- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 17, 2006

NEW ORLEANS — Incumbent Mayor C. Ray Nagin yesterday accused Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu in a debate last night of trying to continue a political dynasty and questioned whether his opponent was being used by out-of-state figures to oust the mayor.

“He raised more than $640,000 in the past month. Where is this money coming from?” Mr. Nagin asked about Mr. Landrieu, the son of a former two-term mayor and brother to both a U.S. senator and a state civil district court judge.

“I am just asking the question. That is double what the previous mayors have raised. There is something national going on,” the mayor said after questioning from moderators about his comments.

He went on to say that there was something suspicious about Mr. Landrieu running for mayor when he is in line to be the next governor and said that it appeared that Mr. Landrieu’s “lining up every possible political organization and past politician” was trying to take the city back to its historic high level of political corruption.

Mr. Landrieu called the mayor’s comments appalling and said that Mr. Nagin was prone to conspiracy theories.

“My father in 1960 stood in the breach and fought the fight for desegregation and championed the cause of African-Americans in the South. No one has ever questioned my character,” he said, adding, “Just because 2,050 people have contributed to my campaign, despite what you may think, maybe they just think that you are ineffective. You’re talking about a political dynasty; I am talking about a political legacy.”

He said the city needs new leadership and criticized the Mr. Nagin’s response to Hurricane Katrina and his inability to “build coalitions.”

The debate shifted to a number of issues related to the Katrina recovery, including the national debate on immigration. Large numbers of Hispanic immigrants have flocked to the city seeking construction and service industry jobs, and Mr. Nagin took a harder line yesterday than he did when he said the people should “get used to” the Hispanic influx.

“We have hundreds of thousands of New Orleanians displaced that are able-bodied workers. We need full employment for all New Orleanians first,” he said, during a discussion of whether the city can be rebuilt with legal workers using federal dollars.

Mr. Landrieu said there was no “honest” answer to that question until the federal money arrives.

The race is tight, according to polls, just days before Saturday’s runoff election. And the state of New Orleans’ population makes guessing even more haphazard than usual.

“We don’t know what is going to happen with those folks who are gone, whether they will come back for the weekend and vote and then go home or not show, so there is really no way to tell what will happen,” said Loyola University political science professor and pollster Ed Renwick.

Even the election totals of about 108,000 in the April primary are not a good test, because that vote was not expected to have anyone in the crowded field win a majority of the vote, making this weekend’s runoff necessary.

The candidates have been clamoring for endorsements for the past month. Virginia Boulet, who placed fifth in the primary election, endorsed Mr. Nagin yesterday. Conservative businessman Robert Couhig, who placed fourth in the primary, endorsed Mr. Nagin last month.

The third-place finisher, businessman and philanthropist Ron Forman, endorsed Mr. Landrieu.

Locally, residents are worried about thousands of abandoned cars, toxic landfills of debris, the rebuilding of the levees and the slow disbursal of $4.2 billion in federal aid that Mr. Nagin says is bottled up in bickering in the state capital in Baton Rouge.

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