Nagin Narrowly Wins Re-Election in New Orleans Mayor's Race

Associated Press
Sunday, May 21, 2006; 12:33 AM

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Mayor Ray Nagin, whose shoot-from-the-hip style was both praised and scorned after Hurricane Katrina, narrowly won re-election over Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu on Saturday in the race to oversee one of the biggest rebuilding projects in U.S. history.

"We are ready to take off. We have citizens around the country who want to come back to the city of New Orleans, and we're going to get them all back," Nagin said in a joyful victory speech that took on the tone of Sunday sermon.

"If we are unified there is nothing we cannot do," he said. "It's time for us to stop the bickering. It's time for us to stop measuring things in black and white and yellow and Asian. It's time for us to be one New Orleans."

With all 442 precincts reporting, Nagin won with 52.3 percent, or 59,460 votes, to Landrieu's 47.7 percent, or 54,131 votes. Results showed he got black votes he needed from scattered residents across the country who voted by fax and absentee ballots, and got a sizable crossover vote from white districts.

Nagin, a former cable television executive first elected to public office in 2002, had argued the city could ill-afford to change course just as rebuilding gathered steam.

His second term begins a day before the June 1 start of the next hurricane season in a city where streets are still strewn with rusting, mud-covered cars and entire neighborhoods consist of homes that are empty shells.

With little disagreement on the major issues -- the right of residents to rebuild in all areas and the urgent need for federal aid for recovery and top-notch levees -- the race came down to a referendum on leadership styles.

Nagin, a janitor's son from a black, working-class neighborhood, is known for his improvisational, some say impulsive, rhetoric. After Katrina plunged his city into chaos, Nagin was both scorned and praised for a tearful plea for the federal government to "get off their (behinds) and do something" and his now-famous remark that God intended New Orleans to be a "chocolate" city.

In his victory speech, Nagin reached out to President Bush, thanking him for keeping his commitment to bring billions of dollars for levees, housing and incentives to the city.

And as for Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, with whom he feuded as his city descended into chaos, Nagin thanked her "for what she's getting ready to do."

" It's time for a real partnership," he said. "It's time for us to get together and rebuild this city."

Landrieu, who served 16 years in the state House before being elected to his current post of lieutenant governor two years ago, is the scion of a political dynasty known as Louisiana's version of the Kennedys. He's the brother of Sen. Mary Landrieu and had hoped to be the first white mayor in a generation, since his father, Moon Landrieu, left office in 1978.

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