Ray Nagin re-elected New Orleans mayor

Sunday, May 21, 2006

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin won re-election Saturday night, successfully weathering a challenge from Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu and allowing him to oversee the continued rebuilding of the Louisiana city decimated by Hurricane Katrina.

With all 442 precincts reporting, Nagin won 59,460 votes (52.3%) to Landrieu's 54,131 votes (47.7%). The two candidates had been neck-and-neck in the returns through the night. Early returns with 22% of precincts reporting showed Nagin leading 51% to 49%, while a later update with 48% of precincts showed Landrieu with the lead with the same margin.

Nagin first won the office in 2002, winning 76,469 votes (58.72%). Nagin, a Cable Executive, defeated New Orleans police chief, Richard Pennington, in that election by a lead of more than 22,000 votes with Pennington receiving 53,781 votes (41.29%). The total votes cast for both mayoral candidates in 2002 was 130,250 in comparison with the 113,591 total votes cast in this latest election.

Both Nagin and Landrieu called for the citizens of New Orleans to work together in unity. Nagin, in his victory speech, said, "It's time for us to stop the bickering. It's time for us to stop measuring things in black and white and yellow and Asian. It's time for us to be one New Orleans."

Landrieu struck a similar tone in his concession speech: "One thing is for sure that we as a people have got to come together so we can speak with one voice and one purpose," he said. "Join with me in supporting Mayor Nagin."

Nagin and Landrieu, both Democrats, agreed on most issues confronting New Orleans, including upholding the right of residents to rebuild in all areas of the city, and lobbying for increased recovery aid and upgraded levee protection.

What differentiated the two candidates was leadership style. Nagin, a former cable executive is best known for his maverick, straight-talking, political-outsider style, and his sometimes controversial remarks to the media in the aftermath of Katrina. Landrieu, a member of a prominent political family in Louisiana, emphasized his ability to reach consensus and bring people together during the campaign.

Race also appears to have played a factor, with Nagin winning majority black neighborhoods and Landrieu winning majority white neighborhoods. However, Nagin did also get a significant crossover vote from the more heavily populated, predominantly white neighborhoods. In 2002, both mayoral candidates, Nagin and Pennington, were black. Nagin won 100% of predominantly white precincts in that election while his opponent faired better in predominantly black precincts.

Louisiana Secretary of State Al Ater said that turnout was comparable to the April 22 primary, when about 37 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.

Nagin's new term begins May 31, one day before the Atlantic hurricane season begins.