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New Orleans mayoral race

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.louisianaweekly.com/weekly/news/articlegate.pl?20051101a Speculation of candidates seeking Nagin s job grows By Christopher Tidmore, Political
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 31, 2005
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      http://www.louisianaweekly.com/weekly/news/articlegate.pl?20051101a

      Speculation of candidates seeking Nagin's job grows

      By Christopher Tidmore, Political Columnist
      October 31, 2005

      After last week's revelation in this newspaper that
      former Council President Peggy Wilson had met with
      consultants for a bid to seek the Orleans' Chief
      Executive post, sources reveal to The Louisiana Weekly
      that State Senator Francis Heitmeier is also
      considering a bid for Mayor.

      The Algiers Democrat, a Caucasian, hails from one of
      the only parts of New Orleans untouched by Hurricane
      Katrina and its subsequent flooding. With
      neighborhoods and voters intact, he could prove a
      formidable challenge to any candidate, especially
      Wilson who would count on the area's middle class
      whites.

      As last week's article noted, the changing racial
      dynamics of the Crescent City point to a white
      candidate having an advantage in February. The recent
      post-Katrina survey done by the Red Cross shows,
      however, that at best 40% of the population of Orleans
      Parish will be Black by February. With the continued
      refusal of FEMA to fund a plan to help displaced New
      Orleanians participate in local elections or give
      state leaders access to the agency's database
      containing temporary addresses of evacuated residents,
      African-American turnout may even be lower.

      Heitmeier has long been what some insiders have called
      "the political boss of Algiers." Hailing from the one
      fully functional part of New Orleans, the moderate
      Democrat might have enough strength to force a runoff
      position. Moreover, term limited in the legislature in
      2007, he has little else on which to spend his flush
      campaign war chest.

      The resignation of the current Levee Board President,
      though, highlights the Senator's chief disadvantage.
      In a city acutely tired of corruption, Jim Huey
      granted no-bid contracts in the days leading up to the
      storm to members of Heitmeier's family. Considering
      that Huey owed his nine-year tenure on the Board to
      the patronage of the Senator, implications of alleged
      public malfeasance by Huey could arise in the Mayor's
      race-much to Wilson's advantage.

      Wilson served briefly on the Levee Board in the waning
      days of the Foster Administration and was a loud
      critic of the District's practices, particularly the
      decisions of Jim Huey.

      She warned that the machinations of the Board,
      particularly the controversy to privatize Lakefront
      Airport, a Levee District property, were distracting
      the District from concentrating on flood control.

      While the Republican might bemoan the loss of
      middle-class voters to Heitmeier in Algiers, his
      associations with the malfunctioning Levee District
      could prove a vital campaign theme, with 80% of the
      city flooded beyond inhabitance.

      Heitmeier's presence also harms the campaign of
      Councilman At-Large Eddie Sapir. The working class
      whites and blacks that would be attracted to the
      populist candidate-with an admirable record on civil
      rights-might find a better choice with a homegrown
      Democrat.

      That puts the prospective field into an open contest.
      Sapir potentially carries liberals, white and black,
      across the city. Senator Ed Murray, the strongest
      African-American candidate, likely draws black support
      remaining in the city. Wilson holds white moderates
      and conservatives particularly in her bases in Uptown
      and in the Preservationist community in Farbourg
      Marigny. Mayor Nagin has no clear constituency at this
      point with the other candidates so strongly entrenched
      in theirs, but his power of incumbency certainly
      delivers votes in middle class black and white
      districts.

      Councilpersons Jackie Clarkson and Oliver Thomas
      remain focused on running for Council At-Large posts
      and do not appear to threaten.

      At this point, the major question looms: what choice
      will Mitch Landrieu make? If the scion of the state's
      most powerful political family, with a golden name in
      both white and black sectors of the city chooses to
      run, most experts agree that all dynamics change
      radically.

      Young President...

      Deliberations in the Jefferson Parish Council chambers
      have never employed the courtly manners that one
      finds, for example, at the Oxford Union Debates, but
      outward politeness between elected officials has
      usually been a given. That is until Jefferson Parish
      President Aaron Broussard accused Councilman At-Large
      John Young of telling a falsehood. Could the ill will
      be a sign of an election challenge to come?

