Big Easy backs Nagin, ready to rebuild
New Orleans reelects its mayor. But with 48 percent favoring his opponent, doubts linger over his leadership.
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Many of those who voted for Landrieu acknowledged that they didn't think the lieutenant governor would have done any better post-Katrina.Skip to next paragraph
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Ronnie Brenner, a social worker who voted at a fire station on Magazine Street, is one of those. While she appreciates how hard it was for Nagin given the circumstances, she doesn't think he understands that New Orleans is a national problem that needs a national leader.
She wanted the city's mayor to have more political clout and more of a national presence, and Nagin's Martin Luther King Day comments about how God wants New Orleans to be a "chocolate city" proved to her that he has not fully grasped that.
He is too easygoing and not tactful enough - especially given the severity of the situation, says Ms. Brenner. "We need someone who speaks more articulately, and I don't think Nagin represents himself in a way that best serves the people."
Because Nagin came out of the primary as the underdog, Dr. Howell believes Saturday's win is a testament to his "personal appeal and unscripted, spontaneous style."
For Gene Luke, a designer, the issue was more about the pace of progress than politics or personal style. He voted for Landrieu because "I don't think the city has progressed enough in eight months, and there are people who are still waiting to come home. Things in New Orleans are moving slower than in parts of Mississippi that were damaged worse."
But Felicia Carter-Simmons, who bought a home in Slidell, La., after her home in east New Orleans was destroyed, thinks Nagin is headed in the right direction and she doesn't see a need for change.
"He was here during the storm and did the best he could," she said. "Everybody's blaming him for what went wrong, but he should be given a chance to finish what he started."
Though his "Mitch for Mayor" T-shirt was turned inside out because of state law, it was clear who Troy Gant voted for as he walked out of the same polling site.
Mr. Gant says he was leaning toward voting for Nagin after his "chocolate city" comments because he believes an African-American in office would help raise the profile of African-Americans in need.
"But he began backpeddling right away when he should have stood up and said, 'You heard me right.' That right there showed me he has no strength, no backbone," says Gant.
While many African-Americans deny that their votes were cast along racial lines, jazz trumpeter Porgy Jones says, "you can't get around that. We have a racial problem that was brought to the surface because of Katrina, and we need to sit down and talk about it. And whoever is mayor has to deal with us as a unit, not split us up and divide us. New Orleans cannot exist as a divided city."
So Mr. Jones, whose waterlogged home in Gentilly is partially livable, voted for Landrieu in hopes that he would do better re-creating the "gumbo culture" that makes New Orleans so unique.
"But one thing's for certain, it ain't gonna be fun for whoever wins."