Two days before the Oct. 20 election to decide whether Mayor Marc Morial can seek a third consecutive term, Gambit Weekly asked one proponent and one critic of Proposition A to predict the outcome -- and point out the highs and lows -- of the long campaign.
Both agreed. We, in turn, agreed to embargo their predictions until after the election. It was an easy promise to keep. Gambit Weekly went to press the day before Saturday's election, and the paper begins to hit the streets on Sunday.
Ron Nabonne, chair of the opposition group Citizens to Save Our Charter, predicted the measure would fail by 60 to 40 percent. Graymond Martin, a lawyer and Morial loyalist who directed the pro-third term effort by People United for Progress, predicted victory by 52-48 percent of the vote.
Martin said the high point of the pro 3T campaign came when proponents got the 10,000 signatures needed to put the issue on the ballot verified by Orleans Parish Registrar of Voters Louis Keller. "It was very gratifying because it ratified the process," says Martin, who jokingly described himself as a "Morial crony" throughout the campaign.
"The low point probably was the time we wasted in the courthouse with a bunch of yahoos who had no legal standing and no evidence against the issue -- they just didn't want the people of New Orleans to have a vote," Martin said.
He added that the first sign of good news for 3T was a poll by University of New Orleans pollster Susan Howell. The survey showed the referendum being soundly defeated, but Martin believed the poll indicated a "momentum shift" from previous polls that favored more support for Proposition A.
"The deciding factor of course will be the get-out-the-vote effort on Saturday," Martin predicted. "We will win because our voters were more motivated. It's difficult to go out and oppose it -- unless you want to be negative."
Martin said the one-week interruption of the campaign that followed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was not a factor in the campaign. "The entire nation came to standstill," he said. "The clock stopped for [3T opponents], too."
Cheron Brylski, campaign press secretary for state Sen. Paulette Irons -- an announced candidate for mayor in the Feb. 2 elections -- also predicted defeat for the Morial referendum. "My psychic abilities -- which suck -- say it will lose 53 to 47," said Brylski, who served as communications director in the administrations of the late Mayor Dutch Morial, father of the current mayor.
Brylski, who is politically estranged from Marc Morial, says there were many low points on the road to Saturday's elections. "I think the low point was the announcement that Marc was going to do this," she said. "It showed poor political judgment. He had a strong administration and a staff that is loyal and dedicated to a fault. But it's so obvious that the people pushing this were pushing it for their own political interests, and not his interest."
Brylski said she supported Dutch Morial's failed 1983 campaign to change the charter so mayors could run for "unlimited terms." The elder Morial ran that campaign on "principles," she said. But Dutch Morial's failed 1985 campaign for a third term "smacked of patronage," as did Marc Morial's recently concluded campaign, she said.
Brylski cited other low points:
· City Council member Scott Shea's initial opposition to 3T, which he later withdrew, saying he wanted to concentrate on street repairs.
· The failure by LIFE, the Morial political organization, to pay more than $14,000 in taxes on its campaign headquarters. "That was offensive to anyone who ever worked for Dutch Morial," Brylski said. Marc Morial called the tax disclosure "embarrassing." His brother and LIFE president Jacques Morial took responsibility for the debt.
· District Attorney Harry Connick's televised campaign ads suggesting that the nation's crisis was no time for a change of local leaders. Connick has previously admitted that his own political fate is tied to that of the mayor.
· Police Superintendent Richard Pennington also aired TV spots "shilling" for Morial, Brylski said. "If we want to stop the political meddling in the police department, that kind of stuff has to end," she said.
Law enforcement officers in general and NOPD officers in particular take a dim view of chiefs who campaign for candidates. Pennington, who took office as a "reform" chief, also appeared in prior campaign commercials for City Councilman Marlin Gusman, the former Chief Administrative Officer for the city. -->