Dr. Dwight McKenna portrait

Dr. Dwight McKenna

Dr. Dwight McKenna, a physician and long-time figure in local politics, was elected coroner of Orleans Parish on Saturday, defeating an incumbent who withdrew from the race unexpectedly but failed to do so before the deadline for removing his name from the ballot. 

McKenna, a 75-year-old general practitioner and publisher of The New Orleans Tribune, becomes the first black coroner in the city's history. He received 60 percent of the vote compared to 40 percent for the incumbent, Dr. Jeffrey Rouse.    

Rouse shocked the city this summer when, in an about-face, he announced that he had decided to return to psychiatric practice rather than seek a second term. He endorsed McKenna and began meeting with him to introduce him to the inner-workings of the office. 

"In the remaining months of my term, I shall share with Dr. McKenna the many facets of this complicated job, as one physician transferring the care of a patient to a colleague," Rouse said in a statement. 

McKenna avoided the embarrassing prospect of Rouse winning re-election despite his withdrawal, an outcome that polls showed remained plausible as recently as two weeks ago. Rouse's name remained on the ballot because he had already qualified for re-election.

McKenna, who lost to Rouse in the coroner's race four years ago, has been trying for years to stage a political comeback after a federal conviction on tax-evasion charges forced him to leave the Orleans Parish School Board. He twice ran against Rouse's predecessor, Frank Minyard, and also tried unsuccessfully to rejoin the School Board after receiving a pardon from Gov. Edwin Edwards. 

Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian.