Feb 062014

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

You have to hand it to Mayor Mitch Landrieu. He ran a flawless campaign. His message was just what the voters wanted to hear and of course it helped that he had many millions of dollars to drive home his message through mail and tv, along with a very strong Get Out The Vote effort that capitalized on pure volunteers, unclassified employees and a skilled team of out-of-state professionals.

Judge Michael Bagneris, who got a late start, could not keep up. Judge Bagneris had to spend so much time driving to explain to the voters the Mayor’s failings, that he never had time to define his goals and method to reach them.

Mitch certainly didn’t win the first time he ran for Mayor. Bagneris might get a second chance soon if Mayor Landrieu does run for governor in about two years. Yes, we have heard the Mayor say repeatedly that he is not going to run for governor. But if Senator Landrieu is re-elected, despite all the out-of-town pollsters who are saying that her chances are tough, the temptation to run might be very strong. “The people of Louisiana need me as Governor,” the Mayor could say.

Back to Sen. Landrieu, we are hoping that she will pull out another election. Bill Cassidy will not do more for New Orleans than Mary has done, that’s for sure. Look for Senator Landrieu to hold a big endorsement press conference this weekend. Her campaign is swinging into high gear now.

There was much talk early in the campaign by all the big consultants including Bill Schultz about African-American voters being energized by Bagneris’ entry into the race and that the energy would carry through to other African-American candidates. In the end, we did not see that happen to a large extent. Many African-American voters seem to be satisfied by the progress being made in New Orleans these years. Had Bagneris’ election become a cause, you would have seen an uptick in African-American voter turnout, which clearly did not occur. African-Americans still outvoted whites but their number of registered voters is larger.

As for the other races, we are free now from conflict of interest to discuss a few of them (Danae served on a number of campaigns, including Charles Foti and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, who are now in runoffs). Latoya Cantrell was just damn lucky. She got off to a great start when first elected and didn’t look back, and no one decided to challenge her. Susan Guidry was never in jeopardy of losing, either. Her opponents were all too weak. Stacy Head took this race against very seriously against Eugene Green and the results showed her staying power.

James Gray’s victory was a result of several factors – his support by Mayor Landrieu and the ability of his team including Ike Spears and Blair Boutte to engage in a strong GOTV. Though Cynthia Willard-Lewis is loved by the voters in District E, she did not have the resources – financial and people – to match Gray’s GOTV. We believe many E voters also thought that Gray deserved more time to accomplish his goals.

Jared Brossett will be the youngest of our Council members, a remarkable story of a young man starting out as an intern and moving up to Chief of Staff, then to the Louisiana Legislature and finally back home to the Council. It will be great to have his enthusiasm on the Council and some new ideas.

Jackie Clarkson and former judge Nadine Ramsey are dukin’ it out in District C. No matter who wins, it won’t be pretty. Mayor Landrieu is clearly on the line for this one and should be pulling out all the stops. But is he a match for the will of the African-American voters who make up the majority in District C these years? Many voters know just what to expect from Jackie after all these years and are comfortable with that. Nadine is full of fire and will be a strong advocate for change. We’re glad to be watching this race only from the sidelines.

The dynamics of the Coroner’s race is also interesting. After running several times previously, Dwight McKenna took this race much more seriously and almost won. But he didn’t quite make it, which is good for Dr. Rouse. We know from past run-off elections that African-American voters will turn out in larger numbers that white voters. Jeffrey’s hope is to make his race THE cause. Several consultants from other campaigns got to know Rouse on the trail and are stepping him to assist him. That will only make Rouse’s campaign team stronger.

Before Katrina, there were a plethora of African-American political organizations on the scene – BOLD, COUP, LIFE, TIPS, SOUL – and the list goes on. While most became quiet after the storm, their leadership has returned on the scene. Many of the groups demanded big budgets from their chosen candidates for media, printing and GOTV. We don’t believe they were really effective in this election. In the end, African-American voters were not particularly swayed by this effort. This is not to say the groups are out. To be successful, they will have to rebuild their bases at the grass roots level through the traditional political ward and precinct captains. If they start this now, they can be a big help to Senator Mary Landrieu next year and in the judicial elections in the fall.

More elections in the fall? Yup, you only thought we were finished March 15th.

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, and Columbus is working on the campaigns of Stacy Head, Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, Charles Foti and Jared Brossett. Among the recent candidates who have been represented by their public relations firm are Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and council candidate Dana Kaplan.

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