Private attorney and city hearing officer Desiree Cook-Calvin was lengthening her lead Saturday over former interim city councilman Ernest “Freddie” Charbonnet in the race to replace embattled Judge Yolanda King for the Section E seat in Orleans Parish Juvenile Court.
With only early votes registered and less than a third of precincts reporting, Cook-Calvin held 56 percent to 44 percent for Charbonnet.
Cook-Calvin, 45, who led the primary voting with 28 percent in a field of six, would assume public office for the first time after losing a pair of campaigns for state representative in 2005 and 2007. Charbonnet, 60, also was making a bid for his first elected seat, after failing in a bid for Traffic Court judge in 2011 and this year for an at-large City Council seat.
A former city attorney in the Dutch Morial administration, Charbonnet stepped up to serve as interim city councilman for the District E seat that went vacant when disgraced councilman Jon Johnson abruptly resigned to face federal charges in 2012 that would land him in prison.
On the campaign trail, Charbonnet said he would use the judgeship as a platform to “focus on creating an actual juvenile justice system where all the relevant partners - our schools, churches, nonprofits, state agencies, federal agencies, city government - we all work together.”
He said he’d hoped to address a troubled, balkanized justice system from the City Council dais, but thinks that he can do it from a seat on the bench.
Cook-Calvin said she was drawn to the Juvenile Court post from “working with women who suffered losses to violence.” Active in the Household of Faith Worship Church, she hopes to tap churches, community groups and schools to tackle high expulsion rates in the city.
Charbonnet took 20 percent of the primary vote.
King, who ran third in the primary, still faces criminal charges for allegedly lying about living in New Orleans when she qualified for the office last year before winning in a runoff. The Louisiana Supreme Court barred her in May from taking the bench pending the resolution of her criminal case, leaving her cases for other Juvenile Court judges to handle.
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman