Sep 052013

City Councilwoman Susan Guidry speaks at a town hall meeting in Carrollton in February 2013. ( file photo by Robert Morris)

City Councilwoman Susan Guidry speaks at a town hall meeting in Carrollton in February 2013. ( file photo by Robert Morris)

District A is one of the more volatile seats on the New Orleans City Council — the last four elections have yielded four different winners — but the field of potential challengers to incumbent Councilwoman Susan Guidry is largely quiet as she completes her first term.

An internal poll from earlier in the summer may partly explain why. Two-thirds of likely voters in the district said they have a favorable opinion of her, a tall barrier for any potential challenger to overcome.

Strong internal polling
The automated phone survey of 554 likely District voters was conducted in early June on behalf of the Win Partners consulting firm for the Guidry campaign. Internal polls should always be taken with a healthy grain of salt; not that the individual polls themselves are inaccurate, but that those that are released tend to be the most optimistic. Nate Silver, whose use of polls accurately predicted both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, has cautioned repeatedly that campaigns often “have very good pollsters working for them, [b]ut the subset of polls which they release to the general public is another matter, and are almost always designed to drive media narrative.”

An internal poll released by Win Partners for the LaToya Cantrell campaign about two weeks prior to the District B election, for example, was proven correct when it showed Cantrell in the lead over her opponents. It incorrectly predicted Eric Strachan would be her runoff opponent instead of Dana Kaplan (within the margin of error), but it’s impossible to know whether Kaplan was still gaining momentum late in the race.

The poll does not pit Guidry against any potential challengers, and politicians’ popularity often declines amid the struggle of a campaign. Still, the results of the Guidry poll would be good news for any campaign and difficult for any potential challenger to ignore. With a margin of error of 4 percent, it shows that Guidry’s name is recognized by 77.6 percent of residents of the district likely to vote in the 2014 elections, and that 66 percent of respondents have a favorable opinion of her. Her strongest constitutencies are Democrats and white voters, but more than half of Republicans, independents and black voters all had favorable opinions of her as well.

Guidry said in an interview this week that she was “very pleased” with what the survey showed. Her campaign was built at a grassroots level, she said, and she has stayed active in the district and visible to her constituents.

“They see me at the neighborhood meetings, they see me at the events that are important to them, and they see me working,” Guidry said.

Back to the trail
When she returns to the campaign trail, Guidry said, she will highlight her leadership on the City Council’s criminal-justice committee as her most important work in her first term. As the committee chair, Guidry began holding annual hearings on each law-enforcement agency’s budget requests, instead of letting what in years past had been a single sheet of paper suffice.

“It’s been a difficult effort, but it has resulted in agencies giving us complete information so we can determine what their real needs are for using taxpayers’ money,” Guidry said.

Those agencies are now collaborating in ways they never have before, Guidry said, resulting in major arrests among neighborhood gangs. Continuing to use the criminal-justice committee to support that effort, she said, will be her top priority.

Among her other priorities will be continuing to make the city’s energy use more efficient and more sustainable through her work on the utility committee, Guidry said. She also pledged to continue economic development work, promoting the growth of new businesses such as Costco and the Mid-City Market, and to continue focusing on quality-of-life issues such as streetlight outages in District A.

Where Guidry’s actions have been the most controversial over her first term has often been in land-use disputes, such as her request that City Planning review the proposed Tulane Stadium or her insistence that Jimmy’s Music Club forge an agreement with its neighbors before she would vote for its reopening. In each case, Guidry said, her goal was to create a more public process around the use of the land before ultimately supporting it.

Some critics have argued that Guidry — and the city as a whole — gives too much voice to neighborhood groups. But Guidry was a neighborhood leader before running for City Council, and she said she understands that some associations represent their neighbors better than others. To those who feel their neighborhood groups don’t represent them, Guidry encouraged them to get involved and make their voice part of the process as well.

“I brought opposing sides together, and I worked with them toward compromises,” Guidry said of the Tulane and Jimmy’s issues. “In each case, what is going to be the use of that property is going to be better because of what appeared to be a lot of adversity. Sometimes you just got fight through that to get where you want to go.”

Other council seats have already attracted candidates, but no one has stepped forward in District A. Two of the last four District A representatives have been Republicans, but the GOP has especially silent on possible challengers to Guidry. Scott Shea, one of the former District A councilmen, said the seat represents the best opportunity for Republicans to get on the council, and for that reason would like to see a candidate.

“I would like to see at least one Republican on the City Council,” Shea said, though he noted he’s not interested in running again.

On the other hand, Shea said he wasn’t surprised that Guidry’s numbers were strong. The council job is difficult, he said, and individual issues can become flashpoints, but on the whole he saw no reason for Guidry to be unpopular in District A.

“I don’t think she’s as vulnerable as some people suggested,” Shea said.

More activity has come from within the Democratic party. In political circles, former School Board member Una Anderson’s name is frequently mentioned as a possible challenger to Guidry, but Anderson did not respond to phone and email messages to her office at Harmony Neighborhood Development this week.

Attorney Marshall Hevron, a former staff member for U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, considered a run earlier this year but decided against it. He said he hasn’t spoken to anyone planning a run against Guidry, but is waiting until qualifying ends in December to make a decision whom he’ll support.

“I need see who gets in the race,” Hevron said.

  5 Responses to “Susan Guidry heads into District A re-election campaign with strong approval ratings”

  1. This laddy is literally the puppet of a few select wealthy donors uptown. Please someone run

  2. Guidry is a joke. I dont know how anyone can have a positive view of her…she is a puppet. Everyone I’ve spoken with in District A knows this and wants to vote her out.

  3. Can some please run who is pro business? She lost coconut beach to Kenner of all places. She opposed the new Jimmys open. I am surprised, most uptowners yell and scream about local business. She opens a COSTO and no one says anything. Anyone with a rain should run and win

    • I support local business but the Costco is a good deal. That was a nothing area and the resident supported Costco. Plus Costco pays its employees very well and we don’t have to go to Jefferson Parish to buy at Sam’s which has terrible customer service.

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