Friday, February 19, 2010

Moderation and Caution at the Polls

During all of the Who Dat and Carnival celebrations there was an election. To hear many people you would think it was some kind of massive reform vote. But I think the truth is much different. Very few new comers were elected. The vote was largely a cautious vote for safety and competence. One fact which I haven't seen anywhere (but I've been out of town a lot) , no incumbent was defeated. In the one race with two incumbents, both made it to a run off. In most other races well known politicians won easily.

State Senator -- 5th Senatorial District
91 of 91 Precincts Reporting
Karen Carter Peterson (D)13,50978.34%
Irma Muse Dixon (D)3,73421.66%

Karen Carter Peterson has been a rising star on the local political scene for a while. She was considered to be a strong candidate for Mayor, but chose not to run. She was mentioned as a challenger to Joseph Cao, but chose the State Senate.

Judge -- Civil District Court, Division J
366 of 366 Precincts Reporting
Paula Brown (D)48,01060.55%
Stephen Chesnut (R)14,83718.71%
Morris Reed (D)16,44220.74%

Paula Brown was a former temporary judge who won easy election in a minor race.

Judge -- Juvenile Court, Section E
366 of 366 Precincts Reporting
Richard Exnicios (D)20,06526.07%
Tracey Flemings-Davillier (D)38,78650.39%
Marie Williams (D)18,12123.54%

Don't know much about Tracey Flemings-Davillier, another minor race.

366 of 366 Precincts Reporting
Marlin N. Gusman (D - I) 69,289 82.89%
Pat M. Peyton (D) 14,301 17.11%

Marlin Gusman ran an impressive race against a minor challenger. Easy incumbent victory

Clerk -- Criminal District Court
366 of 366 Precincts Reporting
Arthur A. Morrell (D - I) 63,821 81.99%
Harold E. Weiser (N) 14,020 18.01%

Another Incumbent victory against a minor challenger.

366 of 366 Precincts Reporting
Andrew Gressett (R) 5,269 6.30%
Janis Lemle (D) 19,750 23.61%
Claude Mauberret (D - I) 20,919 25.01%
Erroll G. Williams (D - I) 37,697 45.07%

In a hotly contested race for the new combined Assessor, two incumbents edged out a full fledged reformer/new comer. This election more that any other illustrates the moderate mood of the electorate.

366 of 366 Precincts Reporting
Dwight McKenna (D) 32,435 39.59%
Frank Minyard (D - I) 49,483 60.41%

Another impressive win for incumbency, the long time heavily criticized 80 year old white Minyard against the well connected black McKenna. Neither exactly a reformer or an outsider.

Mayor -- City of New Orleans
366 of 366 Precincts Reporting
Jonah Bascle (N) 160 0.18%
"Manny" Chevrolet-Bruno (O) 139 0.16%
Robert "Rob" Couhig (R) 4,874 5.48%
John Georges (D) 8,189 9.21%
Troy Henry (D) 12,275 13.80%
"Jerry" Jacobs (N) 106 0.12%
Thomas A. Lambert (R) 239 0.27%
Mitchell "Mitch" Landrieu (D) 58,276 65.52%
James Perry (D) 2,702 3.04%
Nadine Ramsey (D) 1,894 2.13%
Norbert P. Rome (N) 84 0.09%

Mitch's win is stunning. I was sure that there would be a divisive run off. No one I know of predicted the margin. In retrospect it seems voters were retreating to safety and familiarity. Mitch had run twice before, the community had a largely positive view of his sister and father. I think it would be a mistake to view this as an endorsement for reform, that was simply not a part of Mitch's campaign. He ran as the safe "not Nagin". Mitch's legacy could well be a "good" but it's hard to see a radical reformer in his history or his personality.

Councilmember(s) at Large
366 of 366 Precincts Reporting
Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson (D - I) 38,904 26.57%
"Arnie" D. Fielkow (D -I) 51,310 35.05%
William "Poppa" Gant (N) 1,370 0.94%
Nolan Marshall (D) 13,411 9.16%
Gregory "Chef" Sonnier (R) 3,014 2.06%
"Lance" W. von Uhde III (R) 1,031 0.70%
Cynthia Willard-Lewis (D) 37,362 25.52%

The two incumbents won easily, the only serious challenger was the other incumbent Cynthia Willard-Lewis.

Councilmember -- District A
89 of 89 Precincts Reporting
John "Jay" Batt (R) 9,046 39.32%
Virginia Blanque (R) 3,324 14.45%
Susan G. Guidry (D) 10,173 44.22%
"Fred" Robertson (N) 461 2.00%

District A's incumbent reformer elected not to run and endorsed Susan Guidry. The former incumbent Jay Batt decided to run again. Guidry is a new face running as a reformer against a polarizing former incumbent but was unable to close the deal. Again familiarity blunted reform.

