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Rachael Johnson

Michael Terranova

Insurance attorney Rachael Johnson won a seat on the Orleans Parish Civil District Court bench on Saturday, besting attorney Suzanne "Suzy" Montero in the only election on the ballot in New Orleans.

Johnson, 40, scored 54 percent of the vote to 46 percent for Montero, winning by about 2,200 votes.

Just over 30,000 votes were cast as turnout, at 12 percent, eclipsed the 11 percent showing from the March primary, according to Secretary of State Tom Schedler's office.

Johnson, whose mother is Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Johnson, will fill the "Section B" seat that Judge Regina Bartholomew-Woods vacated when she won a spot last fall on the state Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal.

Johnson will leave a job as an attorney for The Hartford to assume the civil court bench, where she will preside over family law cases for several months before adopting a regular civil caseload.

Johnson's nearly 2,200-vote victory followed a contentious primary campaign in which both sides lobbed legal challenges to the other campaign's ads.

Race was expected to play a major factor in Saturday's runoff. Primary results showed Montero, who is white, scoring a huge majority of the white vote, while Johnson, who is black, dominated among black voters, with third-place candidate Marie Williams picking up most of the remaining black votes.

A breakdown of Saturday's vote by race was not immediately available.

Johnson touted her master's degree and early career in social work in Atlanta as a selling point for her candidacy, along with a 12-year legal career that included a stint as an assistant city attorney in Riviera Beach, Florida.

Out of Tulane law school, Johnson worked for then-Civil Court Judge Nadine Ramsey, now a New Orleans city councilwoman.

She was admitted to the Louisiana bar two months after Hurricane Katrina hit the city and took a job in Florida before returning to New Orleans in 2012.

Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.