Over the past two weeks, I've attended a spate of political speeches, meet-and-greets, and the like around the city. With the February 6 primary approaching, the city is very clearly excited about the many races, including the marquee event - the race to replace Mayor Ray Nagin.
The Mayor's Race
There are a few ways to look at this most important race and the figure who will ultimately be tasked with leading New Orleans at this critical moment.
Mitch Landrieu, the sitting Democratic Lieutenant Governor, is clearly the frontrunner, winning the endorsement of almost every crucial media outlets and polling far ahead of the other candidates even though he entered the race very late, misleading candidates like Leslie Jacobs about his intentions. Realistically, it seems as if the race boils down to whether he wins outright in the primary or in a runoff.
Landrieu brings a number of qualities to the office - notably a sense of consensus and an appearance of stability and competence at the opposite end of the spectrum from Nagin. He appears to have crossover appeal in the racial sense (he condemned as "evil forces" those who would bring race into the race), and, as he likes to note, he has a special ability to pull strings at the state and especially the federal level.
The final quality, though, is actually one of the two things that concern me about Landrieu. I think Mitch is a little too comfortable with a view of New Orleans that is dependent on continued federal aid for the city's revival and growth. And that's not a sustainable model, not to mention the fact that outsized dependence on federal aid continues the prospect of corruption. At a meet and greet, Landrieu literally wagged his fingers as you nearly salivated at the prospect of "two BILLION dollars" flowing into the city for the new LSU/VA medical centers.
And that brings me to the second item that concerns me about Landrieu - his explicit refusal to consider revitalizing the existing Charity Hospital building to facilitate less destruction in Lower Mid-City - to reduce the Footprint, if you will. This is an important issue to me - not a dealbreaker or line in the sand necessarily (there are many disparate issues entwined in mayoral considerations - crime and street infrastructure to name but two other critical concerns) but a significant issue nonetheless. Significant use of expropriation, requisite for Landrieu's way forward, is simply not cool.
Landrieu did play his cards right in the marketing arena, refusing to attack his opponents and yet rebutting some of the accusations by the Georges campaign. He also did an ad set in various places along the revitalized Freret Corridor, which is a perfect symbol of where I want this city to go as it undergoes a renaissance.
So, the question in mind is...if not Landrieu, if I were to recommend a candidate to vote for in order to force a run-off simply for the health of the process (and to perhaps pressure Landrieu in a preferable direction)...who would it be?
John Georges has come out strongly aligned on the Charity/Lower Mid-City issue...and he had a lot of people out waving signs on the corners early...but I otherwise cannot see myself supporting him given his somewhat strange campaign. Troy Henry, too, seems like a possible contender for a run-off, given the polling, and I could imagine him doing somewhat better than expected if the ground game in the black community, especially with early voting, is stronger than anticipated. He never proved himself ready for prime time, though, and never managed to pick up even the mantle of Ed Murray after Murray departed the race, instead suffering several hits of bad PR.
James Perry is a smart candidate, but his campaign didn't quite get it from the outset - as has been pointed out, the road to campaign for Mayor of New Orleans does not lead through Cambridge, Massachusetts or New York City.
If I were to vote for someone other than Landrieu in the primary, it would likely be Rob Couhig in the end. While many see Couhig as tainted by his endorsement of Nagin in 2006, I find that he's sharp and cognizant of a number of my key concerns: a need to wean the city off federal funds, a need to budget for the population the city actually has, a need to focus on crime as prerequisite to all other developments, and a campaign focused on a principled method of decision-making rather than promise planks leading straight to a tragedy of the commons. A lawyer, entrepreneur, and long-time fiscal conservative, I think he would provide the city with some tough medicine it sorely needs. And I hope that Landrieu, if all goes as most project, works him into a key position in his administration.
And finally, for what it's worth, Nadine Ramsey was the only candidate who had the good sense to follow LIB on Twitter.
The At-Large City Council Seats
I endorse incumbent Council President Arnie Fielkow, which should be no surprise. I would also recommend Jackie Clarkson over any of the other remaining candidates, given that there are two seats up for grabs.
I note this race because Marlin Gusman, the incumbent Criminal Sheriff who will likely run away with it, will be the first to occupy the post of what was, since Reconstruction, a bifurcated Criminal Sheriff and Civil Sheriff system. I'm comforted a bit by the fact that Gusman has a law degree as he takes the Civil reins.
I would also note that Gusman needs to get serious about preventing inmate escapes from the Orleans Parish Prison - I've heard about several instances over the past few years, which, when I consider what I base my sheriff vote on, is several too many.
I make no endorsement.
I know very little about this race, and I'm not certain that it should be political, but I will vote for Dr. Minyard, the incumbent, in light of challenger Dwight McKenna's "Igor Ad" - which was one of the worst political ads I've ever seen, even if it did raise a potentially relevant and factual political concern.