A week after qualifying ended for the Nov. 8 primary for Orleans Parish School Board seats, one contender has been elected outright, while another faces a legal challenge to her candidacy.
Ben Kleban, the founder and president of the New Orleans College Prep charter school network, was elected automatically when Eldon Anderson, his only opponent in the race to represent the board’s 5th District, withdrew.
Kleban joins District 3 incumbent Sarah Usdin and District 1 incumbent John Brown Sr. as candidates who will escape a formal election.
Meanwhile, District 2 incumbent Cynthia Cade is being accused of not filing federal and state income taxes for five of the past six years, as required of all candidates.
A lawsuit filed Friday also raises questions about her residency, highlighting her choice not to file for a homestead exemption on any of her three New Orleans properties as well as her car’s Texas registration.
Cade, a preschool educator and the board’s longest-serving member, must appear in Civil District Court on Tuesday to answer the charges, which could disqualify her from running.
If Cade is ousted, it would mean an automatic win for Ethan Ashley, an Urban League of Greater New Orleans official who has secured the support of key players in New Orleans’ charter school movement. Several board observers have described their contest as the most important race to watch this election.
All School Board hopefuls this year are Democrats. Qualifying ended July 22.
The Nov. 8 election, which is expected to have a high turnout because of the presidential ra…
Kleban said he was surprised to learn that Anderson dropped out but was nonetheless “thrilled” about the chance to serve residents in parts of Uptown and the Warehouse District.
“I appreciate the support I’ve received from a broad and diverse set of folks in the community,” he said. “I’m anxious to get started for the children in New Orleans.”
Anderson, a parent and music manager, said he decided to pull out of the race to focus on obtaining his degree in business administration. He’s also eyeing a City Council run in 2017.
“I think we have some other issues (to address) citywide actually, to try to help with these youth,” he said.
Cade, reached by phone Monday, declined to comment on the challenge to her seat, which covers Gentilly, the Desire and Florida development neighborhoods, St. Claude and parts of New Orleans East.
The challenge, filed by Gentilly resident Casey Versailles, claims the Louisiana Department of Revenue has no records of Cade’s tax returns for 2010 and from 2012 to 2015, and claims she did not file waivers or extension requests in those years.
State law requires candidates seeking public office to have filed timely tax returns in the five years preceding their candidacy.
Versailles, whose LinkedIn profile says she also is employed by the Urban League, further claims Cade may not meet the requirement that she have lived for the past year in the district she seeks to represent. Her lawsuit says Cade has not filed homestead exemptions on her Gentilly or Milneburg properties and her BMW sedan is registered to a Texas address.
Cade has not been particularly hostile to charters, nor has she been embroiled in major scandal over her dozen-year board tenure. But she was an ally of former board President Ira Thomas, who was sentenced to prison last October for accepting a bribe.
Critics also question her focus on the school district’s disadvantaged business enterprise program. Thomas worked with the district's former DBE director, Armer Bright, to steer a School Board janitorial contract in exchange for a kickback.