Filed Under:  Local, News, Politics

Black support for Landrieu reason for landslide victory

10th February 2014   ·   0 Comments

By Christopher Tidmore
Contributing Writer

The seminal political question of the 2014 mayor’s race, how much does race of the competent candidate really matter to the local African-Americans electorate—even if that incumbent is occasionally unresponsive to its leadership—was answered on February 1.

Not much. Mitch Landrieu might have won re-election with 64 percent of the vote, but the more important total was that the sitting mayor won a plurality of the Black vote. In other words, when matched against a credible African-American challenger, most middle-class Blacks found it a hard sell to fire the first effective and “reputedly honest” mayor in years; no matter how autocratic that incumbent might appear to the local Black leadership.

Of course, it did not hurt that Michael Bagneris’ financial contributions began to dry up ten days before the election. And in an exclusive, The Louisiana Weekly received calls from members of several of the ‘Alphabet political organizations’ revealing that the former CDC Judge’s campaign had no money to give to support Get Out the Vote (GOTV) efforts on election day.

Still, while Bagneris might have been broke by February 1, one should not conclude that the former Civil District Court judge did not prevail in many Black pre­cincts across the city. His message of the ‘forgotten New Orleans’ allowed him to carry 50 percent of the vote in 40 precincts, the majority of which were in the Ninth and Seventh Wards. Four were in Central City and Uptown, and two were on the Westbank, independent data analyst Brian Denzer explained to this newspaper.

He also triumphed in New Orleans East and the Ninth Ward. (The latter being the only place that third-place finisher Danatus King had any showing. In Ward 9, Precinct 5, where he won 15.7 percent of the vote.) Yet, in Gentilly, in Mid-City, and the ring of the River, areas in which the African-American middle class constitutes a majority along with a rising professional white influx, Denzer noted to that the results were about the same as the city as a whole.

As Denzer told Uptownmess-enger.com, in a separate interview, “The bellwether precinct — with results that most closely matched the citywide result of Landrieu’s 63.6 percent, Bagneris’ 33.3 percent and King’s 3.1 percent — was Ward 11, Precinct 2, which runs along the river in the Irish Channel, where Landrieu won 64.1 percent, Bagneris won 32.9 percent and King won 2.9 percent. Similar was Gentilly’s Ward 8, Precinct 29, where Landrieu won 63.1 percent, Bagneris won 33.9 and King won 2.9 percent.”

As Uptownmessenger’s Robert Morris noted, “Gentilly and the Seventh Ward showed varying results at the precinct level — in some, Landrieu’s support was similar to his results citywide, while in others, Landrieu fell below the 50 percent mark, with higher tallies for Judge Michael Bagneris.”

And to Republicans who had hoped that the GOP endorsement of Bagneris would make a difference, wooing the 30% of the Caucasian vote that Ray Nagin won against Landrieu, Denzer pointed out to that website, “Landrieu enjoyed tremendous support in most of Uptown — winning more than 90 percent of the vote in some 14th Ward precincts around Audubon Park — though the results were slightly more mixed in some parts of Hollygrove and Central City. Support for Landrieu was also very strong in Lakeview, Mid-City, the Central Business District, French Quarter, Marigny and Bywater, and almost all of Algiers.”

Bagneris has blamed his loss in part on low turnout, and Denzer notes that 5,000 fewer votes were cast in 2014 than in 2010. However, even if all 5,000 of those votes had been in Bagneris’ column, Landrieu would have still easily avoided a runoff. One political insider had a different theory, telling The Louisiana Weekly, “People didn’t want to hear that we’re the next Detroit.” Reportedly, that’s an argument that Bagneris was using.

On the other hand, Landrieu’s victory was “not the landslide that Landrieu won in 2010,” Denzer concluded. In that election, Landrieu won every precinct except one in Venetian Isles that went to John Georges.

Bagneris entered the 2014 mayor’s race with the support of senior Louisiana Republicans, including LAGOP Chair Roger Villere, and the La. Republican Party made a concerted effort to woo contributors for the lifelong Democrat. Every dollar spent by Mitch Landrieu was one fewer the Mayor could expend on behalf of GOTV efforts for his sister’s race in the fall (under the guise of “voter outreach efforts”) and his own potential bid for Governor in 2015.

Yet, the Republican Party mandarins also believed that Bagneris had a legitimate shot at winning. The Judge’s message that taxes had increased by 70% in real terms since Landrieu took office directly appealed to fiscal conservatives in Lakeview and Uptown. Playing on the fears of Orleanian Republicans that Mitch Landrieu’s victory could aid his sister’s uphill battle in November, the local GOP believed that they could convince enough of the GOP base to vote for Bagneris. If the Judge could get the same 30 percent of the white vote that Nagin earned against Landrieu, the former CDC Jurist could pull off the same kind of upset victory.

In the end, though, rank and file Republicans were no more convinced by their political leadership to vote against Landrieu than middle class African Americans were by theirs. It did not help that Bagneris, in a fear of turning off Black voters, was resistant to commissioning any television spots featuring prominent Republicans—similar to the Rob Couhig endorsement commercials that put Ray Nagin over the top in 2006.

One problem, a campaign insider admitted to this newspaper, was that the logical Republican to highlight the Orleans Parish Repub­lican Executive Committee En­dor­se­ment (the official NOLA GOP nod) was that organization’s Chairman, former District A Councilman Jay Batt. Of course, Batt still carries some lingering resentments amongst preservationists Uptown, a prominent GOP constituency, over the Brunos expansion and Stuart Hall demolitions, so Bagneris seemed hesitant commission TV ads with a spokesman who could harm as well as help.

Or, at least, that was the explanation given at the time. In the aftermath of the election, it grew abundantly clear that contributions to Bagneris’ campaign had begun to dry up almost two weeks prior to February 1. In other words, at the same time as the candidate was out filming his last series of commercials, his ability to air them diminished. Just as the former CDC Judge lacked the funds for GOTV efforts by BOLD, COUP, LIFE, and SOUL—just a few of the Black political organizations who backed him—he had no TV money to woo Republicans.

Every election loss also bring tactical soul searching within the losing camp. Some believe that Bagneris always had a disadvantage wooing white voters in the primary. As one senior GOP Central Committee member put it, “The strategic mistake was in not having another white candidate in the race. Not a Republican like Rob Couhig, but a Democrat in the mold of Leslie Jacobs or Ron Forman who could have drawn away the more moderately conservative Caucasians.”

Not those two specifically, of course, for they both backed Mitch this time. In point of fact, so did almost every major conservative Democrat in the city that could have filled the profile. Perhaps that was part of the problem for Bagneris.

This article originally published in the February 10, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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