District A debate at St. Dominic's turns to ACORN



Jay Batt and Susan Guidry, the remaining candidates for the City Council District A race, met tonight for a final forum at St. Dominic in Lakeview. About 100 residents turned out to hear Guidry and Batt, who have run a particularly contentious race since the Feb. 6 primary, a race marked by racially inflammatory flyers, a fair amount of behind-the-scenes whispering, and names from Vincent Marcello to Bruno's to Scotto's Café. Neither candidate bothered with pleasantries like saying hello or shaking hands when they took the stage, and neither candidate barely looked at the other during the whole 90-minute debate.

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And while neither Batt nor Guidry deviated from their well-worn positions on the campaign trail, one topic was much discussed by both candidates: ACORN, the advocacy organization for low-income families that's been so much in the news lately. Given the voting habits in Lakeview and the makeup of the crowd (solidly Caucasian), it was safe to assume both Batt and Guidry wanted an ACORN endorsement about as much as they wanted one from Ray Nagin. And yet both candidates claimed the other had ACORN's seal of approval.

During one of her trips to the podium, Guidry waved a flyer not produced by her camp, which 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 who had been endorsed by ACORN during the 2006 District A council race, a charge which 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."

There's no record of Guidry being endorsed by ACORN, but not so for Batt. In the 2006 race, he was endorsed by the New Orleans chapter of ACORN. An April 7, 2006 edition of New Orleans CityBusiness mentioned it:

City Councilmember Jay Batt today was endorsed by the Police Association of New Orleans and Athe Association of Community Organizations for Action Now. The organizations cited Batt's dedication and leadership."Your commitments to the needs of law enforcement have proven that you are dedicated to improving the New Orleans Police Department. Your years serving the city will only enhance what is already in place," said David Benelli, president of the Police Association of New Orleans. "ACORN members in the Carrollton-Hollygrove communities have been working with Councilmember Batt on establishing a police substation for the area and a variety of other neighborhood concerns," said Joe Sherman, Carrollton-Hollygrove ACORN chairperson.

Batt may not remember ACORN's endorsement now, but he knew about it at the time, according to an entry on his 2006 campaign blog, which is still online:


So ... what to make of a four-year-old endorsement in a race that's four days away? Probably not much -- the fact that it was even brought up is a sign that most minds seem made up one way or another in District A -- but it's another cudgel that will no doubt be wielded in a contest that's been marked by a good deal of nastiness so far.

The runoff is March 6.

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