26th March 2014 · 0 Comments
By Christopher Tidmore
March 15th Election Showed Blacks Voted at Levels Equal to whites… Jason Williams, following his Carnival-themed candidacy, paraded March 15th, election day, in the Irish Channel St. Patrick’s parade.
Unlike his implied politics of his ride as King of the Krewe of Freret three weeks prior, the politics of the situation was not even vaguely disguised. He and his supporters wore T-shirts encouraging his bid for Council at-Large and urging the parade watchers to go vote.
It did not work, at least in those precincts in Uptown that had low turnout amidst the good weather and parades. Apparently, uptown whites had better things to do that weekend than vote.
It did work citywide, however, for Williams trounced District D incumbent Cynthia Hedge-Morrell pretty much everywhere. The veteran Councilmember only won eight precincts. Williams carried the remainder, dominating both the white and Black vote, despite the fact that Mayor Landrieu had publicly endorsed his opponent.
It was an anti-incumbency vote, 68 percent to 32 percent. It crossed all economic and racial boundaries.
Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson had won African-American women in District C in her successful at-Large bids against Cynthia Willard-Lewis, but she could not repeat that feat against Judge Nadine Ramsey.
The 59 percent to 41 percent margin or 8,003 to 5,494 almost exactly mirrors the overall racial breakdown in District C.
Her opponent and winner of the race, Ramsey, a former judge managed not only to outperform Clarkson in her African-American base but also picked up white and Vietnamese votes as well.
A tertiary look at the precinct map showed Clarkson dominating in the white enclaves of the French Quarter, Marigny, Algiers Point, and suburban enclaves like English Turn and Stonebridge.
Areas in Lakeview, and precincts along St. Charles Ave. Uptown, and Venetian Isles wanted Charles Foti for sheriff. The rest of the city voted overwhelmingly for incumbent Marlin Gusman.
Returns in the sheriff race show that 58.6 percent of the electorate was Black, and Gusman won 67 percent of those votes. The 33 percent of the vote that Foti received during the run-off almost exactly reflected the percentage of white voters as a portion of the electorate going to the polls on March 15th.
Even the overwhelming 65 percent to 35 percent defeat of the 50-year Audubon Commission milliage, that far outpaced 58.6-33.8 composition of the White-Black electorate, had a racial overtone, though many Whites voted against renewal as well.
The few precincts that supported the measure tended to be the white areas of Uptown closest to the Zoo and park. However, African-American precincts that adjoin the Audubon facilities voted against the milliage overwhelmingly. Race tended to be a clearer indication of one’s perspective on the property tax than any other factor. Still, Caucasian Lakeview strongly voted against the milliage, advancing the argument that geography also played a role. The further away a white voter lived from Audubon Zoo, the less likely he or she was to support the Audubon property tax.
And, the racial argument of voting breaks down to some extent with the victory of Dr. Jeffery Rouse over Dr. Dwight McKenna for Coroner. Rouse’s 51 percent victory obviously came from considerable crossover support from Black voters. Still, Rouse won the traditional “bell curve” of White precincts stretching from the Lakefront to Uptown to Downtown, Algiers Point, and White Algiers suburbs. McKenna dominated from Central City to New Orleans East to the African-American precincts of Algiers.
And, it is clear from the results that Rouse prevailed due to his successful effort in the final days to equate McKenna’s past legal problems with those experienced by Bill Jefferson, Jon Johnson, and other politicians recently imprisoned.
The final lesson of the March 15th vote is that African Americans did it again. Blacks voted at levels equal, or thanks to St. Patrick’s parades, above the rates that whites did in Orleans Parish.
The turnout “gap” in voting no longer exists.
This article originally published in the March 24, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.