If state Sen. Paulette Irons' announcement made it clear that Marc Morial will be an issue in the upcoming mayor's race, City Councilman Troy Carter's formal entry made it equally clear that Irons' record likewise will be an issue.
Carter suggested early on in his speech to a packed ballroom in the Wyndham Canal Place that Irons is talking the talk, but she hasn't walked the walk. Particularly in the recent 3T referendum.
"All of the candidates said they were opposed to ... removing our two-term limit," Carter said. "Yet only two of us put our money where our mouths were. Only two of us put up money and contributed to the organized opposition to the dangerous threat to the integrity of our City Charter. Only two of us put aside our political differences for a good and common community cause."
The two candidates of whom Carter spoke were himself and City Councilman Jim Singleton, who is expected to announce this week or next. Each put up at least $50,000 from their own campaign war chests to help 3T opponents mount an advertising campaign in answer to the mayor's barrage of TV and radio ads.
Irons spoke against the third-term referendum, but she did not put up any money or work directly with the committee opposing Morial's referendum.
"Some spoke a good game," Carter added. "Others acted to protect our charter."
Carter didn't mention Irons by name. He didn't have to.
And his veiled criticisms of Irons didn't end with her alleged inaction on 3T.
"Some candidates have already started the empty rhetoric and unrealistic promises," he continued. "But isn't everyone against crime, potholes and patronage? Isn't everyone for better education, better housing and more jobs? Our citizens have proven their wisdom. And they deserve more than political clichés."
Within several hours, Irons' spokeswoman Cheron Brylski sent political reporters an email noting that Carter's speech parroted Irons' at several points. "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," Brylski quipped.
In truth, all candidates are going to talk about certain issues -- crime, political reform, economic development, education, regionalism and others.
Irons focused more on patronage. Carter, on regionalism. In fact, that element of Carter's address was a little surprising. As campaign issues go, regional government is nowhere near as sexy as political patronage, but it's a lot more important in the long run -- particularly in a city strapped for cash. Carter says he already has initiated very serious discussions with suburban leaders about areas in which New Orleans and surrounding parishes can share costs and services. He even offered a carrot to neighboring parishes -- shared ownership and management of Louis Armstrong International Airport. The city currently owns the airport; the mayor controls appointments to the Aviation Board and, by extension, its patronage.
Carter added, however, that he won't give away the airport for free. "I will insist that similar discussions begin on other important regional issues ... including river ports, the New Millennium Port, functional and affordable regional transportation, public safety, low and moderate income housing, jails, solid waste disposal, environmental issues, and other problems which require regional solutions."
Some who have doubted Carter's mettle have questioned his depth on serious issues. By focusing on a serious, long-range issue such as regionalism in his mayoral announcement, Carter sent a message that he's prepared for a substantive debate. Irons has her own share of doubters on that score.
Most mayoral races are marathon affairs. Because of 3T, however, the Feb. 2 primary will be a sprint. Between now and then, we'll have Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Day and, on the same weekend as the primary, Super Bowl XXXVI.
That doesn't leave much time for campaigning, which explains why candidates aren't hesitating to point out one another's shortcomings. -->