It may seem as if things have always been this way, but Oct. 14 will only be the second time that the voters of Orleans Parish have elected at-large city council members in two separate races. A city charter to divide the two positions was approved by voters in November 2012, and the 2014 election was the first time a bifurcated race was held for the two city-wide council seats. Before then, candidates for the two at-large seats entered the same race, and voters were allowed to select two, with the two candidates who earned the most votes (so long as each candidate earned more than 25 percent of the votes) elected. Now, the winner in each division must get more than 50 percent of the votes. Current Div. 1 Councilwoman-at-large Stacy Head is term-limited. And the seat is not sought after by any of the current district councilmembers either, making the Div. 1 at-large seat a wide-open race that has attracted three contenders, state Rep. Joe Bouie, civic leader and local actor Kenneth Cutno and state Rep. Helena Moreno. In the Division 2 race, incumbent City Councilman-at-large Jason Williams is defending his seat against four others seeking the post. They are David Baird, Aaron “Ace” Christopher, Jason Coleman, and David Nowak.
Elected citywide, the at-large members of the council possess power vested in them by the entire voting public. The at-large positions on the council are arguably the board’s most influential seats, with the individuals that fill them alternately serving as council president with the ability to set the tone for the entire legislative body.