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Early voting begins Saturday; political analyst, PR expert weigh in on mayor's race

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

Huge signs outside City Hall make it plain: Early voting is upon us.

Registered voters in Orleans Parish will begin making their choices in the mayor's contest and other races official this Saturday.

"Early voting is a  form of convenience voting, it gives you a much longer time frame to vote, but it doesn't actually change who votes, but it gives campaigns with good organization the chance to get their voters out early, so that they can focus efforts on election day on those swing voters who are undecided," said FOX 8 political analyst Mike Sherman.

Many candidates tend to want their die-hard supporters to vote early as not to risk them not being able to make it to the polls on election day.

"Early voting is not necessarily a predictor of what will happen on election day," continued Sherman.

The mayor's race attracted nearly 20 candidates, but recent polls have indicated that Desiree Charbonnet, Latoya Cantrell, Michael Bagneris and Troy Henry are at the top of the pack. Each is fighting for votes on TV, through their websites and other forms of social media.

"What we're seeing is that social media has become more of the political landscape...These candidates have to have a very strong and digital presence, they've got to be top of game because the competitors are going to be," said John Deveney, president of Deveney marketing firm in New Orleans.

And given that there is expected to be a runoff, the mayoral candidates are fighting to get one of the coveted runoff spots. Deveney said they can't  make mistakes at this juncture.

"There's no way any candidate could afford to make a real flub right now because they need to make it through this first race, so that they can make it to the next one," he said.

He thinks the strategies of the two candidates who land in the runoff could be altered.

"Right now they're trying to differentiate themselves on their history and on where they stand on issues to get enough momentum to bring them in to that next race. In the next race, it's going to be a whole different ballgame because they're going to not just be talking about their experience and where they stand on the issues, now they're also going to need to contrast themselves," he said.

And Sherman thinks the campaign ads will increase.

"Many voters have been surprised there haven't been more television ads and more mailers leading up to this election. Everyone is going to begin spending their war chest right now, activity will pick up starting tomorrow," said Sherman.

"It's big money, it's a big business and we're seeing some of our candidates really show strength in some of those categories," said Deveney.

Election Day is October 14. A runoff, if necessary, will be in November.

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