Results by precinct:
|Elections in Louisiana|
The first round of the New Orleans mayoral election of 2006 took place on April 22, 2006; a runoff between incumbent Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu took place on May 20, resulting in reelection for Mayor Nagin. The Mayor of New Orleans is the top official in New Orleans' mayor-council system of government.
Elections in Louisiana, with the exception of presidential elections, follow a variation of the open primary system called the jungle primary. All candidates, including those running with a political party and independents, are listed on one ballot. Voters may vote for any candidate regardless of what party they are registered.
If no candidate wins a majority (50 percent plus one vote) in the first round, a second round (run-off) is then held between the top two candidates, who may be members of the same party. As this occurred, the runoff took place on May 20, 2006.
This election was previously scheduled to be held on 4 February 2006 (along with elections for other local offices, including City Council members) but was postponed due to the devastation in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (see: Effect of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans), and the fact that large numbers of New Orleanians are displaced and still unable to return home. Since this election would determine who would lead the city during its rebuilding process, the election was widely seen as one of the most important elections in the history of New Orleans and it was watched nationally to a degree uncommon for most mayoral races.
In the primary campaign, incumbent mayor Ray Nagin faced a record 21 challengers for his position. Many were political novices without significant financial backing. In addition to Nagin, two candidates in particular were considered by political pundits to be "major candidates" because of their name recognition and financing—Ron Forman and Mitch Landrieu. Others preferred not to distinguish between 'major' and 'minor' candidates, noting that, in the 2002 election, these same pundits considered Nagin a long-shot. The top-financed candidate in that election, two-term city councilman Troy Carter, came in fifth.
At the time of the election, at least two-thirds of the city's residents were still displaced, scattered across the country facing serious obstacles (such as severely damaged houses, neighborhoods without reliable utilities, and financial constraints) to returning. The state legislature passed legislation allowing for absentee voting in polling places in 10 parishes, but there was still concern about the difficulty displaced residents outside Louisiana may have faced in placing their votes. With the majority of the displaced residents staying outside Louisiana and outside the reach of local New Orleans media outlets, their ability to obtain information about the campaign remained open to question.
No reliable figures currently exist for the size and ethnic makeup of New Orleans's current population. It is widely recognized, however, that the current demographics of New Orleans are on average more white and more affluent than they were before Katrina. This made it very hard to predict the outcome of the election. This new demographic reality encouraged many candidates that might not have considered entering the race before the storm. New Orleans has not had a white mayor since 1978, but a large number of candidates - including every candidate considered to have a 'serious' chance of winning other than incumbent Nagin - were white.
On February 24, a federal judge rejected a lawsuit by the NAACP, ACORN, and the Grassroots Legal Network seeking to set up physical polling places in cities like Houston, Texas and Atlanta, Georgia, which have large numbers of displaced New Orleanians. An appeal in this case was likewise rejected on March 27.
On March 25, a study of change-of-address forms found that 80 percent of the city's registered voters either did not file for a change of address or have listed a new address within the greater New Orleans area. If accurate, these findings would indicate that with most voters still in the area, absentee voters would not be as significant a factor in the election as previously believed. The NAACP and other civil rights groups disputed these findings, arguing that they do not take into account people who are dispersed but have not filled out change-of-address paperwork.
On April 1, thousands of civil rights demonstrators marched across the Crescent City Connection calling for satellite voting locations to be set up outside the state to give displaced New Orleanians the same voting rights as those who have returned to the city. The march - the largest New Orleans has seen in several years - was organized by Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, and prominent speakers included Bill Cosby, former mayor Marc Morial, Al Sharpton, U.S. Rep. Bill Jefferson, and Mayor Ray Nagin.
Satellite voting stations opened on April 10 in nine parishes in order to allow displaced New Orleans residents to cast votes. ACORN organized buses to transport out-of-state displaced voters to these stations, which remained open until April 15. A total of 10,585 votes were cast at these satellite polls in the five allotted days.
December, January, and February saw intense speculation among political observers as to who would emerge as Nagin's main rival in the upcoming campaign. It was expected that either Ron Forman or Mitch Landrieu would run with the support of much of the city's business and political communities. After months of private discussion and negotiation, both candidates decided to run; an unexpected development which had the potential to split the support of voters opposed to Nagin.
On January 24, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco ended months of public debate and legal wrangling by signing Secretary of State Al Ater's plan to reschedule the primary election for April 22 and the runoff for May 20.
Ron Forman officially declared his candidacy on February 14 at the Audubon Tea Room in front of a crowd of business leaders and other supporters.
On February 22, Mitch Landrieu made his long-anticipated official campaign announcement, with players in the city's hospitality and tourism industry and powerful real estate developer Pres Kabacoff featured prominently among his supporters.
On February 23, Nagin held a public reconciliation with Bishop Paul Morton, a prominent black pastor who publicly criticized Nagin in 2004 for failing to provide enough city contracts to black-owned businesses, and had called Nagin "a white man in black skin."
On February 24, the first public poll of the election was released. Conducted between January 26 and February 13, the poll showed Mitch Landrieu leading with 35% of the vote and Ray Nagin trailing with 25%. Ron Forman received 9% and Peggy Wilson stood at 7%. However, only residents who had returned to the city were polled; without the input of absentee voters, the pollster acknowledged that the results could not be considered representative.
