[EM] Field of 15 Run for New Orleans Mayor

DEMOREP1 at aol.com DEMOREP1 at aol.com
Sun Jan 27 15:14:06 PST 2002

A report from political reality land about a multi-choice election.

How many choices would an *average* voter vote for if he/she had the chance 
to do so ???

Field of 15 Run for New Orleans Mayor


NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Few were willing to run for mayor while Marc Morial - a 
political personality so strong some call him ``Mayor Maximus'' - was still 
fighting for a third term. 

But after Morial failed in an October referendum to override city term 
limits, the race ballooned with 15 candidates who had only three months to 
campaign for the Feb. 2 primary. 

Now the candidates are battling for voters' attention with the Super Bowl, to 
be played the day after balloting, and early Mardi Gras parades. 

Deciding who to vote for ``is really hard because they all have a similar 
stance - they want to bring more business and improve education - so you have 
to look at their track record,'' said Dora Cullen, a 28-year-old real estate 

All the candidates run on the same ballot in the open primary. If no one gets 
more than half the vote, the top two go to a March 2 runoff. 

The instant front-runners were the police chief, two councilmen and a state 
senator who is bidding to be the city's first woman mayor. But recent 
newspaper endorsements have thrust into the mix a cable TV executive who owns 
the local minor league hockey team, according to recent polls. 

The big campaign issues involve the city's long-term economic slide. The only 
recent growth has been tourism, which means mostly low-paying service jobs. 

State Sen. Paulette Irons sought early on to portray herself as more credible 
in addressing perceived corruption and patronage than the three major 
candidates who are city insiders: councilmen Troy Carter and Jim Singleton 
and Police Chief Richard Pennington. 

But Cox Cable executive Ray Nagin also has been able to seize the mantle of 
politically clean outsider with the help of glowing endorsements by The 
Times-Picayune and the city's arts and entertainment newspaper, Gambit 

``I think Pennington will be in the runoff, and the fight is among the other 
four to see who will be in there with him,'' said political analyst Ed 
Renwick of Loyola University. 

Pennington, 54, is popular because his hiring during Morial's first term 
marked the beginning of an era during which a number of corrupt police 
officers were rooted out and crime dropped. Because he came from Washington, 
D.C., some see him as an outsider who will bring a fresh approach. 

Others worry that Pennington, who supported Morial's third-term effort, could 
turn out to be a Morial crony. But Pennington has the backing of U.S. Rep. 
William Jefferson, a local Democrat who is not known as a Morial ally. 

A state attorney general's report this month said Irons, a lawyer, violated 
ethics law by performing full-time work for the Orleans Parish Recorder of 
Mortgages while a state senator. Irons said it was part-time, and the state 
ethics board found no wrongdoing. 

Irons, 48, also was criticized for campaign ads that vaguely portray her 
brother as a victim of ``the violence of the streets.'' He was killed in a 
shootout with police while attempting to flee a robbery scene. 

Still, Irons' popularity remains intact, largely because she built a 
political and legal career after growing up dirt poor. And slightly more than 
half of the city's registered voters are women. 

Nagin, 45, is seen as a successful business and family man who can handle 
multimillion-dollar budgets. His outsider status is tenuous, however; two of 
his partners in the New Orleans Brass hockey team are in Morial's inner 

Carter, 38, also grew up in poverty but in recent years opened several cafes. 
Supporters tout him as a vibrant and successful businessman while critics 
question his growing wealth since being elected in 1994 to the council, which 
pays only $42,500 a year. Carter said much of his family's new wealth stems 
from his wife's six-figure salary as a TV news anchor. 

Singleton, a councilman for more than two decades, is respected for his 
knowledge of the city budget process. However, his age, 68, and a speech 
impediment are portrayed as drawbacks in a job that requires a high public 

The underdogs include a funeral home director, the owner of a California 
recruiting firm who grew up here and a minister who's also a state 

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