Monday, December 18, 2006

Run-off Rundown

Last week's New Orleans’ run-off election is old news now—posting a bit belatedly due to a sales conference in Florida and jury duty. Evidently William Jefferson needs to be caught with more than $90 grand before the voters will turn him out.

The Times-Picayune’s coverage pointed to Jefferson’s success with African-American voters, chalking it up to low voter turnout and post-Katrina skepticism of the federal government, which of course, he has been an influential part of for years. They also report on his surprising success with white voters, in part credited to the law & order criticism leveled at Jefferson’s opponent by the sheriff of Jefferson Parrish.

I suspect there were two additional factors behind Jefferson’s big win—at 57% it was big. First and foremost, Ray Nagin seems to have a tight hold on the city’s machine. Nagin survived a challenge from the Democrat Lt. Governor earlier this year, and had supported Jefferson’s re-election. As for Jefferson’s success with white voters, I suspect Republicans and Republican-inclined independents pulled the lever for Jefferson in hopes of sending Nancy Pelosi a New Orleans-sized headache. Mission accomplished. I can understand the inclination, but it will not help NOLA’s rebuilding efforts that their most prominent political leaders are Nagin and Jefferson.

Pelosi has already said Jefferson is not reclaiming his seat on the appropriations committee. It is hard to see how he will wield much influence, despite being in the majority. How desirable is it going to be to land Jefferson as a cosponsor on legislation, for instance?

The political strength of Nagin is the biggest story and something that should concern “Governor” Blanco. Nagin had supported Republican Bobby Jindal in the 2003 campaign. After her incompetent handling of Katrina now Rep. Jindal is already spoiling for a rematch. If Nagin undercut hers in New Orleans, the Democrat base in the state, she’s toast. More political theater to come.