The Feb. 6 primary is history — and one for the history books. Mitch Landrieu's unprecedented 65.5 percent landslide in the primary could signal the beginning of a new electoral paradigm in citywide elections — if we can just get the Saints to the Super Bowl every election season. Other outcomes were historic as well.
The mayor's race was a big do-over from the 2006 election. I've written previously that many voters developed a monster case of buyers' remorse after Ray Nagin was re-elected; the Feb. 6 results proved it. That remorse was particularly prevalent in black precincts, but voters everywhere wanted nothing more of the "businessman" model. This time, they wanted a mayor who understands politics and government and who, above all, is competent. No other candidate fit that bill like Landrieu.
The buyers' remorse even extended to conservative Republicans, many of whom voted for Nagin over Landrieu four years ago at the urging of defeated candidate Rob Couhig, who this year got less than half the votes he garnered in the 2006 primary. How ironic: In the 2006 runoff, the GOP mantra was, "I'd rather have four more years of Ray than eight years of Mitch." Now they're about to have both.
The result in the mayor's race also was a repudiation of Nagin — not just because of buyers' remorse, but also because of Hizzoner's shameless attempts at race-baiting. Nagin spent some of his own campaign funds on black radio, urging black voters to keep The Franchise, but his appeal fell on deaf ears. Voters aren't stupid, Mr. Mayor. They see you for what you are, and they want something different going forward.
In other elections:
• Third District Assessor Erroll Williams probably will become New Orleans' first citywide assessor, an outcome that is dripping with irony. In the autumn of 2006, Williams led the charge against the referendum to combine the seven assessorial offices into one. Now he's a virtual certainty to become The One. Reform candidate Janis Lemle finished a disappointing third, behind Williams and 2nd District Assessor Claude Mauberret. Although Mauberret trailed Williams by a margin of 45 percent to 25 percent, he no doubt took consolation in the fact that he narrowly edged out Lemle.
• In the at-large City Council race, Arnie Fielkow coasted to an easy win — after casting the deciding vote for a big councilmanic pay raise last fall. Some wags predicted back then that he would face constituents' wrath for that vote, but they couldn't have been more wrong.
The contest for the other at-large seat fell to Jackie Clarkson after black voters in eastern New Orleans stayed home in droves. Turnout was low everywhere, but nowhere as low as in Cynthia Willard-Lewis' base of City Council District E. It was less than 20 percent there, and that was the difference in Clarkson's victory.
• In other council races, voters preferred a mix of familiar names and new faces. In Council District A, "virtual incumbent" Jay Batt finished a disappointing second to political newbie Susan Guidry, who led with 44 percent to Batt's 39 percent. Batt worked hard to shed his frat-boy image since losing to upstart Shelley Midura in 2006, but apparently the "Anybody But Batt" movement lives on. In Districts B and D, incumbents Stacey Head and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell won easily.
• In Council District C, Kristin Gisleson Palmer trounced Algiers Assessor Tom Arnold by a margin of nearly 2-1. Palmer got a lot of help from Arnold himself, who came in for some bad publicity after a series of recent gaffes, as well as from outgoing Councilman James Carter, who endorsed Palmer late in the campaign. That was another irony: Carter narrowly beat Palmer in the 2006 runoff.
• In Council District E, state Rep. Austin Badon led the field with 39 percent of the vote, followed by former state Sen. Jon Johnson with just under 30 percent. The March 6 runoff will be a no-holds-barred affair, but turnout could set a record low.
Overall, Feb. 6 gave us a combination of do-overs and holdovers.