New Orleans

Advocate staff photo by SHERRI MILLER -- The New Orleans skyline as seen from Algiers Point on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015.

Campaign finance reports released Monday show mayoral candidate LaToya Cantrell pulled in more than $183,000 in the first quarter of the year. They also hint that state Rep. Walt Leger, who has not yet announced, could be gearing up for a run for mayor. 

With six months to go before the October primary, most potential candidates are still undeclared and thus aren't yet required to disclose donations or expenditures. 

That leaves Cantrell and former Civil District Court Judge Michael Bagneris — who has raised $36,000 and put $50,000 of his own money into his campaign this year — as the only two official mayoral candidates who filed reports, alongside state Rep. Helena Moreno, who has declared she is running for an at-large seat on the New Orleans City Council. 

Leger's filing says that he'll be running in one of the October city races but doesn't specify which office he might seek. He raised $103,000 in the first three months of the year and went on a $130,000 spending spree during that same period, spending more than both the official candidates combined on the sort of consultants and research that would be important in a campaign.

Leger did not immediately respond to a request for comment on his filing.

Of the two declared candidates, Cantrell has the clear lead. She raised an average of $678 from each of about 270 donors between Dec. 11 and April 7, all but a few thousand of that before she formally declared her run at the end of March.

During the same period, Cantrell spent about $53,560, leaving her with $253,800 on hand.

Cantrell, who represents District B on the council, spent about $32,400 on campaign consultants, including veteran New Orleans political adviser and Xavier University professor Silas Lee, who received more than half that total for “consulting on narrative and messaging.”

Bagneris, who is making a second run for mayor after unsuccessfully seeking to unseat Mayor Mitch Landrieu in 2014, raised $35,900 from 18 donors, for an average contribution of almost $2,000. On top of that, he loaned $50,000 of his own money to his campaign.

With only about $14,300 in spending — spread among campaign consultants, ads, yard signs, a website and other costs — Bagneris ended the reporting period with about $71,640 on hand.

It’s difficult to draw direct comparisons between the fundraising so far this season and recent mayoral races.

Landrieu didn’t jump into the 2010 election until days before qualifying and did relatively little fundraising before making it official. While he raised only a few thousand dollars in the months before he declared his candidacy, Landrieu, then the lieutenant governor, quickly made up ground, raising almost $750,000 in the month after his announcement.

Running for re-election four years later, Landrieu was sitting on a $1.5 million war chest six months before the election.

While Leger is expected to be a serious contender in the race and has set up a campaign committee, he has not made any official announcement yet. According to the filing, he had $83,000 on hand at the end of the reporting period.

But his filing — which would not be required unless he was running for something in October — and its contents suggest Leger is laying the groundwork for a campaign.

He has spent more than $40,000 on polling with Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, the polling firm used by political action committees supporting Gov. John Bel Edwards in his 2015 campaign. And $21,000 has gone to VR Research, an "opposition research" firm with offices in California and Washington, D.C.

Nearly $43,000 was spent on various consultants, including fundraisers, campaign finance advisers and public relations companies. And more was spent on what appears to be formal campaign infrastructure, including support staff.

Elsewhere on the ballot, Moreno is the only City Council candidate to file a report so far. District council candidates are not required to file reports this early in the election cycle, and Councilman Jason Williams, who is expected to seek re-election to his at-large seat rather than run for mayor, did not file a report.

Moreno appears to be in a strong position going into the contest to succeed at-large Councilwoman Stacy Head, who is unable to seek re-election because of term limits. By April 7, she had raised about $144,000 and spent about $34,000. She ended the reporting period with about $148,000 on hand.

Moreno paid $6,000 to Ourso Beychok Inc. for campaign strategy. The firm produced key mailers targeting former U.S. Sen. David Vitter in the 2015 governor’s race in conjunction with Gumbo PAC, which is run by the company’s senior political strategist, Trey Ourso.

Moreno also paid about $5,700 to Ragusa Consulting for a website and electronic media costs, $7,500 to political consultant Angele Wilson and $3,500 to Prestridge Political, another consulting firm.

Much of the rest of her spending was tied to the event at which she announced her candidacy and to fundraisers.

Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.​