Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Nagin's Bid for a 3rd Term; Lee Zurik for Mayor?

Nagin’s Bid for a 3rd Term; Zurik for Mayor?
By Mike Bayham

It was launched so inconspicuously.
At 3:45 PM on Tuesday, a fax came over at the Gentilly offices of the Louisiana Weekly, the state’s leading African-American publication. The heading was something most people haven’t laid their eyes on since the Spring of 2006: Ray Nagin’s campaign logo though with his name and slogan “Our Mayor” replaced with the words “Time 4 a 3rd Term”, which was also the website (add a dot com to the end).
Though not yet reported by the mainstream media, a source over at the weekly (who has since been allowed by the management to pass it on as I wouldn’t want to get a friend in trouble in the depths of the Obama Economy) passed it along Tuesday night via scan.
For those wondering why Nagin has devoted so much time raising money for an office that he is termed-out for, the answer was clear. C. Ray Nagin ain’t leaving City Hall without a fight.
The press release featured talking points advocating the reasons why the mayor was not only subjecting himself to this ordeal but also the voters.
Here’s a sample:
“I believe that while mistakes have been made, my heart has always been with the people of New Orleans. As I candidly stated on Irv Mayfield’s radio program the other day, our city has a race problem. As I look to the upcoming city elections, I do not feel the public can bear the heightened tensions that will come in yet another runoff between a white candidate and an African-American candidate.”
“While I hold myself responsible to some degree for some of the animosity through words and quips that have been taken out of context by practitioners of yellow journalism interested in selling newspapers and seeing their face on television, I believe that it is in the best interest of all parties that we stick together through this most important phase of the recovery effort for the time being.”
“And most importantly we finally have someone in the White House we can do business with. The Bush era has ended and a new period of hope and progress is upon us and I feel confident I can work with President Obama to return New Orleans to the world class status it had before the 2005 storm season.”
Nagin added a bit of a twist in the press release by declaring his intention to resign in two years and six months as he intends to bring before the voters in a special election this October is not just an extra term but a wholesale reconstruction of the city charter, moving the city elections away from the spring to the November presidential election in 2012.
Now one does not need to have a master’s degree in political science to understand the full implications of this move. By shifting city elections to coincide with the same date that Barack Obama will be seeking a second term himself, Nagin would freeze out white candidates for mayor while also eliminating any possibility of a white councilman-at-large. With the spike in city-wide black turnout, the current 4-3 white to black council composition would almost certainly become a 6-1 black to white ratio with District A being the lone white, Republican bailiwick.
Such a move by Mayor Nagin is not without precedent for success. The Long Machine pulled off a similar move after driving out T. Semmes Walmsley in the thirties and literally handing control of Gallier Hall to Robert Maestri, who didn’t appear before the voters for six years.
The third term move will no doubt by strongly opposed by business and community leaders, white and black alike, to say nothing of the local media. And the recent scuttlebutt is one member of the “fourth estate” has been dropping hints of succeeding the man he has been tormenting on camera for the past year.
WWL television reporter Lee Zurik is considering a bid for the city’s top office. Zurik, who according to his WWL biography blocked for Peyton Manning during their time on the Newman High School football squad, has supposedly floated to the news station’s management a request for unpaid leave for “personal reasons” starting the day after Christmas.
With 100% name recognition and a reputation as a crusading journalist, Zurik would have advantages that fellow local news figure Helena Moreno did not have during her unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination for Congress against Bill Jefferson in November. The city fathers would likely generously fund a Zurik campaign and his deep connection with local athletics might give him the same broad appeal former Saints executive Arnie Fielkow enjoyed when he upset Jackie Clarkson in 2006.A confidential source at City Hall claims that the mayor is well aware of Zurik’s political aspirations and passed along the mayor’s reaction to the story: “This is a world class city and a second-class april fool’s joke,” said Nagin before pulling off with Assessor Tom Arnold to a defensive driving course.

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