by Kevin Allman
In the end, the runoff for the District A council seat came down to three women behind a podium: District A councilwoman-elect Susan Guidry, state Sen.-elect Karen Carter Peterson and retiring District A councilwoman Shelley Midura. Guidry's opponent, former District A councilman Jay Batt, had the money and the mojo behind him (both his war chest and his list of endorsements dwarfed Guidry's), but both Peterson and Midura had thrown their support to Guidry early and enthusiastically, and both of them were more visibly ebullient than the candidate herself. (Midura, famous for wearing her emotions on her sleeve, was alternately beaming and choked up.)
GUIDRY, PETERSON AND MIDURA.
Guidry supporters had gathered at the Olive Branch Cafe in Mid-City to watch the results come in, but the winner's address was anything but an olive branch; while she thanked her supporters and the voters, she also took the unusual step of swiping at Batt in her victory speech. "My opponent tried so hard to polarize us," she said, her anger still palpable from a bruiser of a runoff campaign, later adding in acid tones, "Little people. Little power." For his part, Batt sent out a concession press release to the media while she was speaking, but by the time Guidry finished (according to her campaign officials), he still hadn't called to congratulate her.
The numbers were dramatic. In the Feb. 6 primary, Batt had 39.32% of the vote to Guidry's 44.22%; the remainder was split among candidates Virginia Blanque and Fred Robertson. Blanque endorsed Batt, a fellow Republican, but the final total in the runoff was Batt at 37.66% and Guidry at 62.34%; Batt had actually lost support in the final month of the campaign, while Guidry gained 18 points -- and this despite Batt's endorsements from across the political spectrum, from Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson to DA Leon Cannizzaro; from The Times-Picayune to The Louisiana Weekly; from Democratic state Sen. J.P. Morrell to Republican congressman Steve Scalise.
In the end, perhaps it wasn't the fact that Guidry triumphed in the runoff; it was that she had done so so decisively, and with so little backing from the local political establishment ... and that was, perhaps, why Midura and Peterson, the only two politicos behind her on the podium, had their eyes gleaming so brightly. As the whole city learned on Feb. 7 at the Sun Life stadium in Florida, victory is never so sweet as it is when the pros count you out of the game.