Some things are normal in New Orleans. Krewe members are gathering bags of throws to distribute at Mardi Gras Parades. Dog owners are preparing costumes for their pets so they can march in Sunday’s Krewe of Barkus parade in the French Quarter. But wait, the Mardi Gras parade schedule has to be rearranged. Churches are altering mass schedules. And school on Monday; don’t count out on it. So Mardi Gras, mass, and school all take a back seat when the Saints are playing in their first Super Bowl.
But something else of importance is happening this weekend. Today, New Orleans is holding an election to see who replaced Ray Nagin as mayor. Eight years ago, businessman Ray Nagin was swept into office because he was not a career politician. He would bring business sensibilities to city government and had no history of personal entanglements that would lead to corruption. History may or may not disprove these assumptions.
So, all eyes are not on this race. There’s a lot at stake, but the election is far from being on the front burner. Early voting has been strong, but that could be because voters want to clear their weekend to follow the festivities. So what’s at stake?
Much rebuilding needs to be done, and electing someone with political connections appears important to most. And race, whether from post-Katrina demographics or Ray Nagin-fatigue, doesn’t appear that important. The most promising African-American candidate withdrew, leaving Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu as the odds-on-favorite to follow Nagin. In fact a low turnout could make him outright winner without the usual runoff election.
The result: the first white mayor of New Orleans in 32 years. But a pedigree that makes him a politically-connected him one. His sister, Mary, is the senior U.S. Senator from Louisiana. And his father, Maurice “Moon” Landrieu, was the last white mayor of New Orleans. In fact, one of my favorite spaces in the city is the green space along the river know as the “Moon” Walk in his honor.
So, while krewes march through the streets. And the Colts and the Saints prepare for battle. New Orleans will also be electing a mayor. And while neither as colorful as parades, nor as exciting as the Super Bowl, the election will have significant impact on the future of New Orleans. For more on the election, click some fine analysis from the New York Times here.