Kristin Gisleson-Palmer had to make a tough decision this week about her future on the New Orleans City Council — a decision she may not have been planning to make even days before. Kristin thought she was doing a good job. She enjoyed the support of Mayor Mitch Landrieu and had carried some of his key legislation — especially Mitch’s ideas about changes in the taxicab industry — but also made enemies along the way.
Then came retired Judge Nadine Ramsey and the realities of the changing demographics in Algiers. Still, Kristin was carrying around a new poll from a nationally recognized Democratic pollster that showed her with a healthy lead over Nadine. Some insiders doubted the numbers but that didn’t stop Kristin from showing it to heavy hitters.
Even after State Rep. Jeff Arnold decided not to make the race (he accepted a senior position with FNBC Bank), by all accounts Kristin would have had a tough challenger in Nadine Ramsey, who is very popular with female African-American voters. The demographics in Algiers had changed since Katrina. Algiers’ African-American voters and consultants are flexing their muscles. The recent victory by newly elected Traffic Court Judge Steven Jupiter is a prime example.
But that might not have been the only reason Kristin got out. Another factor that might have impacted Kristin’s decision was the fact that the AFL-CIO was planning to spend a lot of money to defeat Kristin Palmer. AFL-CIO President Tiger Hammond said that the AFL-CIO leadership agreed to target Palmer because she was in their words “anti-union.” “We were going to target her just like we targeted Austin Badon in his race against James Gray,” said Hammond. “We had planned phone banks, signs, and outreach to union members. We ran an effective campaign against Badon and knew we could be effective against Palmer,” Hammond explained. “It’s not cheap, but it works.”
There is no question that elected officials are under intense pressure and often held to a higher standard. Even with today’s tougher ethics laws, there are still many nice perks to being elected — a car and maybe even a driver paid for by public dollars; subsidized airfare to conferences and junkets; free tickets to sporting events or the ability to use other people’s money to buy them; and someone who wants something wanting to buy you meals, bring you gifts of all kind or fly you around in their plane.
But electeds are also under additional scrutiny. Nothing is beyond reach, Sarah Palin might say. Some are able to thread their way through the minefields. Former President Bill Clinton seems to have weathered the storm pretty well and is once again held in high esteem, especially by African-Americans. Wife Hillary — formerly poor pitiful wife Hillary — could well be our next President. David Vitter is still our US Senator and is cueing up for the 2015 race for governor. Isn’t Wendy glad she stood by her man!
Some say Kristin was right to get out. The Council District C race is now Nadine Ramsey’s to lose, and her campaign will pick up steam and money in the coming weeks. Surely someone will enter the race against her. Possible contenders could include Craig Mitchell, former City Planning Commission chairman and also a resident of Algiers.
Landrieu steam-rolling his way toward Election Day
With $2 million in the bank, Mitch Landrieu is almost unstoppable. Last night a group of young professionals including Walt Leger III, Jared Brossett, Richard Cortizas, Mike Sherman, and others held a well-attended fundraiser at a Freret Street bar. Only Mitch would charge people to come to a campaign kick-off reception next Wednesday night where “Chefs for Mitch Landrieu” will be providing the libations.
Other officials gearing up with announcements and fundraisers
With qualifying beginning next Wednesday for mayor, council, sheriff, clerks of court, coroner and assessor, folk are rushing in to make their candidacy official. District D Councilmember Cynthia Hedge Morrell holds a kick-off and fundraiser tonight. Stacy Head has her family themed launch Saturday at City Park. OPSB Board President Ira Thomas held his announcement this morning for the sheriff’s race.
Badon for Sheriff?
As if Marlin Gusman wouldn’t have enough of a challenge from former Sheriff Charles Foti and Ira Thomas, a new name is surfacing in the sheriff’s race – State Rep Austin Badon. Term limited at the legislature, no doubt Austin is looking for another place to land. He is a likeable guy. But without money in hand and with a new baby courtesy of wife Therese, entering the race would be tough. That doesn’t stop people from polling his favorability and patting Austin on the back. All will be revealed starting next Wednesday at 8 a.m. Drop by Arthur Morrell’s office to watch the fun.
Allan Katz spent 25 years as a political reporter and columnist at The Times-Picayune, and is now editor of the Kenner Star and host of several televsion programs, including the Louisiana Newsmaker on Cox Cable. Danae Columbus is executive producer of Louisiana Newsmaker, and has had a 30-year career in public relations, including stints at City Hall and the Dock Board. They both currently work for the Orleans Parish School Board. Among the recent candidates who have been represented by their public relations firm are City Councilwoman Stacy Head, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and council candidate Dana Kaplan.