Trying to Choose A Mayor
Jason Raish illustration
It’s election season in New Orleans. Then again, when isn’t it?
Think about it: Is there ever a time when our neutral grounds are not littered with campaign signs? It seems never ending. Somebody is always running for something. And then they run for a run-off. Then they lose that office and then run for another one a few months later.
For what is largely considered the most obese city in America, at least our politicians must be in good shape, what with all that running.
Don’t get me wrong: This is the greatest country in the world, and New Orleans is my favorite city by far, but sometimes I wonder if voting with the serial intensity we devote towards electioneering here is almost too high a price to pay for democracy.
And we always do it on Saturdays. If your day is going to be ruined by waiting in long lines of the largely morose electorate, and practically gagging when you press buttons for the least offensive candidate in a race, can’t we do that on Tuesdays like everybody else?
This year’s mayoral primary is October 14. A Saturday. The run-off is November 18. A Saturday. Two perfectly good days I could be sleeping in, throwing my 9-iron into a pond because of another lousy chip shot or simply curled up with a good book or a good woman – not necessarily in that order.
And then there’s this about the 2017 Mayoral Race, up and off to the races. It’s another circus show. Another Big Tent spectacle. Another clown car.
There are 18 candidates vying to lead our city back to a safe, well-educated, economically robust and corruption-free community. Although when that last was, was before my time here.
And there is no White Knight riding in to save us. Again. No Rock and Roll garbage man, Sydney Torres IV. No Brad Pitt, urged to run in 2010, but declined, despite creating a bonanza year for local T-shirt manufacturers. No James Arey, a local classical music radio host and five-time champion on Jeopardy who was able to finance his 2006 campaign with his $50,000 in winnings (plus a brand new Chevy Tahoe!). And no Rodney Fertel, whose sole campaign pledge in the 1969 mayor’s race was to procure a gorilla for the Audubon Zoo.
(Ever the gentleman, upon losing the election by a wide margin, he followed through on his promise anyway, and did indeed gift the zoo with its first gorilla. Now that is a public servant of his word!)
So we have 18 candidates to ponder, parse, peruse and prefer this time around. It’s not a city record, in case you’re wondering. That was in 2006, when 21 contenders signed up to run against the incumbent – a guy you might remember, named Ray Nagin.
Running then, as now, is erstwhile actor, butcher and furniture salesman Manny Chevrolet. His perennial campaign slogan is: A Desperate Man for Desperate Times. And ain’t that the truth.
We also have Frank Scurlock, who made his fortune off renting out those bouncy houses you see at kids’ birthday parties. There’s Edwards Collins, Sr., who listed his residence on his mayoral qualifying papers as being in Chalmette. Hmm.
And then there are always the usual suspects of city councilmen and women, judges, and generally a high-rolling businessman or two, and there often seems to be a funeral home owner thrown in the mix; some sort of cosmic analogy, I guess.
And the clown car fills. In it this year, there are 11 Democrats, 3 Independents and 4 listed as “No Affiliation.” There are no Republicans registered for the race.
New Orleans holds what is called a “Jungle Primary.” (Not my phrase, folks; that’s what it’s really called.) It means the top two vote-getters, no matter which party or non-affiliation – unless one of them receives more than 50 percent of the vote – advance to the November run-off.
Which is a swift change from the old days. The run-off used to be held after the New Year. But the state legislature, in its infinite wisdom moved the date forward with the intention of increasing voter participation.
Why, you may ask? Well, the same answer to every existential question in New Orleans: Mardi Gras. And sometimes the Super Bowl.
Me, I’m all for it. Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus has shut down; let’s close our circus as early as possible. Let’s clean up those neutral grounds. Let’s get all those ads off TV. Let’s just get a new mayor, dammit.
So we can have a city that is safe, well-educated, economically robust and corruption-free.