In one of her first public interviews since losing the Nov. 18 New Orleans mayoral runoff to LaToya Cantrell, former Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet said she is considering signing up for the fall elections, and not necessarily for a judicial seat.
Charbonnet acknowledged some of the mistakes that helped lead to her 20-point loss to Cantrell. And she criticized what she said is a mistake by the mayor-elect, a move to bar members of the mayoral transition team from speaking publicly about their work.
The former judge spoke Friday with Warren Bell, who hosts a talk show on WBOK-AM.
Asked whether her name might show up on a future ballot, Charbonnet said she is “looking at all the options,” including races this fall that are already scheduled or that could come up if some incumbent steps down.
“You know how it is in New Orleans,” she said. “People resign. (I can’t say) I’m going to run for one thing (when) I don’t know what’s going to be up by the time the fall elections come up, which is what I’ll be looking at.”
She also said she might or might not opt for a judicial race.
On the Nov. 6 primary ballot are the U.S. congressional seats, one of which is held by one of Charbonnet’s biggest allies, U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, a fellow Democrat. The other seat representing part of New Orleans is held by U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, a Republican and the House majority whip, whom any Democrat would have almost no chance of unseating.
Also on that ballot are a Supreme Court seat, two Municipal and Traffic Court judgeships, and judge, clerk and constable seats at Algiers' 2nd City Court.
Some political strategists have cited Charbonnet’s failure to strike back quickly at the political action committees that sought to derail her candidacy as one of her biggest errors in the mayor's race, and she conceded the point Friday. Those committees depicted her as easily controlled by Richmond and her other political patrons, a claim she said was accepted by some people who didn’t know her well.
As for Cantrell’s actions since the election, Charbonnet repeated a line from her concession speech, saying Cantrell’s success is the city’s success. But she criticized as unnecessarily secretive the decision to have members of Cantrell's transition committees sign non-disclosure agreements.
“I don’t know if you have to have a gag order,” Charbonnet said. “Because that’s what people ask me all the time: ‘Why don’t we know anything?’ That’s not how I would do it.”
GOP group favors 2 taxes; Demos don't
Deep-red St. Tammany Parish has seen voters shoot down sales tax renewals for the jail and courthouse twice in as many years, and other tax initiatives have had a hard time in the conservative parish.
But with parish leaders giving the propositions a third try on the March 24 ballot, St. Tammany's normally anti-tax Republican leaders are saying yes to the two one-fifth-cent taxes, while their Democratic counterparts are saying no.
The St. Tammany Republican Parish Executive Committee has voted to endorse both taxes.
"We shared some reticence because this is the third time the parish has sought voter approval," Chairman Larry Frieman said. "Nonetheless, we concluded these taxes are essential to maintain our quality of life, and our members resoundingly endorsed the renewals."
Asked if the Republican Parish Executive Committee has become tax-and-spend Republicans, member James Hartman retorted, "We're law-and-order Republicans."
When the St. Tammany Democratic Parish Executive Committee met last week, however, the parish's continued effort to get approval for the measures was met with more than "reticence."
"While strongly supporting the special courts and the Public Defender’s Office, and the need to keep them funded, the DPEC was opposed to the parish’s refusal to recognize that voters are unwilling to hand them a blank check without scrutiny of their spending," a news release said.
The group listened to a presentation from Charles Goodwin, of Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany, a self-styled government watchdog group that generally skews right, who questioned what the parish plans to do with the revenue.
The taxes, which at a fifth of a cent would each bring in $9.5 million annually, would pay to operate and maintain the jail and the St. Tammany Justice Center. State law requires the parish to provide both a jail and a courthouse.
The Democratic Parish Executive Committee said the taxes have failed in the past because the parish was unwilling to consider alternative funding opportunities or to demonstrate a need for the amounts being sought.
If the taxes are voted down again, the Democrats' release said, "then the parish will be forced to change their strategy when it comes to asking voters to fund government operations."
Republicans endorse Slidell candidates
With four Republicans vying for the Slidell mayoral seat, the St. Tammany Republican Parish Executive Committee had a wide field to choose from, and the panel decided to endorse state Rep. Greg Cromer, a former City Council member.
The group chose Cromer over former Parish President Kevin Davis, Slidell Councilman Landon Cusimano and former hospital executive Bruce Clement.
The RPEC endorsed Bill Borchert, a Republican and current District G councilman, in the at-large council race; it did not endorse a second candidate, although another Republican, Joe Fraught, is running, along with Democrat Glynn Pichon.
In District A, the Republican Parish Executive Committee endorsed the Republican candidate, Glenn Baham, who is running against Democrat Leslie Denham. And it endorsed Republican Kim Harbison, now an at-large council member, in the District F race, where she's running against Lance Grant, who lists no party affiliation.
In District G, the Republican Parish Executive Committee gave the nod to Ray Larry over the other Republican in the race, Cindi King. A third candidate, Glenn Sutherland, has no party affiliation.
The committee didn't make a choice in either District B, where two Republicans, Tommy Benasco and David Dunham, are running, or in District E, where Republicans Chris Symons and Kenny Tamborella are facing off.
"We were very encouraged to see so many quality candidates seeking these offices," Chairman Larry Frieman said, "and some of these decisions were very difficult — including our decisions to issue no endorsement."
Compiled by Jessica Williams and Sara Pagones