Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman will face off against his predecessor, Charles Foti, in a March 15 runoff following today's election. With 100 percent of the vote in, Gusman fell just below the victory mark with 49 percent of the vote to Foti's 29 percent. Challenger Ira Thomas took 19 percent and Quentin Brown 3 percent.
"I've been on pins and needles upstairs," Gusman told supporters at LACE The Grand Ballroom banquet hall in New Orleans East after an early projection showed him taking the race outright. "We don't know 'for sure' for sure, but things look pretty good." Several minutes later, however, the situation had changed, and Gusman came back to tell the crowd, "Looks like we have a little more work to do. ... We're going to be victorious."
In perhaps the evening's biggest irony, Gusman had entered his party to the strains of the Doobie Brothers' "What a Fool Believes."
As results came in projecting Gusman as the winner, and as the crowd erupted in cheers ("Gusman is our sheriff!"), the DJ spun Kool & the Gang's "Celebration" and Journey's "Don't Stop Believing."
Before thanking his family, Gusman thanked voters "for all their confidence. It's been a tough year and a tough campaign. Thanks to all the voters in New Orleans." He also thanked the hundreds of OPP staff and deputies in his command. "We're going to continue our efforts to make sure they're trained well and paid well," he said.
Gusman also thanked the organizations and newspapers who endorsed him, and "didn't focus on one snapshot or one event, but really looked at the totality of what we are doing, and how we've been transforming this sheriff's office from how many can we incarcerate, to how many can we rehabilitate." Gusman also hailed the construction of a new 1,438-bed jail facility.
Moments later across town, Foti greeted supporters with a smile as a runoff was announced. When Gusman took the stage a second time, the crowd went silent before launching into an applause. "I want to pump you up so we can make sure you're here again in March, victorious," Gusman said. "We're going to bring a message that we have really brought this office forward, and we're going to continue bringing this office forward. ... We don't want to go back to the days where he had over 6,000 inmates and the eighth largest jail facility. ... We want to move forward with progressive reform with programs that really help people."
As he left the stage, the DJ played Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines."