2002 New Orleans mayoral election

← 1998 February 2, 2002 (first round)
March 2, 2002 (runoff)
2006 →
Candidate Ray Nagin Richard Pennington Paulette Irons
Party Democratic Democratic Democratic
First round 38,323
Runoff 76,639

Candidate Jim Singleton Troy Carter
Party Democratic Democratic
First round 17,503
Runoff Eliminated Eliminated

Results by precinct:

Mayor before election

Marc Morial

Elected Mayor

Ray Nagin

The New Orleans mayoral election of 2002 was an election for Mayor of New Orleans; the primary round of voting was held on February 2, 2002, followed by a runoff on March 2. It resulted in the election of Ray Nagin as mayor.


This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (February 2010) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

In New Orleans, Louisiana mayoral elections, there is an open primary. Unless one candidate takes more than 50% of the vote in the first round, a run-off election is then held between the top two candidates in the primary round of voting. In this case, the runoff was held on March 2, 2002. In the runoff, Ray Nagin defeated Richard Pennington to become mayor of New Orleans, the first time in over 50 years that a New Orleans mayor had been elected with no previous experience as an elected official.


The election campaign opened with the attempt of two-term mayor Marc Morial to change the city charter to allow him to run for a third term. Morial's attempt was unsuccessful, so a perceived political vacuum attracted a larger-than-usual number of candidates.

Other candidates also running included:


This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (February 2010) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

The primary campaign was relatively short and quiet. The candidates agreed on most major issues, including the need to boost the city's economic climate by eliminating patronage and improving public schools. Some controversy arose from one of Nagin's main campaign planks, a proposal to sell or lease the city's Louis Armstrong International Airport and use the money to improve roads and schools. Other candidates proposed regionalizing the airport, but were unwilling to take the drastic step desired by Nagin. Nagin also proposed setting up committees to oversee the appointment of officials in an effort to curb political patronage, while Pennington insisted on retaining mayoral prerogative in appointments. Nagin was also the only candidate to oppose a living wage referendum, which passed but was eventually defeated in court.

Nagin went into the primary round of voting with influential endorsements from both the Times-Picayune and the Gambit. Outgoing mayor Marc Morial did not endorse any candidates in the primary or the runoff; both leading candidates were promising a reduction in the patronage that was so prominent in Morial's administration.

The runoff campaign saw Nagin pick up endorsements from defeated candidates Singleton, Carter, and Lucas. The campaign took a negative turn when ads appeared attacking Nagin's credentials as a member of the Democratic party, and when Pennington professed to have information about Nagin that 'sickened him to the core', without specifying its nature.


Mayoral Primary, February 2

Mayoral primary results[6]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Ray Nagin 38,323 28.68
Democratic Richard Pennington 31,259 23.4
Democratic Paulette Irons 24,557 18.38
Democratic Jim Singleton 17,503 13.1
Democratic Troy Carter 13,898 10.4
Democratic Vernon Palmer 3,442 2.58
Democratic Leonard Lucas 2,102 1.57
Democratic Emile Labat 637 0.48
Other Quentin Brown Jr. 422 0.32
Republican Thomas Delahay Dunn Jr. 334 0.25
Republican Timothy Hill 309 0.23
Republican Clarence Hunt 289 0.22
Other Manny Bruno 274 0.21
Other Ed Cerrone 136 0.1
Democratic Albert "Superman" Jones 116 0.09
Total votes 133,601

The most prominent feature of the primary results was a dramatic surge in Nagin's support; going into the primary, Pennington was widely predicted to finish first. Precinct-by-precinct returns prompted political analysts to attribute Nagin's first-place finish in the primary to a high turnout by white voters who disproportionately preferred Nagin to his main opponent, Pennington. Nagin also saw support in higher-income black neighborhoods. Pennington found his main base of support in predominantly African-American neighborhoods, winning 217 black-majority precincts to Nagin's 46. The primary results were also seen as a rejection of New Orleans politics-as-usual; both the runoff candidates were political newcomers despite the candidacies of several prominent politicians.[7][8]

Runoff, March 2

Candidate Votes received Percentage of votes cast
Ray Nagin 76,639 58.74%
Richard Pennington 53,836 41.26%

In the runoff, Nagin kept the base he had established in the primary, but expanded his support to win every majority-white precinct. Pennington maintained his base among lower and middle-class black voters, but was unable to pick up the support of many voters who had supported candidates defeated in the primary. Ray Nagin's runoff victory sent him to city hall, where he has served as New Orleans's mayor since May 2002.[9][10]

Preceded by
1998 mayoral election
New Orleans mayoral elections Succeeded by
2006 mayoral election


  1. ^ Russell, Gordon (2002-01-12). "Nagin counts on compromise, integrity". New Orleans Times-Picayune. p. A01.
  2. ^ Perlstein, Michael (2002-01-14). "Pennington gets a crash course in politics". New Orleans Times-Picayune. p. A01.
  3. ^ Grace, Stephanie (2002-01-09). "Irons has history of overcoming obstacles". New Orleans Times-Picayune. p. A01.
  4. ^ Donze, Frank (2002-01-15). "Singleton Demands order, accountability". New Orleans Times-Picayune. p. A01.
  5. ^ Young, Tara (2002-01-07). "Carter means business in race for mayor". New Orleans Times-Picayune. p. A01.
  6. ^ "Voter Portal". Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
  7. ^ Grace, Stephanie (2002-02-04). "Mayoral primary highlights economic, racial division; Politics as usual rejected, analysts say". New Orleans Times-Picayune. p. A01.
  8. ^ Donze, Frank (2002-02-03). "Nagin vs. Pennington; Political newcomers in March runoff for New Orleans mayor; Vote likely spells exit for Singleton, Carter". New Orleans Times-Picayune. p. A01.
  9. ^ Donze, Frank (2002-03-03). "It's Nagin; Mayor-elect asks city for patience". New Orleans Times-Picayune. p. A01.
  10. ^ Grace, Stephanie (2002-03-04). "Middle-class, wealthy areas were key for Nagin; Winner built on near-monopoly of white voters". New Orleans Times-Picayune. p. A01.