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Winners and losers from New Orleans elections

So who are the winners and losers in the aftermath of New Orleans’ elections?

Winner: Mayor Ray Nagin. Starting with the obvious, Nagin completed an improbable reelection, reinventing himself from a political outsider that endorses Republicans who happened to be a black Democrat to a black Democrat who touted his insider qualifications to oversee the city’s recovery. Since he did and said what many consider to be outrageous things (at least to those around the rest of the country) and still won, coupled with his term-limited status he has carte blanche to do pretty much what he pleases. Never forget, there’s the right way, the wrong way, and the New Orleans way, and a majority of Orleans voters proved that to the rest of the country with their votes for him.

Loser: Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu. Mary’s little brother now is 0-for-2 in his New Orleans mayor’s bids. Recall that his 1994 loss was followed next year by sister Mary’s failed gubernatorial bid, so only recently has any aura of invincibility been formed around their political family. That’s been dusted again by someone the rest of the country thinks is a political gadfly. This has damaged any aspirations of his beyond his current office for the next few years, maybe forever.

Winner: Pres. George W. Bush. As scorn got heaped upon Nagin for his handling of affairs directly after Hurricane Katrina’s swipe, he eventually sensed that rehabilitation lay in getting things done, and that meant cultivating a good relationship with the man with the most power to grant his wishes, the President. As time went on, he essentially got into a competition with state officials for direction in rebuilding New Orleans, and it’s fair to say he emerged with the upper hand, for Bush as endorsed actions more like Nagin’s and less like those coming from the state.

Loser: Gov. Kathleen Blanco. Increasingly, she was the one Nagin competed against with the federal government, and no doubt harbored resentment towards him even before the hurricane disaster for his Bobby Jindal endorsement during the 2003 governor’s race. A Landrieu win would have put a Democrat regular like herself in the office rather than the unpredictable Nagin – and would definitively eliminated Landrieu as a potential competitor for the governor’s mansion in what is sure to be a free-for-all against Blanco next year. Even if Landrieu’s luster has worn off, at the very least he would make it difficult for Blanco to make the general election runoff.

Winner: black/liberal interest groups. They were the ones that launched massive get-out-the-vote operations, running buses and the like. They didn’t care if Nagin was cozying up to Bush and endorsing Republicans, as long as he looked black enough they were going to get likely voters going his way.

Loser: the Republican Party. As winter approached some in the GOP were getting quite giddy that the tremendous demographic dislocations of the hurricanes could do the unthinkable and make New Orleans a Republican city. A quick look at even the sketchy statistics available as early as November should have put to rest that notion. Even with a higher proportion of Republicans on the ground for both elections than had been in the city for years, if anything the election revealed a step backwards, with its best mayoral candidate finishing fourth and losing its only representation on the City Council. Maybe its statewide fortunes are better off, but the situation for it is as hopeless as ever in Orleans Parish.

Winners: the citizens of New Orleans. With Nagin continuing as mayor, recovery can continue apace without stopping to adjust to a new administration. Nagin’s business background also cannot hurt in getting recovery going.

Losers: the citizens of New Orleans. But, Nagin’s also erratic. With him, chocolate is relevant not just in terms of describing the city, but in revelation of the box that is him – like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get with him. This characteristic might retard recovery.

There you have it. Now with these elections resolved, can everybody get back to business as usual – not Louisiana usual, but the business-like attitude needed to get the state fully rebounded?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A very insightful post. One additional twist, however. While I agree that the Republican Party in Orleans Parish is a big loser, I tend to think that the reverse is true statewide. The Landrieu legacy is now very tarnished, and without a strong pro-left voice in Orleans parish delivering a GOTV effort for Mary, she is likely to face big trouble in four years (her other vote booster, Bill Jefferson will likely be in jail). The absentee vote issue will be less likely in future elections, as the offsite voting will disappear, and it is likely that the Secretary of State will be in the hands of a Republican. At the statewide level, I see the glass as half full