Anger drives very colorful mayor's race
Katrina has changed everything in the Big Easy.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Jimmy Carter was asked to monitor it. Race is defining it. A passel of candidates is making it fun, or foolish. What once was a colorful local campaign for mayor is now an election like no other in U.S. history.
With Hurricane Katrina still dominating life here, New Orleans is beginning one of the most important mayoral races ever in this city already known for flamboyant politics.
Incumbent Ray Nagin is seeking a second term in the April 22 primary, but he faces 22 challengers who hail from all walks of life. Some are veteran politicos; others include a popular reverend, a former baseball team owner and a public radio host.
There's one common sentiment: Anger and frustration in the wake of Katrina.
"To quote from the movie 'Network,' there's a lot of people as mad as hell and they're going to do something about it," said Sidney Arroyo, a veteran political campaign organizer.
Little intrigue earlier
Before Katrina, the mayoral race was not expected to offer much intrigue. Incumbents such as Nagin historically have won second terms easily, but the mayor gradually alienated many voters, especially after his now-infamous "chocolate city" speech in which he said God intended New Orleans to be a black-majority city.
Some of the city's heavy hitters entered the race, in part because of Nagin's perceived weaknesses. Among them was businessman Rob Couhig, the former owner of a minor league baseball team, who ran an irreverent television ad labeling Nagin a "cuckoo" and portraying another candidate, Louisiana Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, as a bumbling knight in clanging armor.
The two biggest stars are Landrieu, the politically savvy son of a former mayor and brother of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.; and Ron Forman, a businessman credited with making the Audubon Nature Institute into a zoo and aquarium system.
If no candidate gets a majority of the votes in the nonpartisan primary, the top two finishers will compete in a May 20 runoff election.
The field of candidates represents a kaleidoscope of ideas for rebuilding Orleans. One is touting a "tax-free city." Another has proposed that New Orleans style itself like Amsterdam by offering legalized prostitution, hashish bars and gardens.
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