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By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 08 February 2010

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Frustrated by term-limited Mayor Ray Nagin's leadership of New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina, voters elected Louisiana Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu to succeed him Saturday, turning to a political scion to speed up the city's recovery. The vote preceded the Saints' victory in the Superbowl Sunday.
Landrieu, 49, became the majority-Black city's first white mayor since 1979, the year his father Moon left the office. The mayor-elect, a moderate Democrat, won in a landslide over a field of 10 opponents in a campaign that also focused on the city's violent crime and slumping finances.
Flanked by family members including his father and his sister, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., Landrieu said the victory showed voters had decided to "strike a blow for unity."
Voting came amid Carnival celebrations and preparations for the New Orleans Saints' appearance in the Super Bowl on Sunday. Landrieu's victory party was a nod to both: the ballroom of a the Roosevelt hotel -- recently reopened after a post-Katrina restoration -- was festooned with Saints-themed Black and gold balloons. A roving brass band played Mardi Gras tunes and he prefaced his victory speech by leading the crowd in the Saints' "Who Dat" cheer.
With all precincts reporting, Landrieu had 66 percent of the vote.
Landrieu, who lost to Nagin in a runoff four years ago, was a welcome change for some voters who grew frustrated with the city's current mayor. Little known outside New Orleans before Katrina, Nagin became a central, and sometimes controversial figure, in the city's struggle to recover. Though he won re-election as he courted Black voters in the 2006 campaign. Nagin notoriously pledged after the hurricane that New Orleans would be a "chocolate city" again, offending many.
Polls showed his popularity fell sharply in the years after the storm.
"I certainly don't want another Ray Nagin -- a businessman," said Charlotte Ford, a 76-year-old semi-retiree and registered Republican who voted for Landrieu. "They balk instead of finding out what works, how the system works."
Ursula Murphy and her husband, Bill, voted early so they could avoid traffic caused by the parades. Both cast votes for Landrieu. "After eight years of negative, we're going to see some positive," Bill Murphy said.
Landrieu rarely directly mentioned Nagin during the campaign but lamented the city's numerous problems, including violent crime that has resulted in 189 homicides since Jan. 1, 2009 and seemingly hamstrung efforts to restore infrastructure damaged by Katrina in parts of the city.
"They just don't see anything going on," Landrieu said last week after numerous New Orleans musicians, among them Allen Toussaint, Branford and Ellis Marsalis, Irma Thomas, Pete Fountain, Terence Blanchard and Kermit Ruffins announced an endorsement. "They want someobdy with the experience to make it happen."
Landrieu, an attorney, gained his experience during 16 years representing New Orleans in the state House and then as lieutenant governor. He's in his second year in that post where, aside from being first in the succession line if something happens to the governor, he has headed up cultural and tourism efforts.
Mitch Landrieu is the fifth child of nine born to Moon and Verna Landrieu. Moon -- former state legislator, former mayor, former Carter administration cabinet member and retired state judge -- is the patriarch of a politically active family that includes U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, and a local judge.
The Landrieus have enjoyed a generally good relationship with Black voters, owing in part to Moon Landrieu being one of the few White lawmakers to stand up to those trying to maintain segregation in the civil rights era. As mayor, he was the first to appoint Blacks to higher-ranking positions at City Hall.
Associated Press reporter Cain Burdeau in New Orleans contributed to this story.


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