What a week! After months of languishing in the doldrums, an eventful week of qualifying for the Feb. 6 citywide elections was followed by another week of major developments: Leslie Jacobs' withdrawal from the mayor's race and state Sen. Cheryl Gray-Evans' sudden resignation.
Both events will have significant domino effects on the local and statewide political landscape.
Jacobs' decision to drop out of the mayor's race was not entirely a surprise, but it nonetheless will have a major impact on the race, both politically and substantively. Politically, most of her votes are likely to go to Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, whose front-runner status is now more confirmed than ever. Substantively, Jacobs will be sorely missed on the debate circuit. As she promised in one of her ads, she brings a "laser-like focus" to any discussion of the issues and generally serves as the adult in the room.
Here's another interesting twist to Jacobs' withdrawal: Where will her money go? Not her own money, but the money she raised. Sources in the business community, which was Jacobs' political and financial base, say that while most of her votes will likely gravitate toward Landrieu, her money people may be more evenly split between Landrieu and John Georges, who is a member of the Business Council. In the end, however, it's votes that count — and Landrieu is probably the largest beneficiary of Jacobs' decision to drop out.
Give Jacobs credit, too, for doing it with class. Her decision reflects a fundamental honesty. She said from the beginning that she would not run if Landrieu were a candidate, and she kept her word. She also made the decision quickly, though it came after she commissioned a poll, which reportedly showed Landrieu running very strongly. In fact, several sources say Jacobs' poll mirrors one conducted recently for Councilman-at-large Arnie Fielkow. Both polls reportedly show a wave of "buyers' remorse" among black voters in favor of Landrieu in the aftermath of Ray Nagin's re-election in 2006 (and Nagin's dismal performance as mayor ever since).
Poll numbers like that are what got Landrieu back in the race, as it appears he might have a chance to get enough black crossover support this time to offset the residual anti-Landrieu white vote that cost him the mayor's race in 2006. No doubt there's considerable buyers' remorse among whites as well, but after Landrieu's sister, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, votes for the Democratic health care plan, look for those old demons to come back. Mitch Landrieu's emphasis on healing the city's racial divide thus makes political as well as moral sense.
Statewide, his potential election as mayor will have a huge impact. Folks already are lining up to approach Gov. Bobby Jindal, who will get to appoint an interim lieutenant governor if Landrieu is elected mayor. There's a catch, however: Jindal's appointee must be confirmed by both houses of the Legislature. My money says that approval won't come unless Jindal's appointee promises not to run for the spot in the ensuing statewide special election, which would be next fall — on the same ballot as the congressional elections and U.S. Sen. David Vitter's re-election bid. That would be some ballot.
On another front, Gray-Evans' resignation sets off a domino effect on the local political scene. The special election to replace her will be Feb. 6, the same day as the citywide elections. Qualifying is Dec. 28-30, which greatly favors House Speaker Pro Tempore Karen Carter Peterson. She is well known and will be well financed and well organized. So far, all local legislators who could otherwise run for the seat are supporting her. Carter Peterson's anticipated election would, in turn, open up a seat in the state House of Representatives, and it will be interesting to see if any of the unsuccessful candidates for City Council jump into that contest.
The dominoes are lined up. It will be interesting to see if and how they fall.
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