Jefferson Parish Councilman Ben Zahn mulling a run for Kenner mayor after favorable polling data _lowres

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--E. "Ben" Zahn, III Councilman, District 4 Jefferson Parish Council in Kenner, La. Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015.

If he runs, Jefferson Parish Councilman Ben Zahn would have an easier time winning Kenner’s mayoral election later this year than others who have expressed interest in the race, according to a recent poll.

Two other potential mayoral hopefuls, Kenner City Council members Keith Reynaud and Maria DeFrancesch, disputed the poll’s findings Monday, saying it didn’t survey enough people and relied on off-target assumptions.

Zahn, however, called the poll’s results “impressive and convincing,” adding that he will now “explore the option of the mayor’s race,” something he had not previously said.

Kenner poll

The poll was conducted by Greg Rigamer’s BDPC Inc. and was paid for by business people Henry Shane, Linda Nugent, Jim Hudson, Wayne Thomas and Ashton Ryan.

With a 5 percent margin of error and a notable number of undecided respondents for some questions, it surveyed 300 registered voters in Kenner late last month, of which 211 — 70 percent — indicated they believed the city was “moving in the right direction.”

Further, 72 percent said they had a favorable impression of former Mayor Mike Yenni, who left City Hall in January to become Jefferson Parish president.

About 42 percent of those surveyed said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate endorsed by Yenni, while 26 percent indicated Yenni’s endorsement would dissuade them from supporting a candidate. The poll also said that Yenni would endorse Zahn if the second-term Parish Council member runs.

Asked about that claim, Yenni stopped short of officially endorsing Zahn, saying he can’t announce such a decision without knowing if Zahn will indeed run. But he said Zahn “would be a strong and sensible choice. ... He is a close friend and colleague. Ben would be a terrific mayor.”

Factoring in Yenni’s assumed support, Zahn would be the first choice in the mayor’s race for 29 percent of those surveyed, according to the data. DeFrancesch and Reynaud would be the first choice for 16 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

Jefferson Parish Justice of the Peace Kevin Centanni registered 13 percent support, with Kenner Chief Administrative Officer Mike Quigley rating 6 percent.

The poll excluded at least one candidate who has promised to run: civic activist Al Morella.

Zahn also did well when those surveyed were asked whether they have a favorable impression of possible candidates.

About 43 percent held a favorable impression of Zahn, compared with DeFrancesch, 37 percent; Centanni, 29 percent; Reynaud, 24 percent; and Quigley, 19 percent. He also was viewed as the most likely to keep progress going in Kenner by 17 percent of those surveyed, above DeFrancesch (15 percent), Centanni (14 percent), Reynaud (10 percent) and Quigley (6 percent).

Quigley said he had no comment on the poll’s results. Centanni said judicial rules prevent him from talking about another political position while he is a justice of the peace.

Reynaud and DeFrancesch had the strongest reactions to the poll.

Reynaud said polling only 300 of Kenner’s nearly 38,000 registered voters did not provide an accurate overview of electorate’s sentiments. He said, “I think it was a way for (those behind the poll) to try to sway me to consider not running for mayor, and they failed.”

After consulting with two other unnamed pollsters, DeFrancesch said she believed “there were some very erroneous conclusions. ... I can’t give this too much credibility.”

Zahn, though, said he has received “overwhelming” encouragement to consider the Nov. 8 mayoral race as word of the poll’s findings spread around Kenner. He said he has every reason to believe he would have Yenni’s support if he runs, but he added, “We have some friends also considering running, so we need to discuss the upcoming election cycle.”

Qualifying for the election is July 20-22. The victor would complete Yenni’s unexpired term that ends in 2018.

City Councilman Mike Sigur is serving as Kenner’s interim mayor.