      "You're a liar," Broussard yelled at Young last week
      at a council meeting. The Councilman At-Large had
      joined in the chorus of questioners wondering why the
      Parish President had not taken any action to turn on
      the flood pumping stations earlier in the wake of
      Katrina. Broussard responded that Young had been
      briefed, prior to Katrina, that parish pump workers
      would be relieved of their duties six hours before the
      storm, and the President said, Young was in charge of
      overseeing the pumps after the storm-or so Broussard
      had assigned him.

      No such duties had been given him, the Councilman
      At-Large retorted. Not a word about the pump workers
      had come from Broussard before the Hurricane passed.

      The Council President, under public and media fire,
      for sending the pump workers too far north in order to
      return as the post-Katrina floodwaters overtook
      thousands of homes in Jefferson Parish, was likely
      annoyed with further questions coming from the
      Council. However, Broussard, a former Council
      President, usually plays the perfect model of
      interpersonal relationships with his fellow
      politicians.

      His annoyance may come from the fact that John Young
      reportedly wants Broussard's job.

      Highly placed sources within the Louisiana Republican
      Party tell The Louisiana Weekly that Young has
      approached several past supporters to back him in a
      race for Parish President against Democrat Aaron
      Broussard.

      Young, who stayed in the parish through Katrina and in
      the weeks following, reportedly is frustrated with
      Broussard for "keeping the council out of the loop" of
      post-disaster organization.

      With public frustration at Broussard at an all time
      high, Young reasons that Broussard might be open to a
      strong challenge.

      Unlike Orleans, with an election on February 4th,
      Jefferson does not go to the polls for almost two
      years. If Young can parley public frustration against
      the inactive pumps for that long remains to be seen.

      Huey resigns; Bruno feels Vindicated...

      Former Assistant to the President of the Orleans Levee
      Board Vincent Bruno lost his job and was mercilessly
      attacked in the press and in political circles when he
      accused Jim Huey of misusing Levee Board funds.

      With the resignation of Huey, Bruno feels he has been
      vindicated. "I'm very pleased," he told the Weekly.
      "It's about time."

      Bruno first broke in this newspaper what came to be
      called the Trousergate scandal. Huey allegedly hired a
      private detective to follow radio talk show host
      Robert Namer and two employees of the board, in their
      off duty hours. Records obtained by The Louisiana
      Weekly revealed canceled checks in the thousands of
      dollars to pay for the surveillance issued under
      Huey's direction.

      The final straw against Huey came in the weeks prior
      to Katrina. The Board President said he obtained legal
      opinions certifying that he was entitled to about
      $96,000 in unpaid back pay dating to June 19, 1996,
      the day he was chosen board president. The separate
      legal opinions Huey cited were prepared by attorneys
      linked to him including Gerard Metzger, a high school
      friend of Huey's-who also works as a contract lawyer
      for the board. Huey did not request an opinion from
      the board's staff attorney.

      Following the flooding caused by the Hurricane, Huey
      said after putting in long hours of service to the
      board, he felt that it was time to take advantage of a
      law letting levee board presidents collect a
      $1,000-a-month salary.

      Huey defended himself in a letter to Governor Blanco.
      The Board President said, "It is unfortunate that you
      have not been afforded the facts, but given the
      challenges before us, I am confident that this is the
      appropriate action to take at this time."

      Once the "facts are reviewed," Huey told Blanco, "you
      will find all decisions and actions taken during this
      time of crisis will prove to have been made in the
      interest of the Orleans Levee District."

      Under the agency's rules, Huey's resignation means
      that Vice President Mike McCrossen becomes acting
      president. McCrossen, named to the board a year ago by
      Blanco, is the former Orleans Parish recorder of
      mortgages, an elected post he held from 1990 to 1998.

      Unknown to the general public, McCrossen had begun to
      question Huey's decisions within the last two years,
      and reportedly brought up his concerns about other
      recent Levee Board decisions to the Governor prior to
      Katrina.
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