Jay Batt and Susan Guidry, the candidates in the runoff for the City Council District A race, spent much of their last debate accusing each other of having the ACORN endorsement. ACORN is the advocacy organization for low-income families that's been a political hot potato lately. Given the voting habits in District A and the mostly white makeup of the crowd at the forum, which was held at St. Dominic Church in Lakeview, it was clear that both candidates wanted an ACORN endorsement about as much as they wanted one from Mayor Ray Nagin.
About 100 residents turned out to hear Guidry and Batt, who have run a particularly contentious race since the Feb. 6 primary, marked by racially inflammatory flyers and not-so-subtle innuendo in campaign mailers. Neither candidate bothered with traditional debate pleasantries like saying hello or shaking hands when taking the stage March 3.
During one of her trips to the podium, Guidry waved a flyer not produced by her camp. The flyer claimed she had the endorsement of both ACORN and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which would like to unionize New Orleans restaurant workers. Guidry said that, as the Democrat in the race, she was the de facto choice for unions (and, indeed, SEIU Local 21 has endorsed her), but she denied ever getting or seeking support from ACORN. Instead, she said, it was Batt, the Republican, who had been endorsed by ACORN during the 2006 District A council race, a charge Batt denied: "I've never had the endorsement of ACORN. I've never paid them; I've never been part of them. It's not even in my vernacular. So ... it's untrue."
After the meeting, Gambit published an online story with video of Batt's denial, along with a 2006 press release from the Batt camp touting his ACORN endorsement and saying he was looking forward to working with the group "on finding common ground." Batt later backtracked, acknowledging the 2006 ACORN endorsement and telling The Times-Picayune he had "unintentionally" erred in his statement. — Kevin Allman