With all the mounting frenzy over the Super Bowl, it’s easy to forget that there is another contest going on that affects New Orleans. The day before the big game, Crescent City residents will go to the polls to elect a mayor to follow the tumultuous eight-year term of Ray Nagin.
Ever since Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu made a last-minute entry into the race, he has held a commanding lead in the polls, causing two candidates, Leslie Jacobs and Sen. Edwin Murray to drop out early. Murray had been heralded as the leading black candidate; once he departed from the contest the discussion about race escalated. The city has a majority black population. Should Landrieu win, he would be the first white mayor of New Orleans in 32 years and succeed the last white mayor, his father, Moon Landrieu.
John Georges, a white millionaire, and businessman Troy Henry, who is black, are the leading contenders for second place if Landrieu doesn’t take the race outright in the primary on Saturday. There is evidence of anguish in the African-American community, as shown by half-hearted endorsements of both Landrieu and Georges by the leading black publications.
The choice pundits describe is solidarity with black candidates versus the insider political ties Landrieu has statewide and most importantly to his sister, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, ties that could give him unprecedented access to federal funding. Nagin, a political outsider when he was elected, was unable to work the system or rally the diverse elements in the city to work together. Mitch Landrieu is widely seen as a return to insider politics as well as an experienced administrator, seasoned by his two terms overseeing the state Department of Culture, Tourism and Recreation.
Polls open at 6 a.m. Saturday and close at 8 p.m. A runoff, if needed, will be March 6.