Original at DailyKos.
It’s becoming more and more obvious that Mitch Landrieu, currently lieutenant governor of Louisiana, is about to run against Mayor Ray Nagin in the municipal election scheduled for April 22.
Says Bayou Buzz, one of the moderate-conservative New Orleans political blogs:
It is now pretty official. After months of speculation, Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu has told friends he will run for Mayor of New Orleans in the upcoming election, presumably set for April 22. Landrieu has been toying with the idea of entering the mayor’s race ever since Katrina exposed the flaws of Mayor Ray Nagin…
But Landrieu was also expected to run for Governor against the ubiquitous Republican Bobby Jindal. This may be a chess move for the big enchilada. If he provides much needed leadership and creates the economic impetus for the resurrection of a multiracial New Orleans, this could slide him right into the governor’s mansion.
Count Ray Nagin as finished in New Orleans, no matter what he wanted to do or not do for the city, says Bayou Buzz. He does, however, have a political war chest worth $1.3 million, and he is still the incumbent mayor. No incumbent has lost re-election since 1946, but that was sixty years ago. And Nagin’s base? Scattered to the winds. Pundits and pollsters wonder whether black New Orleanians will care to vote by absentee ballot.
The business community is looking for another candidate and has pretty much abandoned Nagin. His only chance to make a run-off is to appeal to African-American voters, who have not especially warmed to his leadership in the past four years. If no other African-American candidates enter the race, Nagin would become the de-facto candidate of the Black community, but he would still have to deal with Landrieu, a member of a family popular among African-American voters.
Why is the Landrieu family so popular among African Americans in New Orleans and in Louisiana?
Mitch Landrieu’s father, former Mayor Maurice Edwin “Moon” Landrieu gained the everlasting respect of black New Orleans when as a state representative from the 12th Ward, he refused to sign on to the “hate bills” that the Louisiana legislature passed to halt the desegregation of public schools and facilities during the civil rights era. Then, as city councilman, Landrieu senior pushed a city ordnance outlawing discrimination based on race or religion in public accomodations. When he was elected mayor in 1970, Landrieu senior pushed harder for desegregation in all aspects of New Orleans life, which caused further white flight into areas like Jefferson Parish and set the stage for the election of the first black mayor of New Orleans, Ernest “Dutch” Morial.
But on the other hand, Landrieu took as well as gave. With the construction of the Super Dome, and its shopping mall and hotels and parking garages, Moon Landrieu destroyed the center of black Central New Orleans, South Claiborne Street, and much still-viable housing and helped to accelerate its decline. Nevertheless, after he left office, Moon Landrieu was appointed judge of the Louisiana 4th Circuit Court of Appeals until his retirement six years ago.
While some may disparage his sister Mary for being overly cautious to the point of perceived spinelessness and for pandering to Republicans, Mitch Landrieu seems to demonstrate none of those attributes. By comparison, Mitch possesses the vigor and challenge that Mary seems to lack. It is widely perceived his father advises both Mitch and his sister, and that both retain their family’s political connections. While his current job is largely ceremonial, Mitch has continually drawn Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s ire for making more of the job than it is, no doubt in order to fit his own ambitions. Especially about how to do things effectively.
During the aftermath of Katrina, while the mayor was struggling with the woes inside the Superdome, Mitch was acting like a macho man out in a boat saving people. “Nagin just went from almost a sure thing,” says pollster Bernie Pinsonat, “to probably an underdog against Landrieu.”
While they will turn out to vote on election day, no one is quite sure what will happen with the out-of-town vote, much of it African-American. This week, in fact, the courts in Louisiana are expected to rule on a request by several African-American state legislators–all Democrats–to force the release of a highly coveted FEMA list the Louisiana attorney general has with the locations of evacuees, their emails and phone numbers. “Nagin created the problem for himself with white voters in Uptown whom he insulted,” says Pinsonat. “He has had too many foot-in-mouths. Question is: was that the mayor’s last chance?”
The Times-Picayune and the Louisiana Weekly suggests that the sooner Landrieu announces, the sooner many other announced and potential candidates will smell the coffee and back out. These include Audubon Institute CEO Ron Forman, radio announcer James Arey, investment banker Mike Hammer, former Saints executive Arnie Fielkow, former state representative Leo Watermeier, attorney Virgina Boulet, and former assistant DA Bill Wessel.
Yes, Mitch Landrieu appears to be just what the doctor ordered for poor ailing New Orleans. However, appearances can be deceiving. I remember when Jerry Brown ran and won office as Oakland, California’s mayor, largely on the memories of blacks who knew him during the Seventies as their governor. Then is not the same as now. Jerry Brown, during his eight years as mayor, turned out to be a disaster for Oakland’s progressive blacks, who like other blacks in the Bay Area are leaving or being pushed out for other parts of the state. Now Brown’s thinking of running for California attorney general for all the good that he supposedly could not do in Oakland. Former Rep. Ron Dellums is running to take his place against a Latino challenger.
Better look closely at Mitch’s platform before voting for him in April, and exactly who he is he tailoring his message to.