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JP Morrell, Helena Moreno win At-Large races in New Orleans; see other city council winners

Helena Moreno and JP Morrell won the two At-Large City Council positions on Nov. 13, 2021.
Helena Moreno and JP Morrell won the two At-Large City Council positions on Nov. 13, 2021.

The hotly-contested At-Large Division II race was almost projected to be a runoff between former State Rep. JP Morrell and City Council member Kristin Gisleson Palmer until the very end, when all precincts were reporting and Morrell inched his way to the needed 51% of the vote.

Around midnight, the race was called by the Secretary of State's office, which reported that Palmer received 32% of the vote for the City Council seat.

Despite political schemes and attacks from opponents, former State Sen. JP Morrell will earn the second At-Large position on the New Orleans City Council.

The race grew strange prior to early voting when council members Palmer and Jared Brossett endorsed each other, citing they didn't want Morrell on the council. In an interview with the Times-Picayune, Morrell called the move “political theater.”

"After eight years on the City Council and nothing to show for it between them but scandals and a city that doesn't work for the average New Orleanian, Kristin Palmer and Jared Brossett are begging for a promotion and desperately attempting to maintain their posh positions," a statement from the Morrell campaign said.

But just a month shy of Election Day, Brossett was arrested for his third drunk driving offense total and second in the past 16 months.

After his arrest, Brossett said he'd continue to serve the remainder of his term on the council but would suspend his campaign. By suspending his campaign and not withdrawing it, Brossett was still able to receive votes, a move that Morell said was a tactic to take away votes from him.

The 11% of votes for Brossett did not affect the outcome of the race, as Morrell took enough of the vote to avoid a runoff.

Palmer and Brossett cited that Morrell lobbied the council several times for private companies making him unfit for a seat on the council. Brossett replied to the remarks that, as a lawyer, he would arrange meetings with his clients with government officials but only because he's a lawyer.

Palmer did not let off the gas on smears against Morrell either, sending out fliers saying that Morrell used his political power to enrich his brothers, who both work for the NOPD. Morrell denied the allegation.

Morrell's first role in politics was taking over his father's seat as a State Representative in 2006. Morrell then spent 12 years as a State Senator, where he pushed legislation that has been endorsed by women's rights groups and justice reform groups.

Palmer chose to run for the At-Large position, even though she could have run again for her current District C position. Palmer also served on the council from 2010 to 2014. In the past four years, Palmer pressed for higher regulated short-term rentals and helped establish a $15 minimum wage for city workers.

Helena Moreno will serve another term in the New Orleans City Council's At-Large position after receiving 85% of the votes with 89% reporting, according to WWL-TV, the news station that called the race.

Her only other opponent, Kenneth Cutno, received the other 15% of the votes at about 11:30 p.m.

During her first term, Moreno passed progressive legislation through the council, including establishing a measure to instantly pardon anyone caught with possession of marijuana, getting the city as close as possible to legalizing the plant. The same action pardoned 10,000 individuals with marijuana possession crimes.

“We must begin to rethink the historical practices that have over-incarcerated, over-fined, and stigmatized our communities for decades," Moreno said, calling the measure “historic.”

A former television journalist, Moreno also took the lead in regulating New Orleans Entergy after eight of their transformer lines failed during Hurricane Ida and resulted in the entire city in the dark for days, some longer.

She passed measures to ensure the energy company will only draw from renewable sources by 2050, a customer rate freeze for the winter months following Ida and has beefed up the staffing for the council's Utilities Regulatory Office.

"Please stop acting like a victim," Moreno the utility’s representatives present during a heated meeting. "We're not the bullies, and we're not trying to run anyone out of town. We just want you to do your job for the ratepayers."

Moreno, a former State Representative, also won in 2018 with a commanding lead, taking 65.5% of the vote to Cutno's 5.99%.

Current state Sen. Joseph Bouie took 28.41% of the votes.

If she chooses to run, poll watchers said Moreno has a good chance at becoming the mayor in 2026.

Councilmember Joe Giarrusso will win another term in District A with 77%% of the vote, with 98% reporting, according to WWL-TV.

Giarrusso severely out-earned his competitors in fundraising, rolling over $67,951 from his first campaign and then pulling in around $256,000 leading up to election night. Ten days prior to the election, Giarrusso reported over $180,000 in his campaign spending account to Murrell’s $1,415.34 and Misko’s $1,216.18.

In his first term, Giarrusso focused on infrastructure issues in the city and stated that his second-term priorities include regulating contractors that have been slow in finishing construction projects.

Giarrusso, a former president of Lakeview Civic Association, comes from a family of New Orleans politicians. His grandfather was an at-large council member for 18 years, retiring in 1994. His father served as a Criminal District Court Magistrate, and his mother Robin Giarrusso has been on the Civil District Court bench since 1989.

Four years after narrowly winning a runoff election, councilmember Jay Banks finds himself in another runoff election, this time with Lesli Harris, for the District B seat on the City Council.

At 11:20 p.m., Banks had 45% of the votes and Harris had 37%, with 99% of the precincts reporting, according to WWL-TV.

Banks faced criticism from activists and opponents throughout his first term for his prior employment with New Orleans Entergy, where he worked as a lobbyist. The connection, his detractors said, interfered with his duty as a council member to regulate the energy company.

Banks also found himself in an altercation with mayoral candidate Belden “Noonie Man” Baptiste.

In the 2018 election, Banks initially found himself 1,700 votes behind Democrat Seth Bloom but won the runoff race by 128 votes.

Lesli Harris billed herself as a fresh face in politics with a resume as an entertainment lawyer representing the New Orleans Saints. Harris also spent time as the chief of staff to the Loyola University President Tania Tetlow. Her campaign focused on ending gun violence by recruiting more NOPD members with incentives like retention bonuses and student loan forgiveness.

With City Council member Kristin Gisleson Palmer choosing to run for the second At-Large position, a crop of seven fresh faces rose to vie for the French Quarter, Treme and Algiers district.

With 44% of the vote, Freddie King III will head into a runoff race with Stephanie Bridges, who received 16%.

A councilmember for District D will be determined after a runoff race between Eugene Green and Troy Glover, according to WWL-TV, both fresh faces to the council after Jared Brossett termed out of his seat.

At 11:20 p.m., Green had 36% of the votes and Glover had 12%, with 97% of precincts reporting.

The most eastern and largest district will host a runoff between incumbent Cyndi Nguyen and former City Council member Oliver Thomas, after neither candidate could take more than 50% of the vote.

According to WWL-TV at about 11:20 p.m., Thomas had 45% of the vote and Nguyen had 41%, with 98% of the precincts reporting.

Nguyen focused her first term on bringing more business to the eastern district and received criticism for saying residents only want "greasy fried chicken" businesses in the Lower Ninth Ward. She later issued an apology for the statement.

Oliver Thomas served 13 years on the council in the early 90s onward before being sentenced to 37 months in prison for a federal bribery charge.

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