“With his surprising, 11th-hour entry into the” mayor’s race last week, ‘94/‘06 candidate/LG Mitch Landrieu (D), “achieved the seemingly impossible: to get people talking about something other than the Saints, for a day or so anyway. Not only has Landrieu turned local politics on its head,” his bid “reverberates statewide, sparking speculation over who would fill” the LG position “should he vacate it.” GOPers “would see that as a golden opportunity to secure” the gov. should Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) “not complete this term or next.” For Dems, “holding onto” the LG “keeps the fly in the ointment of Jindal’s ambitions.”
A “recent poll gave Landrieu the highest approval rating of any state official. Some ardent” Dem “supporters even urged Landrieu to challenge Jindal’s re-election. Yet, for whatever reason, he determined that his foreseeable future was not in statewide politics. He may also have given up on the outside chance that Jindal would change his own mind and run against” Sen. David Vitter (R) next year.
“It could just be that Landrieu, not the most patient sort, does not care to be the leading politician in waiting any longer. Winning a third term — no sure bet — would risk his being typecast as a perennial second banana.” Next to being gov., N.O. mayor “is where the action is. The city is on the cusp of a second post-hurricane building boom,” as FEMA “loosens the purse strings on hundreds of millions of dollars for projects tied up in red tape, the biggest of which is LSU’s claim for a new teaching hospital.”
Also, “at every level of the community there is a pent-up demand, a yearning, for effective and consistent leadership from City Hall, which unpopular lame duck” Mayor Ray Nagin (D) “has not delivered. Positive political leadership” in N.O. “is important for all” LA. “As the state’s front door, it is a prime generator of jobs and tax revenue, as well as where so many tax dollars are spent. How well or poorly the city is run affects those who do business there or who just come in a few times a year for shopping and dinner, and hope to return home safely.”
Despite “his late start, Landrieu is the early frontrunner, though he forms a big target for some well-heeled opponents who have little recourse but to try to take him down.” ‘07 GOV candidate/businessman John Georges (I), who spent $11M “of his own money” in ‘07, “isn’t known for holding back.” Businesswoman Leslie Jacobs, “whose recent conversations with Landrieu led her to believe he was not running, fills the role of woman scorned.” ‘06 candidate/‘99 LA-01 candidate/ex-minor league baseball team owner/atty Rob Couhig (R) “speaks to a small but determined GOP voting bloc that was instrumental in beating Landrieu last time. And those are just the white candidates.”
If “Landrieu survives them, he would likely face in the runoff the African-American candidate who emerges as the consensus choice of that community, which, in elections that really matter, still accounts for the majority of votes. Within three months we will know if” Landrieu “meets his destiny or his Waterloo. For now, the campaign unfolding demonstrates that, however the rest of the city’s long recovery is faring, its politics is back to full form” (Maginnis, LaPolitics Weekly, 12/16).
Only The Amish Can Make It Right
The mayoral campaign “hit prime time” 12/15 “with the campaign’s first televised debate offering a mishmash of opinions, observations and humor. With 12 of the 13 candidates for” the primary “scrambling to cram thumbnail versions of their top priorities into just 60 minutes, the forum, which was broadcast live from” Xavier Univ., “at times seemed like a breathless sprint.”
The “eight major contenders, who all arrived with well-rehearsed talking points, also found themselves competing with long shots who hijacked the proceedings with such nontraditional proposals as legalizing marijuana, recruiting the Amish to rebuild neighborhoods and turning the city’s sea of blighted properties into farmland. … Considering that the event marked the candidates’ only opportunity until” Jan. “to speak directly to a citywide TV audience, it was relatively free of fireworks. While a few barbs were cast, no one landed a glove on” Landrieu.
“As expected,” Nagin “took several direct hits. Landrieu, who was criticized for not being tough enough on Nagin when he tried to unseat” him four years ago, “was first to attack. Asked his position on an effort to unite corporate” and gov’t interests “to promote economic development, a proposal Nagin has refused to authorize,” Landrieu “didn’t mince words.” Landrieu: “Mayor Nagin’s decision was a mistake. There is no successful economic development initiative taking place in any major city that doesn’t have a public-private partnership.”
Next up was Couhig, “who answered a question about how to stop young professionals from leaving the city by taking a swing at Nagin’s notorious travel schedule.” Couhig: “We don’t need to fly around the country looking for things. We’ve had a mayor do that. We’re going to have a mayor who goes to work every morning, works hard, has discipline and brings consistency to government.” Couhig “also took a shot at the mayor for ‘chok(ing) our attempts to get rid of blight.’”
The “issue of blight also landed” state Sen. Ed Murray (D) “squarely in the bull’s-eye.” Fair Housing Atty James Perry (D) “and Landrieu both took swipes at Murray for coauthoring” in ‘06 a “constitutional amendment prohibiting” gov’t from “using its expropriation power to advance private development. Murray supported that measure after a similar bill he wrote stalled” in cmte.
Perry: “Sen. Murray put forth a bill that made it almost impossible for the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority to acquire vacant and blighted property. The bill was so bad and the issue was so difficult that he went back two years later and tried to reverse what happened in that bill.” Landrieu: “we have to undo what the Legislature did because they have made it almost impossible to take blighted properties back.”
In “his typically calm style, Murray defended his actions.” Murray: “This constitutional amendment that my colleagues have talked about does not prohibit NORA from acquiring these properties. It’s been tested in court, and the court has said they can proceed.”
Georges, “meanwhile, advocated removing NORA entirely from the process.” Georges: “The most important thing we can do is actually bypass NORA and allow the citizens to go directly and buy those homes. NORA actually adds a cost to people buying homes.” Unveiling a “new policy position, Georges also revealed that he supports ‘the immediate reopening of Charity Hospital … so we can immediately impact the redevelopment of our downtown.’” Georges said City Hall should “save the historic neighborhoods they’re planning to put the new hospital in.”
The “other major candidates took advantage of their 30-second closing statements to try to distinguish themselves in a crowded field.” Jacobs: “I took a small family business and grew it to an industry leader. I formed a regional coalition to deal with economic development and quality-of-life issues. I’ve led a movement to retain our talented youth in the city … and I took on our schools, which had been failing our youth for years.”
Businessman Troy Henry “pitched himself as ‘the only candidate who has actually managed a budget that is the size of the city, … the only one who has managed operations of people that is that order of magnitude, the only one that is redeveloping a neighborhood.”
Ex-judge Nadine Ramsey “offered a sobering motivation for her” bid. Ramsey: “For so long we have listened to politicians telling us about what they have done for our city. Our question must be quite simple: If so much has been done, why is our city in the condition that it is in?”
Comedian Jonah Bascle, artist Manny Chevrolet-Bruno, businessman Jerry Jacobs and Thomas Lambert provided “offbeat ideas and comic relief.” ‘06 candidate Norbert Rome “declined to participate.” Bruno “drew the biggest laughs. Asked how he would eradicate blight, he repeated an idea he floated” in ‘06. Bruno: “One way to redevelop our blighted neighborhoods is to bring the Amish down and help us build. They can build a barn in one day without any electricity; just think what they can do with a city block. The answer is: the Amish” (Krupa/Donze, New Orleans Times-Picayune, 12/16).
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