Monday, May 22, 2006

New Orleans: 17,000 missing

New Orleans just took another big hit.

No, I'm not referring to the somewhat surprising reelection of Mayor Ray Nagin in Saturday's runoff election.

That result was only somewhat surprising to those who hadn't been following the Mayoral race. In the last 7-10 days of the runoff, it was clear that Nagin was peaking at just the right time -- he picked up the endorsements of five of the six Mayoral candidates who failed to make the runoff, while his opponent, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, failed to make good use of the lone endorsement from a former Mayoral rival he received; and Nagin received a blessing in disguise when he lost the endorsement of the Times-Picayune, the New Orleans Establishment's newspaper of record; the lost endorsement gave Nagin a backhanded seal of approval in the black community ("If Mitch got the T-P's endorsement, he can't really be on our side, can he?" was the thinking in at least a good number of black households in New Orleans).

(Nagin's depth of support in the black community was one of the wild cards in the campaign. Running four years ago, Nagin had the support of the white business community in his campaign against Richard Pennington, another black Democrat. And just a year after his 2002 victory, in 2003 he endorsed GOP gubernatorial candidate -- now U.S. Rep. -- Bobby Jindal against Democrat Kathleen Blanco, a move that caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth in the New Orleans black community.)

Nor am I talking about the possibility that it may be the case that Howard Dean and his Democratic National Committee were actively aiding Landrieu -- which possibility ran as the banner headline on the Drudge Report on Sunday night. Landrieu is the sitting Lt. Governor, the brother of the state's senior U.S. Senator, and the son of the last white Mayor of New Orleans, so a DNC decision to actively support Landrieu wouldn't really be all that surprising.

No, when I say New Orleans just took another big hit, what I'm talking about is missing voters: roughly 17,000 or so.

In New Orleans' last Mayoral election, four years ago, 130,475 voters cast ballots in the runoff election. On Saturday, just 113,591 voters cast a ballot -- many, after taking a five-hour bus ride from Houston just so they could cast their votes.

In other words, in Saturday's Mayoral runoff election -- an election where the stakes for New Orleans' future were so high that it can be reasonably presumed that voter interest was as high it's likely ever going to be -- not only did New Orleans not exceed the voter turnout from the previous election, they actually fell 13 percent short.


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