What might have been a crowded field for one-term incumbent Jared Brossett's re-election bid in New Orleans City Council District D has turned into a contest in which his lone opponent gives himself only a small chance of winning but vows to fight on.
Four candidates qualified in August to run for the seat, which comprises areas from east of City Park to across the Industrial Canal including Gentilly, Dillard University and the University of New Orleans. Since then, however, the field has been whittled to two: Brossett and political newcomer Joel Jackson, an admitted outsider looking for a way to make a positive difference in the city.
A third candidate, Belden Batiste, was disqualified, and the fourth, Thad Cossabone, said in a phone conversation and on his Facebook page that he was withdrawing, although his name will be on the ballot.
Brossett, 34, said that if re-elected, he plans to keep promoting the same things he has during his first term: improved infrastructure, crime reduction and economic development.
"I'm concentrating on continuing to work throughout the district," he said.
Once a top aide to former District D Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, Brossett served in the Legislature before being elected to the council in 2014.
The Democrat said he has focused on addressing questions of economic inequality in New Orleans, pointing to his work on a "living wage," and public safety improvements such as increasing pay for police officers and consolidating the 911 center.
He said infrastructure will be a key challenge of the upcoming term, noting that he doesn't oppose altering the governmental structure of the Sewerage & Water Board, which has been plagued by problems over the last few months.
"The system needs to be stabilized, and the public needs to be made aware of the deficiencies there are," Brossett said of the city's beleaguered drainage system. "I am open to having council members back on the board."
Brossett also said that he would work to "maintain the integrity" of neighborhoods in his districts, saying that short-term rentals are "destroying" some areas.
Jackson sounded a similar note, arguing that District D communities need "stabilization" through rent control, property tax reductions and an increase in the homestead exemption.
The resulting decline in tax revenue could be offset by selling the state's expertise in water and coastal management to other areas, he said. "We have some of the smartest, brightest people," he said. "We should be able to do deals to sell that information."
Jackson said seeking the office was something he felt he had to do.
The 48-year-old Democrat said he found himself in a "general malaise" for a few months after last year's presidential election, and instead of going to this year's Jazz and Heritage Festival, as he normally does, he walked his 7th Ward neighborhood and talked to people.
"That's when I landed on (the idea of running for the) City Council," he said. "It's a civic responsibility."
He says on his website that he moved to New Orleans in 1994 "on a hunch and a whim and fell in love. I am a self-described NOLA'phile. ... Professionally, I've been a longtime entrepreneur focusing primarily on business development, and currently work at the Contemporary Arts Center in the hospitality industry."
Jackson's focus is on criminal justice reform. "What I am hearing is that too many people are going to jail," he said. "I think my district takes the brunt of that."
He pointed to what he called "unfair and inequitable policing" as one of the main culprits, but said he also thinks the area needs affordable housing and a higher minimum wage. He has pledged to support a $15 minimum wage if elected, which would require a change in state law.
Jackson knows he faces an uphill battle. He has raised just $585 for the race and had only $156 on hand as of Sept. 13, compared to $209,487 for Brossett.
And though he gave himself just a "22.5 percent" chance of winning, he plans to fight. "I am not conceding," he said.
Brossett said he doesn't take anything for granted. "I am going continue to push through until Oct. 14," he said.