At the beginning of 2009, outgoing Mayor Ray Nagin reported $153,042.08 in campaign funds on hand for a "major office TBD," according to a Jan. 12 campaign finance report — the mayor's most recent filing as of late last week. Businessman David A. White, the mayor's close friend and campaign treasurer, could not be reached for comment on the report. The term-limited mayor's political options appear few, at least locally. As a resident of Park Island, Nagin lives in City Council District A, the seat being vacated by fellow Democrat Shelley Midura. Nagin could qualify next month for the District A race (against Republican former Councilman Jay Batt), or he could run for an at-large council seat, veteran politico Lambert Boissiere Jr. acknowledged last week. Few pundits have been able to accurately predict what Nagin will do (or say) next. However, there is a historical precedent for a mayor running for a city council seat — as Boissiere knows.
In 1986, term-limited Mayor Ernest "Dutch" Morial stunned political observers by qualifying for the District D Council seat then held by Boissiere, a stalwart of the COUP political group and a rival of Morial and his LIFE organization. Morial narrowly trailed Boissiere in the primary, then dropped out before the runoff — leaving Boissiere unopposed and re-elected.
Boissiere, who was recently re-elected as constable of First City Court, doubts Nagin will try to follow in Morial's footsteps when qualifying opens on Dec. 9 for the Feb. 6 primary. "Nagin might have high name recognition, but I don't think he has the popularity," Boissiere says. "I don't think he has the appetite (for public office) and I don't think the people have the appetite to support him if he did run. It's a tough time, budget-wise." Nagin's poll numbers have been dismal since his re-election in 2006, and the city faces a $68 million projected deficit. Among those seeking to replace Nagin is state Sen. Edwin Murray, whose Senate District 4 includes Nagin's Park Island neighborhood. — Allen Johnson Jr.