Once again, one of the biggest stories in the slow-developing New Orleans mayor's race is news that someone is not running. On Friday, Oct. 23, state Rep. Austin Badon confirmed what had been rumored for at least a month: that he was dropping out of the mayoral competition and running instead for City Council from District E.
"After the last six months of campaigning, it has become apparent that the independent coalition of citywide support I planned to build was not as strong as I had hoped," Badon said. "Sometimes it's just all about timing. Yet, one consistent message that emerged from many I talked with was the hope that I would run for the District E City Council seat. I believe that this is where I can have the most positive impact and can best help our city."
For Badon, this is a smart political move. For the remaining candidates in the mayor's race, it was welcome news.
Badon's decision helps the remaining African-American mayoral candidates in particular — state Sen. Ed Murray, businessman Troy Henry, former Judge Nadine Ramsey and attorney James Perry. Henry and Badon share eastern New Orleans as a geopolitical base, and Murray now has no competition among state legislators. That will give Murray a boost in his fundraising efforts among legislative lobbyists.
So far, none of the black mayoral candidates has broken from the pack in citywide polls, though Murray is considered the frontrunner for his political experience (18 years as a lawmaker) and his behind-the-scenes efforts to lock up traditional African-American power bases.
As for Badon, he goes from being an asterisk in the mayor's race to a frontrunner in the District E race — but he's by no means a shoo-in. He faced two huge hurdles in his citywide effort: lack of money and lack of name recognition. Those two problems were a chicken-and-egg dilemma for him. His lack of name recognition in polls hampered his fundraising efforts, and his lack of money dulled his chances to establish citywide name recognition. In District E, which includes his eastern New Orleans legislative district, he already has established himself as a political force.
Badon's move also makes sense in terms of his political experience. His resume pales in comparison to that of Murray, the only other legislator in the mayor's race. In a race for City Council, however, where candidates often make their first foray into elective politics, Badon's nearly six years in the state House of Representatives (where he now chairs the Education Committee) will give him an edge over his announced competition. So far, the other candidates for the District E seat include eastern New Orleans civic activist Cindi Nguyen and Orleans Parish School Board member Ira Thomas, who was elected to the board just last year.
On another mayoral front, Badon's decision frees his high-powered media consultants, Karen Carvin and Deno Seder, to work for a more moneyed candidate for mayor. Carvin's dad, the late Jim Carvin, played an integral role in the last 10 successful mayoral campaigns. His daughter, who worked at his side for the last 20 years, hopes to extend that streak. No doubt she and Seder have gotten a few calls already from the remaining mayoral candidates.
Meanwhile, Carvin and Seder will continue to work for Badon in his Council race.