- Associated Press - Saturday, October 14, 2017

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - New Orleans voters won’t decide a successor to Mayor Mitch Landrieu until November, but one thing is settled: The city’s next mayor will be a woman.

City Council member Latoya Cantrell and former municipal court Judge Desiree Charbonnet, both Democrats, led the 18-candidate competition in Saturday’s election, with all precincts reporting, according to uncertified returns from the Secretary of State’s office.

Landrieu is term-limited and must leave office next year. The runoff election is set for Nov. 18. It will be the first time a woman is elected mayor of the city.

Former state civil court Judge Michael Bagneris ran third in the competition, and business Troy Henry a distant fourth. Both are Democrats.

Top issues included the city’s lingering violent crime problem and recently revealed problems with an antiquated pumping system that drains city streets in heavy rains.

Taylor Wells, a democrat and freelance artist, said she wasn’t jazzed about the choices as she cast her vote Saturday.

“None of the choices for mayor really grabbed me. I was a lot stronger about who I didn’t want,” she said. “I vote progressive as much as I can and felt that Desiree Charbonnet was the most progressive in the race.”

Still, she added, she would feel comfortable with either Charbonnet or Cantrell as mayor.

Michael Young, a web developer, said he didn’t know who he was going to vote for until he attended a forum at which six candidates spoke.

“I was really struck by Troy Henry. He was poised, straightforward. He seemed to have thought through the answers he was giving. There wasn’t a lot of political fluff,” said Young, a registered independent.

He said other candidates seemed to concentrate on single issues such as crime or the sewerage and water board whereas Henry seemed better rounded and practical. “He seemed to have a fully orbed view of what he wanted to do,” Young said of Henry.

Warren Atkins Jr., an academic adviser at a community college, said his choice was Charbonnet, though Cantrell was a close second.

“I think it’s time for a woman mayor and was torn between the two. I chose Desiree because I’ve followed her career longer. I just really stuck to my guns with this one,” he said. “And, I think she’ll do the most for education.”

Melanie Reupke, a real estate agent and registered Democrat, said she chose Cantrell based on her proven community involvement.

“She is really the most responsible and communicative of all the candidates. She supports blue collar workers and musicians and is really invested in the community and City of New Orleans even though she’s a transplant,” she said.

Cantrell rose to prominence in New Orleans as a neighborhood activist after Katrina, then won a City Council seat. Charbonnet, part of a powerful political family in New Orleans, first won office as the city’s recorder of mortgages before winning a municipal judgeship 10 years ago.

Landrieu didn’t make an endorsement in the race but left open the possibility he might support someone in the runoff.

___

Associated Press writer Janet McConnaughey contributed to this report.


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