Thoughts on Orleans, Jefferson Elections

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Saturday’s election results in New Orleans and Jefferson speak volumes. In New Orleans, where Mayor Ray Nagin has heavy-handedly played the race card in recent weeks, a bi-racial coalition quietly helped elect two white and one black judges in a citywide special election. In Jefferson, state Sen. Julie Quinn, who has often challenged the parish’s entrenched political players, was roundly thrashed by newcomer Cynthia Lee-Sheng, who ran with the staunch support of most of the parish’s entrenched political players.

 

To me, the results show that Orleans voters don’t care much for the tactics of their elected leader (Nagin), but Jefferson voters seem very satisfied with their elected leaders, particularly Sheriff Newell Normand.

 

To be fair, and to my knowledge, Nagin did not get personally involved in any of the elections on Saturday’s ballot. My point about the New Orleans judicial races relates to Nagin’s race-baiting as a political tactic and the fact that during much of the campaign, New Orleans seemed to be sitting on a racial powder keg. Against that backdrop, it’s remarkable that white judicial candidates Joe Landry (Municipal Court) and Mark Shea (Traffic Court) teamed with African-American judicial candidate Tammy Stewart (Juvenile Court) and put together a very effective bi-racial coalition of supporters across town. Landry and Shea won with 79 percent of the vote each, and Stewart, who faced tougher opposition, won with 63 percent of the vote.

 

Those results are impressive. What’s even more impressive is the fact that all three candidates ran extremely well citywide, with no significant differences in their showings in black-majority precincts and white-majority precincts. For example, in mostly white Lakeview (where both Landry and Shea live), Stewart got roughly her citywide total of 63 percent. The same is true of Landry and Shea’s respective performances in black precincts. I hope this bodes well for next year’s citywide elections. At a minimum, I hope it sends a message to the preachers of hate and division.

 

Meanwhile, in Jefferson Parish, Quinn has to be seriously disappointed in her showing. Ditto for her boyfriend, parish Councilman at-Large John Young. The initial polls for Lee-Sheng had the senator leading by several percentage points, according to sources in Lee-Sheng’s campaign. After a pair of political attack ads that nailed Quinn for “missing” key legislative votes and for having a federal tax lien on her home, Lee-Sheng zoomed past Quinn and stayed far ahead. No doubt Lee-Sheng’s huge fundraising advantage also helped. She out-spent Quinn by at least $120,000.

 

One of the reasons Quinn wanted to move to the Council was a desire to be closer to home and to her children. It’s a few years off, but she may have some difficulty asking voters to send her back to the state Senate in 2011 in the wake of this race, if she chooses to seek re-election to the Senate. If nothing else, she has some serious fences to mend with Normand and others who opposed her in this race.

 

Meanwhile, Young broke rank with his fellow council members and worked hard to help Quinn, with whom he has been linked romantically for several years. Quinn’s loss tarnishes his star as well. Young had been mentioned prominently as an obvious successor to Parish President Aaron Broussard, but now that title belongs to fellow at-large Councilman Tom Capella. Again, 2011 is a long way off, and a lot could change between now and then. As with Quinn, Young has some fences to mend.

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