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Campaign Comic Relief 

In between the rhetoric, a few lighter moments surface

There has been no shortage of heated rhetoric, attack flyers and vicious rumors in the citywide races leading up to the elections. And thanks to the gravity of campaign issues such as unemployment, city budget woes and political patronage, humor has been harder to find.

"Everybody's so damn earnest," says Sid Arroyo, campaign chair for Jay Batt, candidate for City Council District A.

However, the past few weeks have produced at least a few moments of humor -- some of them intentional. Police Superintendent Richard Pennington, a political newcomer and the front-runner in most polls for mayor, gets a few chuckles with a self-deprecating joke about his lack of campaign experience.

"I'm so new at this, I just started smiling six weeks ago," Pennington says.

Of course, Pennington's penchant for malapropisms gets a few laughs -- at his own expense. One of the chief's latest verbal blunders came when he referred to his "champagne chairman." Pennington campaign spokesperson Pierre DeGruy wryly notes, "At least he didn't say, 'Read my lips.'"

Meanwhile Nelson Savoie, a candidate for City Council District C who aspires to become the first Cajun council member in New Orleans history, says he will re-examine a city noise ordinance that has been at the center of disputes between French Quarter residents and street musicians. He uses an apt metaphor to describe what it's like to reside in the French Quarter.

"If you are going to live by an airport, you are going to have to expect a plane to fly over you," Savoie says.

Jim Singleton, who at 68 is the oldest of the 15 candidates in the mayor's race, laughed when asked if would seek to change the charter so he could seek a third consecutive term. "I'll be 76 by the end of my second term," Singleton chuckles. Of course, that's not saying that would stop him.

Finally, Sal Palmisano, the District A Council candidate who says he lost his parking "boot" business in a permit fight with city hall, says the city should save money by downsizing its vehicle fleet -- but not by eliminating the city car and driver he'll get if he is elected.

Palmisano, who says he "lost everything" fighting city hall, says he will make good use of his council car. He now drives a 1987 yellow Cadillac. "The brakes don't work and the hubcaps are falling off," he says.

Palmisano, 28, also candidly admits to a long list of traffic violations, including two arrests for driving while intoxicated. "It's not something to brag about, but maybe it's good that I'll have a driver," he notes. He goes on to admit that his driving record is not perfect. "But let me tell you that is not going to hinder my ability as far as running an office and to be very effective," he says.

CORRECTION: In last week's cover story "Live Wires," Louis Romanos' name was misspelled. Gambit Weekly regrets the error.

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