Nagin Weighs In; N.O. Race To Take Familiar Shape

Last night’s Hayride post on the emergence of Troy Henry as a possible successor to Ray Nagin as the Chocolate City Candidate in the New Orleans mayor’s race focused on the racial dynamics of the Orleans Parish electorate and the necessity of a black candidate to draw out those divisions as a prerequisite to beating Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu. As the electorate in the Big Easy is 59 percent black and 34 percent white – with about 15 percent of the vote being Republican and that figure coming almost exclusively from the white community, an African-American candidate able to capture three-fifths of the black vote and present him/herself as an acceptable alternative to Landrieu among the Republicans and white business community (which isn’t particularly hard to do) is a relatively easy winner.

Henry, apparently seeing this, launched into a tirade at a press conference yesterday aimed at “the media” and their projections to date that the city was looking at a likelihood of a white mayor for the first time since Landrieu’s father Moon held the post in the early 1970’s. He accused the city’s press of “anointing” Landrieu as the mayor, stoking the echoes of current mayor Ray Nagin’s racially-charged strategy for beating Landrieu four years ago.

Today, Nagin echoed Henry’s statements of yesterday, and went even further. The mayor, whose relationship with the media in New Orleans is of a nightmarish quality, didn’t hold back in his assessment of the underdog contender’s diatribe:

“He’s on point,” Nagin said when asked by WBOK talk show host Gerrod Stephens his reaction to Henry’s comments. “He’s absolutely on point.”

“You guys are referees,” Henry said Wednesday at the impromptu press conference, which he held to “discuss the future of his candidacy.” “You’re not supposed to be wearing a jersey,” he chastised reporters.

Nagin applauded Henry’s comments warned about possible attacks from the media: “You have Troy, God bless his heart, trying to come out yesterday and chastise the media. Now, I hope he’s ready for it. For every action, there is a reaction.”

“They’ve beaten me up just about everyday since I came out and said everybody should return to the city. And don’t talk about the Chocolate City speech. Since all of that stuff has gone down, I have been rentelessly attacked. So for me, the next four months, I’m looking forward to 2010. To me, it’s time to speak up again, that’s my motto.”

The question is whether Nagin has the ability to attract enough of the black community to a candidate he favors to actually help rather than sink that candidate. New Orleans Gambit’s Clancy DuBos wrote last month that Nagin was poison for all the candidates in the race, so much so that in a poll done by the magazine New Orleans voters prefer someone who knows how things work in politics over a businessman by a 65-25 count. Various media sources have placed his approval ratings in the 30’s over the course of the past year. Given those two factors, one might be persuaded that the last thing Henry or any other candidate in the race would want is Nagin’s endorsement.

Like it or not, Henry looks like he has it. If nothing else, it appears that James Perry, the housing activist who looks like Henry’s prime competitor among the African-American candidates who responded to Henry’s tirade by calling it a stunt, won’t be getting any support from the mayor.

“Who is running James campaign? Who is behind James? Stunt? Isn’t this the same guy that ran an ad with people cussing to get attention?

“I don’t know James. He looks like an intelligent brother. I applaud him for running, but I don’t think he understands what he’s into. I really don’t.”

Quickly, Nagin’s comments spread, prompting Perry to respond via Twitter: “Ray Nagin just attacked me on The radio. He doesn’t like that I want unify the City and bridge the racial divide.” Perry’s girlfriend Melissa Harris-Lacewell, a Princeton professor, MSNBC commentator and frequent contributor to the Huffington Post, also called into the station and argued with the mayor.

Nagin wasn’t done throwing bombs. Next up was Ed Murray, the state senator who dropped out of the race last weekend despite what looked like a good chance to ride Nagin’s Chocolate City Plan – Murray even had the endorsement of the Greater New Orleans Republicans.

“It seems like with Ed getting out people are in disarray and don’t know where to turn, said Nagin. “I love Ed Murray. He’s a great guy; he’s one of the most effective legislators that we have. The brother can get some stuff done in Baton Rouge. But to run for mayor was kinda out his comfort zone. The brother is almost kind of standoffish.”

Then Hizzoner pooh-poohed polls showing that Landrieu is almost at the magic 50 percent mark, close to winning the race without even facing the prospect of a black-vs.-white runoff.

“This race is far from over,” Nagin said. I don’t believe any of these frickin’ polls.”

“I seen this crap before. Don’t be hoodwinked, don’t be fooled and think that this thing is over, because it’s not. And I use me as an example. Last time I ran for re-election, everybody counted me out but you, the people, you have the power. You have the numbers, you have the power, if you show up and vote.”

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