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4.3.06

Lawsuit provides Landrieu opportunity against Nagin

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has more than reelection to worry about, having become the target of a lawsuit by the National Rifle Association. Nagin ordered police officials to seize privately-held, legal firearms in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and a temporary restraining order issued Sep. 23, 2005 enjoined him to cease the practice. Apparently, confiscated weapons have yet to be returned.

What was particularly lamentable is that Nagin had absolutely no authority under either the U.S. Constitution or the Louisiana Constitution to do so. Louisiana statutory law does allow some restrictions on firearms during extraordinary conditions, but does not allow for out-and-out confiscation.

The publicity generated by this suit (probably not accidentally) comes at the launch of the sprint to the mayor’s election Apr. 22 and it only can hurt Nagin’s already tough chances. Four years ago, Nagin got into the general election by capturing a good chunk of the dwindling white vote, where he used it to defeat another black Democrat. However, no serious Republican or white candidate ran in 2002.

The white vote will be even more important this time out because Nagin has three whites, one Republican, running, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, civic leader and Audubon Institute director Ron Forman and former city councilor Peggy Wilson. But, at the same time, he is the only prominent, credible black candidate in the race.

It is likely that most whites will desert Nagin, and whites will comprise a larger portion of the electorate than they did in 2002. At the same time, without a major black opponent (even if Democrat Landrieu will have some crossover appeal), Nagin could win if he monopolizes the black vote.

Here’s where his controversial confiscation action and the reminder the lawsuit serves of it potentially causes him problems. Security is an issue that cuts across partisan and racial lines. Blacks and whites, Republicans and Democrats, and all others equally needed firearms to protect themselves against looters in the chaotic environment right after Katrina. Indeed, violence may have been higher in neighborhoods that had higher proportions of black residents.

If Landrieu in particular can remind people that Nagin grabbed guns instead of allowing their use to prevent looting and demonstrates a strong Second Amendment through past deed and current words, this could facilitate his crossover appeal to black voters. Wilson and Forman can do so, too, but Landrieu would be the biggest beneficiary because Landrieu probably would be the next port of call for black voters disgruntled with Nagin created by negative campaigning against Nagin.

Landrieu has nothing to lose by emphasizing this, and probably could pick up some white votes as well. It’s a vulnerability Nagin will wish he didn’t have.

1 comment:

Nick said...

Personally, if I lived in New Orleans and the worst happened with a run-off between Nagin and Landrieu, I would vote for Nagin. The Landrieus and their clan running government in New Orleans has been part of the city's problems the last couple decades.