Misunderstanding the New Orleans Vote – And Why Whites Will Re-Elect Ray Nagin

Adam Nossiter, who has a long and impressive resume’, gets his dispatch for the New York Times dead wrong.

Vote for Mayor Points to Change in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS, April 23 — Mayor C. Ray Nagin may have led Saturday’s mayoral election, but he now faces a popular and better-financed opponent on a political landscape utterly changed by Hurricane Katrina, one in which the long-running dominance of the city’s black vote has been significantly reduced.

Black residents, whose neighborhoods were the most devastated by the storm, voted in much smaller numbers than whites did on Saturday, even more so than usual. White turnout is usually higher than black turnout, but the gap was about double what it is normally, analysts said Sunday.

As a result, most of the votes here were cast against Mr. Nagin, who is black, even though he came out on top in a crowded field, with 38 percent of the vote. If that trend holds, New Orleans will elect its first white mayor in nearly 30 years on May 20, when Mr. Nagin will face Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, who got 29 percent, in a runoff.

If Mr. Landrieu receives two-thirds of the 30 percent received by the white candidates who finished behind him, Mr. Nagin’s days as mayor will be over. Adding to his difficulties, Mr. Nagin must mobilize the citizens who were displaced from the city by Hurricane Katrina and who failed to turn out for Saturday’s voting.

Make no mistake. The next mayor of New Orelans will be black, no matter who wins. If Clinton was the first black President, Landrieu will be New Orleans’ next black mayor.

Mr. Nossiter (and his headline writer) get more than a few things wrong. For starters, there was NOTHING in the New Orleans vote that points to change. Nothing. EVERY INCUMBENT on the ballot won.* How that points to change I’ll never know.

Even in the run-off for mayor we somehow managed to get two incumbents in the same race. Mitch Landrieu is the son of former New Orleans mayor Moon Landrieu, brother of Sen. Mary “I’d like to punch George Bush in the nose” Landrieu and he’s currently the Lt. Governor. — He’s an incumbent too. Electing a Landrieu in Louisiana hardly denotes change.

Mr. Nossiter has some odd voter turn out data but perhaps he had early information so I won’t quibble on that. But despite living here for years, he doesn’t have his fingers on the pulse of New Orleans near as much as his editors think he does, as this paragraph illustrates:

White business leaders who supported him enthusiastically four years ago deserted him entirely in this election, throwing their support mostly to an Uptown business executive, Ron Forman, who won 17 percent of the vote. Now, some Uptowners who contributed to Mr. Forman say they will support Mr. Landrieu, albeit with some reluctance.

I spent my day with white Uptown business leaders and the joke today was “Hey, did you hear in the New York Times we support Landrieu?” — It was seen as farce.

This might surprise many of you, but many prominent white Republicans are taking heart medication and supporting Ray Nagin.

Why, you ask? For that you have to understand the dynamic:

Mary Landrieu won her Senate seat by 5,788 (mostly dead) voters from New Orleans. Her opponent beat her 53 percent to 47 percent outside of Orleans Parish, but over 100,000 votes came out of Orleans “all” of which were for Mary. (Not that it stank to high heaven or anything.)

So do the math.

Without 100,000 poor black people living in the projects, Mary Landrieu -Mitch’s sister- ain’t going back to Washington. Simply put, the Landrieu’s need 100,000 poor black people suffering in the poverty to further their own political gains. (Everyone knows this I just say it more candidly than those highly paid pundits.)

So what do you think the FIRST thing Mitch is going to do if elected? Rebuild the housing projects! — Of course he’ll do it under the guise of trying to help them or trying to bring the city back. Blah. Blah. Blah. The REALITY is that the Landrieus’ need mass quantities of blacks living in squalor or they get voted out of office.

The projects were an abysmal failure and everyone knows it. But everyone who follows politics in New Orleans also knows that they’re coming back if Mitch wins. Nagin might be a racist idiot, but Landrieu will destroy the city.

And that, Dear Reader, is why whites -who hate Ray Nagin- will probably put him back in office.

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