The 24-year-career of one of New Orleans' most recognizable politicians came to an end tonight in a ballroom at the Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter, when City Councilmember At-Large Jackie Clarkson, who was seeking reelection to her old seat in District C, conceded defeat to former Judge Nadine Ramsey
. The final vote was 59.3 percent for Ramsey, 40.7 percent for Clarkson, with 13,497 votes cast.
Clarkson, who had previously announced plans to retire after her current term, was "called to service," she said, by Mayor Mitch Landrieu. He introduced Clarkson by citing her record of public service and saying the Realtor-turned-councilwoman had aspired to be "a modern-day Lindy Boggs" — referencing the pioneering U.S. representative, who was the first woman elected to Congress from Louisiana. Also there were two of her council allies — District A Councilwoman Susan Guidry and Kristin Gisleson Palmer, who was stepping down from District C after one term.
Guidry, who had won a second term in District A in the January primary, was philosophical about the loss of one of her allies. "We've seen a lot of changes in the four years I've been on the council," she said, "and this will be another one." She said she didn't know Ramsey, but was looking forward to working with her. It was also a loss for Landrieu, who counted Clarkson among his strongest backers on the council. "Today was a sad day for the city of New Orleans. I will miss her," Landrieu said, before going on to congratulate Ramsey.
Clarkson's concession came well before the final vote was counted, at a time it seemed she was pulling ahead in the projections. Behind the scenes, however, campaign officials realized that the uncounted votes came from strong Ramsey precincts, many in Algiers, and conceded the race. It was one of several races
on the ballot where a Landrieu-backed candidate or proposition did not win.
Across town, at the victory party for At-Large candidate Jason Williams
, there were stars in the crowd, including rapper Lil Boosie, New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and boxer Evander Holyfield, but Clarkson's affair was more low-key, filled with longtime supporters (her daughter, actress Patricia Clarkson, was not in evidence). The councilwoman took the stage with her family, including her husband Buzz and many of her grandchildren, smiling as a crowd of about 100 gave her a standing ovation. Buzz Clarkson took the mic briefly to say, "The city lost. But I won."
It was the third council race loss for Clarkson overall, and the second in District C, an area of the city that encompasses Algiers (home base for both Clarkson and Ramsey), the French Quarter and parts of the Marigny/Bywater. Clarkson had represented District C from 1990-1994 before being deposed by Troy Carter. She won reelection to the district eight years later and served one term before running for an At-Large seat in 2006, which she lost to Arnie Fielkow. After the resignation of former At-Large Councilman Oliver Thomas, who was convicted on bribery charges, Clarkson ran for an At-Large seat, winning it in a runoff with Cynthia Willard-Lewis, and has held it since.
Even Clarkson's opponents have had to concede her vigor — at 78, she's the oldest member of the council — and in a post-concession interview, Clarkson made it clear she wouldn't be slowing down. Asked about her future plans, she said, "Well, I've been asked to be honorary consul-general of Lithuania. My grandmother's from there, and I've been working with them, because of the two ports. And there's continuation with the NORD [New Orleans Recreation Department] program; there's all kinds of ways to volunteer there. ... And back to my family, and back to my real estate."