Yes, it was definitely one for the history books. This election season gave us our first woman governor along with hordes of women victors at all levels, not to mention yet another Republican effort that managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The elections also brought a mixture of triumphs and disappointments to Mayor Ray Nagin and Congressman Bill Jefferson.
All of which leads us to our perennial assessment of the carnage amid the carnival -- Da Winnas and Da Loozas -- a recap of which political players won and which ones lost. This year we're introducing anew category, Da Mixed Bag, for those whose heads are bloodied but unbowed, thanks to a combination of victories and defeats. So, without further ado, let's start with ...
1. Women -- Hear them roar, dude, and not just because Kathleen Blanco won the governor's race. In virtually every significant race at the state and local levels, women candidates beat men candidates. Consider the following victories locally -- Jennifer Sneed on the Jefferson Parish Council, Kimberly Williamson Butler for clerk of Criminal Court, Ann Duplessis as eastern New Orleans' new state senator, Charmaine Marchand as the new state representative in the Lower Nine, Cheryl Gray as the new Uptown state rep -- to name but a few. All in all, this was a very bad political year for the "Y" chromosome.
2. Democrats -- The Louisiana Democratic Party bucked a national trend and maintained a time-honored tradition of winning statewide offices against the GOP. Republicans captured three other governorships -- unseating Democratic incumbents in each -- but in Louisiana, we elected a female Democrat to replace a two-term Republican. The Democrats now control six of the seven statewide offices in Louisiana.
3. John Breaux -- Louisiana's senior U.S. senator played a big role in Blanco's runoff victory by going on TV and lending key staffers and supporters to her effort. Now he's free to decide whether he wants to retire early and, if he does, help get fellow Democrat Congressman Chris John of Crowley named interim U.S. senator so that John can run next year for re-election as the incumbent.
4. Dale Atkins -- The clerk of Civil District Court ran Blanco's entire New Orleans campaign out of her house in the primary. She and the governor-elect are long-time, close personal friends. Now she's co-chair of Blanco's transition team. That's quite a turnaround after losing the DA's race a year ago.
5. Business -- Both candidates for governor and virtually every legislative candidate embraced the notion of lowering business taxes, particularly the corporate franchise tax on debt and the sales tax on manufacturing machinery and equipment. This could be just the beginning of another push by business interests to rewrite the state's tax code to make it more business-friendly.
Which brings us to ...
1. Gov. Mike Foster -- Bobby Jindal was Foster's creation, and Governor Warbucks played a big role in getting the wunderkind off to a flying start. But, in the end, it was Foster who failed to deliver his constituency -- Cajuns and Bubbas -- to Jindal. By contrast, Ray Nagin helped Jindal get 10 percent-plus in some black precincts, which is a historic high for a GOP candidate running for governor in modern times. Despite his lethargic pace as governor, Foster clearly relished the idea of influencing the next administration. That won't happen now.
2. Republicans -- Once again, the GOP failed to win the big ones. Also, Blanco's victory probably means the GOP will have less influence in the Legislature, although they are numerous enough in both houses to impact any legislation that require a two-thirds majority.
3. BOLD -- The Central City-based black political group took a courageous step in endorsing Bobby Jindal in the runoff, but that probably cost Rep. Rosalind Peychaud her legislative seat (even though Peychaud personally supported Blanco in the runoff). There appears to be a power struggle inside BOLD between veteran leader (and former City Council prez) Jim Singleton and current Council President Oliver Thomas. Thomas' photo appeared atop the BOLD ballot endorsing Jindal even though Thomas himself was with Blanco. Nature abhors a vacuum, and it may be time for Thomas to fill the void created by the group's recent losses.
4. SOUL -- The once dominant Ninth Ward-based political group lost most of its remaining key office-holders this time around -- Sen. Jon Johnson and BESE member Keith Johnson -- and failed to elect Johnny Jackson Jr. as the new clerk of Criminal Court. Only state Sen. Dianna Bajoie remains as a SOUL ally, and she is term-limited now.
5. Cleo Fields -- The Baton Rouge senator and the one-time top dog among black power brokers barely won his own reelection, and in the governor's race took a back seat to fellow Baton Rouge state Sen. Kip Holden. Holden backed Richard Ieyoub in the primary, and Ieyoub beat Fields' candidate Buddy Leach in key black precincts in Baton Rouge. In the runoff, Fields was shut out of Blanco's campaign while Holden played a big role. In the end, Fields became a non-entity in his own back yard.
And that brings us to ...
DA MIXED BAG
1. Ray Nagin -- Hizzoner swam against the tide -- twice -- in the governor's race. Give him credit for showing independence and guts, but at the end of the day he backed two losers. Randy Ewing's loss was no big deal, but Nagin's decision to back Jindal will come back to haunt him. Locally, fired Nagin aide Kimberly Butler's victory in the Criminal Court clerk's race gives her a base from which to shoot at Nagin -- and possibly run against him in two years. The good news for Nagin is that several local lawmakers who yanked his chain in the recent legislative session all lost to challengers who had varying degrees of help from the mayor. Now that he presumably has a more supportive legislative delegation, he should concentrate on mending fences with Blanco.
2. Bill Jefferson -- The congressman saw his daughter Jalila win a hard-fought legislative race against Rosalind Peychaud, but the truth is she was supposed to win that one in the primary. Elsewhere, the congressman showed his old "Dollar Bill" side by taking Buddy Leach's money in the primary -- and he failed to generate a big black turnout and deliver the city for Leach. Also, in Jefferson Parish, brother-in-law Kyle Green lost a race for parish council to businessman Byron Lee. But all is not lost. The Jefferson political family tree still has deep roots and plenty of branches. Moreover, the congressman's political group, the Progressive Democrats, survived with its infrastructure intact to fight another day.
And in Louisiana politics, there's always another day.
- Gov. Mike Foster's inability to deliver his constituency for Bobby Jindal makes him a Looza; Mayor Ray Nagin falls in Da Mixed Bag.