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Da Winnas & Da Loozas



At their core, elections are all about the redistribution of power. Beyond the names on the ballot, that redistribution inevitably produces big winners and big losers among those who live and die by the political sword. Herewith our perennial assessment of the victors and the vanquished.

Da Winnas

1. The Louisiana GOP -- The Republicans finally got their act together for a statewide race -- and in record fashion. David Vitter re-wrote history by becoming Louisiana's first Republican U.S. Senator since Reconstruction. He's also the first candidate in either party to win a major statewide race for an open seat, without a runoff, under Louisiana's open primary system. Vitter ran a perfect campaign, and the GOP for once didn't eat its own. The party also switched Congressman Rodney Alexander to the GOP fold and picked up a seat in northwest Louisiana. Lots of credit goes to new state GOP chair Roger Villere, who has reversed the party's declining fortunes in less than a year.

2. Anthony Amato -- The New Orleans Public Schools superintendent didn't spend a minute campaigning, but he was the line of demarcation in the School Board elections. All who had opposed him, or who even appeared to have opposed him, went down to defeat. Now all he has to do is deliver -- and pay closer attention to who's working on his home.

3. LIFE -- They're baaaaack. In the race for criminal sheriff, Warren Riley tried to hang LIFE's former leader, Marc Morial, around Marlin Gusman's neck, but Gusman won anyway. Gusman's victory means LIFE is back in business -- just in time for the upcoming citywide elections.

4. The Coalition -- This loose band of small political groups continues to upset the apple carts of larger groups and bigger political names. Anchored by state Sen. Lambert Boissiere Jr., The Coalition successfully elevated two of its flagship candidates -- First City Court Constable Lambert Boissiere III and state Sen. Paulette Irons. Boissiere beat incumbent Irma Muse Dixon and state Sen. Cleo Fields to win a seat on the Public Service Commission, while Irons won her race for the Civil District Court bench. This group chooses its battles well.

5. Bill Jefferson -- Jefferson's political group, the Progressive Democrats, helped tip the balance in the criminal sheriff's runoff by dropping Riley and backing only Gusman -- after supporting both men in the primary. Jefferson also helped elect several School Board members. He could not elect Cleo Fields to the PSC, but he did help defeat incumbent Irma Muse Dixon; she ran against him two years ago, and he got his revenge.

Da Loozas

1. Louisiana Democrats -- The local party, such as it is, couldn't unite behind one candidate for U.S. Senate, and this time the Washington crowd chose badly. Chris John didn't have a discernable message; John Kennedy had a message but not enough money; and Arthur Morrell, the closest thing to a "true Democrat" in the race, ran a dismal fourth. Democrats' confusion gave David Vitter a clear path to victory and helped prove that a Republican can win statewide.

2. Ray Nagin -- The mayor kept his losing streak alive with Warren Riley's defeat in the race for criminal sheriff. He has yet to back a winner in a hotly contested citywide or statewide election. He can take consolation in passage of the $260 million bond issue, but Marlin Gusman and LIFE now have 1,100 unclassified workers at their disposal. Watch your back, Mister Mayor. There's a new sheriff in town.

3. Kimberly Williamson Butler -- The Clerk of Criminal Court totally flubbed the Sept. 18 primary by failing to get voting machines delivered on time to about 90 precincts. She then blamed everyone but herself. Voters were outraged, and they didn't buy her excuses. Things went much better on Nov. 2, mostly because Secretary of State Fox McKeithen stepped in to make sure Butler's office got it right. She has to run for re-election in 15 months, and voters might not want a clerk who still needs training wheels to operate the office's machinery.

4. BOLD -- The Central City political group of former Council President Jim Singleton and current Councilman Oliver Thomas lost its seat on the School Board and backed the losing candidate for criminal sheriff (along with the mayor). In politics, you're only as good as your last election.

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