly considering running for the at-large Division B seat.

The seat opened up when Keith Conley stepped down in January to become the chief operating officer of Jefferson Parish government.

Others seen as possible candidates — such as Conley’s interim replacement, Brian Brennan, as well as attorney Arita Bohannan — said they have not decided if they will run. However, neither Brennan nor Bohannan would rule out seeking the seat.

The three-day qualifying period starts July 20.

Denapolis and Willmott, registered Republicans, each can cite about a decade of experience in elected office.

Denapolis held the City Council’s 5th District seat for 10 years beginning in 2004 before setting his sights on the same at-large post he now is eyeing again. But Denapolis dropped out of a 2014 runoff with Conley, saying he had grown weary of the campaign grind.

If Denapolis does try for a comeback, he said he believes his prior experience on the council would appeal to voters. He said he also would tout his efforts to expand the Loyola Drive intersection with Interstate 10 as well as to stabilize drainage canal banks, among other projects.

Willmott has represented District 92 — encompassing parts of Kenner and St. Charles Parish — in the state House since 2008, after winning a race over fellow Republican Michael McMyne. He has twice been re-elected unopposed but would have to leave office in 2020 because of term limits.

Willmott said his experience serving on state legislative committees that deal with taxes and health care policy, among other things, would help him be an effective member of the City Council.

“It’s going to be the same principles you apply in order to be successful representing your constituents,” he said.

Other potential candidates such as Branigan, Brennan and Bohannan can’t claim the same experience in office as Denapolis and Willmott. Yet voters might recognize the three registered Republicans’ names from their civic involvement as well as prior runs for office.

When he ran for the Kenner-based 79th District seat in the House in 2007, Branigan touted the time he has volunteered coaching and raising money for projects at Muss Bertolino and Girard playgrounds.

Branigan — the former husband of longtime City Councilwoman Michele Branigan — ultimately dropped out of the runoff against ex-state legislator Tony Ligi, saying he didn’t want to run the negative campaign that his advisers believed was necessary to defeat Ligi, who now heads the Jefferson Business Council.

But now, Branigan said, he wants to be on the council to monitor where “every penny” of municipal taxes goes. He’s committed enough to the race that he’s already printed bumper stickers for the election in purple and gold, the colors of his favorite athletics program, LSU.

For his part, after challenging Denapolis unsuccessfully in 2010, Brennan now has about a half-year’s worth of at-large experience on the council. The insurance professional served on a committee that recommended changes in Kenner’s municipal charter before he received his temporary appointment from the council, which does not preclude him from running for the permanent job.

Bohannan in 2010 unsuccessfully challenged City Councilwoman Maria DeFrancesch, then the District 4 incumbent and now the at-large Division A representative. Bohannan said she was awaiting some polling data before deciding whether to qualify, and she said she suspects others being mentioned as possible candidates are taking the same approach.

“I am expecting qualifying to be very interesting,” she said.

Besides the City Council seat, the primary to elect a successor for former Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni, who stepped down in January to become the president of Jefferson Parish, also is set for Nov. 8. Kenner Councilman Mike Sigur has been serving as interim mayor since Yenni’s departure.

DeFrancesch, Jefferson Parish Councilman Ben Zahn and civic activist Al Morella all have committed to signing up to run in that race.

Follow Ramon Antonio Vargas on Twitter, @RVargasAdvocate.

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