Councilmember -- District B
81 of 81 Precincts Reporting
Stacy Head (D - I) 10,132 66.86%
Corey Watson (D) 5,021 33.14%

Possibly the most interesting race where the reform and incumbent streams merged in the landslide re-election of a controversial reformer over a new face. The association of the new face with the old guard may well have affected his appeal.

Councilmember -- District C
76 of 76 Precincts Reporting
"Tom" Arnold (R) 5,217 31.82%
Kristin Gisleson Palmer (D) 10,508 64.10%
Nathaniel Jones (N) 668 4.07%

I know very little about this race. It seems the only clear instance of the rejection of an incumbent (Tom Arnold) for a new comer (Kristin Palmer) with little government experience. She was endorsed by the incumbent James Carter. Her opponents "eccentricities" didn't hurt either.

Councilmember -- District D
63 of 63 Precincts Reporting
Cynthia Hedge-Morrell (D -I) 11,612 76.53%
Denise Holden (D) 3,562 23.47%

Another clear win for the Incumbent Party.

Councilmember -- District E
57 of 57 Precincts Reporting
Austin Badon (D) 5,078 38.85%
Jerrelda Drummer-Sanders (D) 805 6.16%
Jon Johnson (D) 3,912 29.93%
Leonard Lucas, Jr. (D) 434 3.32%
Cyndi Nguyen (D) 1,776 13.59%
Alicia Plummer (D) 1,065 8.15%

With no incumbent this race resulted in a run off between politicians looking to move up. An incumbent State Rep and a former legislator, score tie for the Incumbent Party.

The remaining ballot matters generally reflect a distrust of City Government to deliver services. All of them passed overwhelmingly. Crime prevention districts generally reflect a view that the NOPD cannot be trusted to deliver services to generally affluent areas. The idea that the services provided by these districts enhance the service in certain areas is highly suspect. The NOPD could be expected to redeploy its resources out of area covered by these special assessments. These districts do guarantee a minimum level of service.

Lake Terrace Crime Prevention Dist. -- Parcel Fee - CC - 8 Yrs.
2 of 2 Precincts Reporting
Yes 365 86.70%
No 56 13.30%

Spring Lake Subdiv. Imp. Dist. -- $200 Annual Fee - CC - 8 Yrs.
1 of 1 Precincts Reporting
Yes 100 73.53%
No 36 26.47%

Garden District Security District -- 19 Mills - CC - 8 Yrs.
12 of 12 Precincts Reporting
Yes 1,136 90.30%
No 122 9.70%

Touro Bouligny Security District -- 16 2/10 Mills - CC - 8 Yrs.
10 of 10 Precincts Reporting
Yes 617 81.29%
No 142 18.71%

Those expecting some kind of massive reform are likely mistaken. Interpreting this election, however relieved we were to be rid of Rey Ray Nagin, as an endorsement of reform is probably going to disappoint the reformers. None of the candidates ran on a strong reform platform. There was remarkable unanimity on a number of small reforms. Mostly they simply promised to do a better job than the current bunch.

Nothing in the results suggests to me that many of the officials elected are willing to make the kinds of structural reforms needed to prevent the recurrence of a Nagin like mayor. This is somewhat similar to the pronouncements following Obama's election that the American People had changed their stripes and now were born again New Deal Progressive Democrats. What was really at work was much simpler and more mundane. George W Bush was the most unpopular President in recent memory. Nagin is even more unpopular than George W. Bush was.

There seems to me a common flailing in the progressive culture. There is a wide spread belief that if we could only elect the smartest, most eloquent Philosopher King things will fall into place. In fact as the framers of the Constitution demonstrated, the underlying structure matters far more to successful government than the people operating it. Any defect in structure will be exploited for the benefit of special interests or personal gain. The vesting of so much power in the person of the Mayor is a severe defect in the New Orleans City government.


Anonymous said...

What is a "former incumbent"? In the secion dealing with District A, you kept refering to Batt as a "former incumbent". This is the fourth time he has run for this seat.He actually won once in 2002.
Just because he won once, it doesn't make him an incumbent for life. It makes him the former.

Anonymous said...

Your last paragraph resonates with me more than anything. I sent this out to my contributors.
I would like to thank you for the necessary support in my attempt at winning a seat on the New Orleans City Council. Although the outcome was not what we had hoped for, my candidacy should lead the winners towards changing the way in which City Hall conducts its business. I will remain vigilant of their promise to abandon the “politics of the past” and help the businesses and taxpayers that are already here.
Our city`s growth is dependent upon a user-friendly, open-government structured for all business and property owners to navigate without peril.
Gregory “Chef” Sonnier
Former Candidate City Council at Large 2010