The three bartenders manning the cash bar at the Bourbon Orleans Hotel Saturday for the victory party of newly elected District C City Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey were bored in the beginning of the night as people trickled into the ballroom on the second floor, waiting for the results to come in. "I wish it'd pick up," one said. The other two nodded in agreement.
A few hours later, after a beaming Ramsey walked in the door and delivered her victory speech, the line for the bar was out the door and "Happy" was playing in the ballroom. One Ramsey supporter was overhead saying, over and over again, "yes yes yes yes yes."
The former judge and 2010 mayoral candidate beat Jackie Clarkson after the latter served nearly 25 years in office, by about 2,500 votes. For many supporters, the election was about getting a fresh face in office, one who could connect with the constituents she's elected to serve. "We need fresh ideas with the energy that can move this city forward," said supporter Dante Butler, an attorney in New Orleans. Levi Arnold, a deputy constable, said that besides knowing Ramsey for nearly 25 years, he lives in Algiers and wants to see the roads repaired. "I talked to Jackie about it," he said, "and nothing got done. I think maybe if I talk to Nadine, something will get done."
Arnold was quick to point out that Clarkson had done right by the city during her years of service on the council, a sentiment shared by another Ramsey supporter, Beverly Taylor. "Jackie did fine," Taylor said. "She did well, everyone loved her. But we need someone new. I don't even think she wanted to do it anymore."
In her victory speech, Ramsey — a former judge and 2010 mayoral candidate — was overwhelmed with gratitude. "I am humbled by the support and love that has been displayed by the people of district C and the City of New Orleans," she said. "My parents taught me that with privileges, there are responsibilities, and with opportunities there are challenges. And tonight it is very humbling that a little girl from the Lower Ninth Ward who was brought up by a laborer and a clerk in New Orleans ... that I can stand here now and represent one of the most economically viable and culturally diverse districts of our city."
Ramsey thanked a handful of people who helped her campaign gain traction, among them U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond. "He worked very, very hard for me," she said. "And I will always appreciate the effort that he put forth and that his family put forth for me."
In an interview with Gambit after the speech, Ramsey said she expected a victory after working so hard. "We knew our supporters were going to come out," she said. She said she plans to work first on smoothing the transition into City Hall. "I'm going to be meeting with the leaders of the district to see what kinds of things we need to start putting in place."
When asked about the Algiers streets that Arnold had mentioned earlier in the night, Ramsey nodded and said, "Yes, the streets need a lot of work. I have committed to the residents that I would be putting that at the forefront, and I will be doing that."
"I am so excited," she added, before hugging yet another supporter.