I went to Bridge Lounge briefly Wednesday night with friends to meet NOLA mayoral candidate James Perry.
In the context of post-Katrina New Orleans, I try to keep an open mind with respect to local politics. Competence and vision can override other considerations in my calculus at this level - because, unfortunately, the former seem rather scarce. And I'm looking to counterbalance the misadventures of one Ray Nagin.
Perry impressed me by presenting himself in an articulate manner, demonstrating a sense of both competence and vision. He wasn't oozing with excess color and charisma, but I think people find that comforting, in a way, as a contrast to failed leadership of the past. Above all else, he recognizes that the next mayoral term will be the city's one shot - its last chance before federal funding dries up, before volunteer visitors stop flowing - to rebuild and regrow the city. He linked it to Obama's "fierce urgency of now" - but regardless of how it's characterized, he gets it.
He showed, in the course of his speech to those gathered (including Austin King), that he could speak and think on his feet - I could tell immediately that he has a better "center of gravity" than Nagin. His campaign also took a savvy step in inviting local bloggers to a special meet-up with Mr. Perry - seeking constructive criticism of the soon-to-be-unveiled campaign website. And his positions indicated a preference for post-racial politics, a realpolitik understanding of the crime problem, and a sense of place (he comes from the East).
Still, Perry will have to prove he's a viable option against someone like Arnie Fielkow, who seems to be a candidate to beat in the chattering circles I'm privy to these days. Without any elected experience on his resume, it might be a bit of an uphill challenge. And he's quite young. But, he's getting an early start. And I think he benefits from the aura of Obama coattails in this city. Definitely somebody to watch.