Filed Under:  Local, News, Politics

About Town…

25th February 2014   ·   0 Comments

By Christopher Tidmore
Contributing Writer

Lourdes Moran Endorses Nadine Ramsey… Jackie Clark­son headlined a star-studded gala Monday night, February 17, MC’ed by her famed daughter Patricia and fellow Broadway luminary Bryan Batt.

It was a “who’s who” of New Orleans’ political and business worlds, from business leaders like Coleman Adler, Tony Gelderman, and Kurt Weigel to Councilwomen Stacy Head, Susan Guidry, and Kristin Palmer to House Speaker Pro Tem Rep. Walt Leger and other legislators. But, one person who did choose not to attend perhaps drew, at least, equal attention.

Lourdes Moran was an old friend of Jackie Clarkson’s. Her first race for the New Orleans School Board started in Clarkson’s Algiers living room, so many were surprised when she qualified for the District C race when Clarkson choose to run. Moran reportedly told Clarkson she would drop out in her favor, and then still remained in the contest, yet barely campaigned.

Still, Moran’s impact was felt on February 1. The former School Board member earned 850 votes or five percent of the vote, much of it—arguably—that would have gone to Clarkson in the primary, perhaps even putting the incumbent At-Large Councilwoman over to victory. Instead Jackie Clarkson and Nadine Ramsey each topped out at 45 percent, with only a 24-vote margin between them.

Then, Moran overshadowed the success of Clarkson’s high-profile fundraiser with the former School Board member’s decision to endorse former Judge Nadine Ramsey. Moran explained, “I ran for office because I wanted to improve the quality of life for all citizens of District C. I believe the true spirit of term limits is to offer the opportunity to tackle old problems with new approaches. Today I am endorsing Nadine Ramsey for Council District C because she will bring a new perspective to the city council, and the independence to recognize what is fair for all of District C.”

District C is 58 percent Black, but it is also a place that in past elections, Jackie Clarkson won the female Black vote repeatedly, even in her contests against other African-American candidates like Cynthia Willard-Lewis. However, on February 1st, Clarkson she did less well, losing many Black precincts to the former Judge.

Some speculated, including this newspaper, that Clarkson’s support of the Toll renewal on the CCC, impacted her usual fiscal conservative support, particularly in the Black community. However, Moran tapped into another strain of worry for the incumbent’s re-election bid. Going from At-Large to her old District Council post has forced Clarkson to confront the issue of term limits.

Legally, she has no more circumvented the two term limit than when she ran for At-Large from District C. The Charter provision applies only to eight years in one’s current office, but just as Ramsey successfully attacked Clarkson on the toll issue, the former Judge has subtly used term limits as another bludgeon. It’s been enough to win Ramsey not just Moran’s backing, but the endorsement of candidates Carlos Williams and Eloise Williams as well.

Now the race comes down to turnout. Uniquely amongst her races, the electorate in this District contest has racial polarized, by all accounts. Clarkson has African-American crossover support, as she always has, but having not won the Female Black vote, a core constituency of hers in “C,” the race is tight going into March 15.

Meanwhile, In Other Endorsement News… Ernest “Freddie” Charbonnet announced his endorsement for Cynthia Hedge Morrell for the open City Council At Large seat last week. The endorsement came as some surprise to supporters of Jason Williams. The former Tulane football player and local defense attorney had predicated much of his appeal on earning Uptown crossover white voters.

So had Charbonnet, who had the backing of key Garden District leaders, and was heavily supported by former District B candidate Eric Strachan. The two men sought the same silk stocking base. That led Williams to openly state in the primary that he expected that Charbonnet would endorse his candidacy in the runoff, should he beat out the former District E interim councilman.

Charbonnet, of course, made no such pledge, and instead opted to back his former councilmanic colleague, the current District D Councilwoman seeking promotion to the At-Large post. As he declared, “I am pleased to offer my endorsement to Cynthia Hedge Morrell for City Council At Large. Cynthia’s years of experience on the Council and her knowledge of city government make her my choice for our next Council At Large member. Cynthia and I share many of the same ideas about public policy and the best ways to keep our city moving forward. I look forward to supporting her and working with her to strengthen our city.”

Charbonnet joins Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Jeff Pres. John Young and nearly the entire compliment of Councilmembers and elected officials in Jefferson and Orleans parishes in supporting Hedge-Morrell. Williams has the backing of the Alliance for Good Government, and other groups.

And, in the Coroner’s Race… Dr, Jeffery Rouse had the biggest boost of his campaign last week when third place finisher Dr. Vincent Culotta endorsed the mental health professional’s campaign. This was a blow to Dr. Dwight McKenna who had widely thought that Cullotta would back him, given his history of critiques of Frank Minyard’s office.

Now, the race comes down to turnout. McKenna earned 48 percent of the vote in the primary, narrowly missing out on a first primary win. Both Rouse and Cullotta earned African-American votes, but not to the extent of McKenna. Turnout could prove the key on March 15. Rouse, though, leads McKenna in campaign contributions and has won nearly every political endorsement at this point.

8th Graders Enter the World of Politics… Young adults and grown-ups have a tough enough time keeping up with the world of politics, but kids? They are professionals at it! That is at least at Louisiana Connections Academy, the K-12 virtual public charter school open to students from across the state, where middle school students are taking part in a Youth Legislature program…for the third time!

Eighth-grade teacher Robert Handley teaches Louisiana History and wanted students to gain a deeper understanding of how government works. He decided to enroll his eighth grade class in the Youth Legislature program where middle school students get a more hands on experience with political matters.

“The program allows students to take on the role of state government positions,” said Mr. Handley. “ Students get the chance to be mock governors, cabinet members, senators, committee chairmen, and even members of the press.”

Each month, Handley does Live Lesson sessions with his students online where they go over current agendas and have meetings regarding state issues. Currently, the young politicians are working on a final bill to submit to their fellow elected class leaders. In the coming weeks, students will work on their oratory skills, proper rules of order, and how to behave in public, preparing for opportunities in March when the Louisiana State Capitol welcomes them. They will get the chance to interact with other students from all around the state creating mock legislation. They will present, debate, and vote on bills from all the students.

Even Mardi Gras can’t Keep Elections Down… The parades might be rolling the Saturday before Fat Tuesday, but election officials at City Hall, the Voting Machine Center in New Orleans East, and the Motor Vehicle Center at Vets. Blvd & West End will have to be hard at work. Early voting starts at each location Saturday, March 1. Though, do not try to vote on Mardi Gras Day. That’s a state holiday.

This article originally published in the February 24, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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