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Managing with Mitch 

Mayor Mitch Landrieu has dealt with the dissidents and disposed of the threat that was former Judge Michael Bagneris. He also has shaken — for now — the shadow of his big sister, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, who faces a tough re-election bid herself later this year.

  Now he has to govern. Which is always more difficult than it sounds.

  Mitch Landrieu has challenges in the state House, namely Rep. Jeff Arnold, D-Algiers, the dean of the Lower Chamber, who has been increasingly critical of the mayor. "With Mitch, it's, 'If you're not 100 percent with me, you're 100 percent against me,'" Arnold said when he endorsed Bagneris.

  Sure, Arnold now says he's moving on, but everyone knows political grudges are only buried ankle deep in Louisiana.

  In the Senate, Landrieu likewise will need help from state Sen. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans, who, like Arnold, backed Bagneris for mayor. While Murray has found ways to work with Landrieu in the past (the two were law school classmates), he could be more preoccupied than usual with the idea of moving back to the House from which he came in 2004.

  Political conjecture has the term-limited Murray eyeing the seat of state Rep. Jared Brossett, D-New Orleans, who was elected to the City Council in the Feb. 1 primary. Brossett, in turn, will require an altogether different touch from Landrieu in the coming months.

  From the delegation of New Orleans proper, Landrieu had just as many opposing his re-election as he did supporting it, or at least staying quiet. Nearly all of them are quick with stories, many that played out during the election, about working with the crowned prince of Louisiana Democrats. "If you haven't had a run-in with Mitch, that just means the plate hasn't come around to you yet," says one long-time lawmaker.

  That could make for interesting cocktail conversation when "New Orleans Day at the Legislature" rolls around. That's a full-day annual affair at which legislative staffers are treated to beignets for breakfast and local lawmakers share lunch with the mayor and City Council members.

  The breaking of bread usually is accompanied by a discussion of city issues and the mayor's legislative requests, which often sets the tone for the rest of the day.

  "The big party that night, with the band and the food and the drinks — some of us don't even want to go after all that," says another lawmaker.

  But hopes are high that this year will be different. Some lawmakers say Landrieu has requested or agreed to personal meetings since the campaign ended, in an effort to patch things up and start anew.

  If Landrieu does warm to the task of improving his legislative relations, it surely will ignite speculation that he's likewise warming to the idea of running for governor next year. Then again, if the mayor is to be taken at his word, specifically those words uttered at a forum in late January, he will instead finish out his term in New Orleans before looking to move to Baton Rouge.

  For now, there's plenty to keep the local delegation focused on local issues. Gov. Bobby Jindal is once again trying to "borrow" $50 million from the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center to keep health care and higher education afloat. New Orleans lawmakers beat back an attempt by Jindal to grab twice that amount last year.

  They'll have to work just as hard to protect the Convention Center's fund this year, but they may be divided amid talk of a parallel push to tie the facility's bank balance to infrastructure improvements in the French Quarter. Whether that maneuver actually happens is another matter, but it would be the natural next step after City Hall made a similar move last year for the French Quarter and CBD-based "hospitality zone."

  It's an issue the mayor favored last year, as did some members of the New Orleans delegation. It may be fortunate that such matters can bring Landrieu and lawmakers to the table. For without them, they'd have nothing to discuss but politics.


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