Louisiana’s top election official is expected to announce today that the New Orleans mayoral race scheduled for Feb. 4 will be delayed until early April.
“No one I’ve talked to believes it will happen in February,” said one Democratic state official, and the dwindling numbers of Democratic voters “gives Democrats reason to worry” about holding the election in February.
The state’s legislative black caucus is pushing for the primary election to be held in October, more than a year after hurricanes devastated New Orleans, to give their constituency more time to return home and vote.
But political observers predict that Secretary of State Al Ater today will move the primary ballot to April, which likely will include Democratic Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco’s proposal to take more money from the “rainy day fund” to balance the state’s $3.2 billion budget deficit in addition to the previously scheduled mayoral race and all seven seats on the New Orleans City Council.
“This is a real mystery election, because you don’t know who the electorate is,” said John Maginnis, author of two books on Louisiana politics and editor of Louisiana Political Fax Weekly.
Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, is backing a measure before Congress that would allow evacuees to use the military’s system of voting by absentee through 2008 — the same year she is up for re-election.
“Mary is very nervous that her margin of victory ended up in the Superdome,” said Christopher Tidmore, a political columnist for Louisiana Weekly, referring to Mrs. Landrieu’s 2002 election in which New Orleans voters gave her the necessary votes to beat her opponent.
In this month’s special session of the state Legislature, Democrats pushed bills to allow voters registered through the Motor Voter Act who have never voted before to do so by absentee ballot. The measures was defeated by Republican lawmakers.
“I’d crawl on my hands and knees to vote to replace the current administration,” said Rep. Peppi Bruneau, New Orleans Republican who fought the measure in the House.
New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin is expected to run for re-election, but his spokeswoman did not return calls. His popularity waned quickly after Hurricane Katrina, and he was criticized last week for taking a trip to Jamaica to encourage business with his city.
“Ray Nagin has a higher chance of getting elected mayor of Kingsport than mayor of New Orleans. There is widespread discontent with Ray Nagin,” Mr. Tidmore said.
Mrs. Landrieu’s brother, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, is considering challenging Mr. Nagin, and a decision to postpone the election until April improves the chances he will run, Mr. Tidmore said.
Jimmy Fahrenholtz, a member of the Orleans Parish School Board, announced this week that he will challenge Mr. Nagin. Mr. Fahrenholtz ran as a reformer for the school board, which is now under the financial control of a private auditor. Also challenging Mr. Nagin is former city council member Peggy Wilson, a Republican.