March 2 saw the release of the election's second poll, conducted by CNN, USA Today, and Gallup. 19% of those polled said they would definitely vote for Ray Nagin, while 44% said they would definitely not vote for him. Mitch Landrieu received 18% definite support, while 29% would definitely not vote for him. Ron Forman stood with 12% of those polled certain to vote for him, and 35% unwilling to consider voting for him. Peggy Wilson received the definite support of 7%, and 62% would not vote for her. 4% would definitely vote for Tom Watson, while 63% would not vote for him. Other candidates were not mentioned in the poll, and only voters currently living within the city were polled.
March 3 was the deadline for mayoral candidates to file their qualification papers. In addition to the expected candidates, a large number of newly announced candidates emerged. The most notable surprise announcement was that of Clerk of Criminal Court Kimberly Williamson Butler, who emerged from a week of hiding from an arrest warrant for contempt of court in order to announce her candidacy for mayor. A record number of 23 candidates have declared their intention to challenge Nagin.
On March 4 Nagin appeared before an audience of New Orleans evacuees at an event organized by the NAACP, where he made the statement that "there was all this talk about this being an opportunity to change New Orleans forever and maybe everybody shouldn't come back, and maybe this is an opportunity to kind of change New Orleans and go back to what it used to be. I have 23 candidates running for mayor and very few of them look like us. There's a potential to be a major change in the political structure of New Orleans." Some perceived these comments to be a divisive follow-up to his "Chocolate City" remarks, while others point out that the fact that Nagin is the only major African-American candidate in a field of 23 is a sign of the demographic shift in a city that was over two-thirds black before Katrina.
Newly announced candidate Kimberly Williamson Butler, the Clerk of Criminal Court, was jailed for contempt of court on March 6 after a court appearance in which she refused to admit guilt and instead criticized the judges.
The first mayoral debate of the campaign was held on March 7 at Loyola University. The debate was attended by Ray Nagin and 8 of his challengers: James Arey, Virginia Boulet, Rob Couhig, Ron Forman, Mitch Landrieu, Leo Watermeier, Tom Watson, and Peggy Wilson. Kimberly Williamson Butler was invited, but could not attend due to her jail sentence. The candidates discussed levees and hurricane evacuation plans, housing and redevelopment of neighborhoods, the role of the state and federal government in the rebuilding of the city, and the issue of race in a city with drastically altered demographics. The two main challengers, Forman and Landrieu, were perceived as largely playing safe, while other candidates, particularly Couhig and Wilson, were more combative. Ray Nagin focused on defending his record and emphasizing the need for experienced leadership in a time of crisis.
State campaign finance reports were released on March 25 showing candidates' finances as of March 13. The major candidates had amassed campaign funds several times greater than those raised in recent elections, making this mayoral election the city's most expensive in history. Incumbent mayor Nagin had the most well-financed campaign, with $1,182,776 available; Ron Forman followed closely with a $1,002,692 war chest. Mitch Landrieu had the third largest campaign fund, at $547,003. Rob Couhig had raised a significant amount - $131,535 - but had already spent it.
The second mayoral debate was held on March 27. Only the perceived front-runners - Nagin, Forman, Landrieu, Watson, Wilson, Boulet, and Couhig - were invited. Discussion was focused on housing restoration, fiscal management, flood protection, and crime. The second debate was more combative than the first, with the three leading candidates facing strong criticism from the others.
A new poll released on April 7 reinforced the common perception that the election is shaping up to be a three-way race. Landrieu and Nagin appeared to be in a dead heat, with the lieutenant governor leading with 27% over the incumbent mayor's 26%. Forman remained in third place with 16%, but he appeared to be rapidly closing the gap between himself and the front-runners when compared with previous polls. Like previous polls, these latest numbers only included current residents of New Orleans; without taking displaced voters into account, their accuracy remained questionable.
In the final days of the primary campaign, a wave of negative campaign ads emerged. The clash began on April 7 with Forman accusing Landrieu of supporting tax increases; Landrieu countered with criticisms of Forman's handling of public money and of his high salary at the Audubon Institute. Forman continued his attacks by accusing Landrieu of being soft on crime. These attacks have been interpreted as efforts by Landrieu and Forman to position themselves to win a slot in the runoff against Nagin. Meanwhile, Wilson accused both Landrieu and Forman of being 'liberal Democrats' and of being complicit in the corruption of former mayor Marc Morial. Couhig, Watson, and Forman battled over the support of conservative and Republican voters; Forman urged voters not to waste their votes on minor candidates, while Couhig stepped up his attacks on Forman, painting him as a liberal no different from Landrieu or Nagin.
As of April 14, the Forman campaign had raised the most money, with over $2.1 million in his campaign chest. Landrieu had raised just under $2 million, while Nagin had raised $1.46 million. Couhig had raised $395,000, Boulet had amassed $268,000, Wilson had $101,000 and Watson $85,000.
On April 17, the major candidates—Boulet, Couhig, Forman, Landrieu, Nagin, Watson, and Wilson—appeared on a nationally televised debate co-hosted by Chris Matthews and New Orleans newsanchor Norman Robinson. The debate was televised nationally over MSNBC, an exceedingly rare occurrence for a local mayoral campaign; this was done because of many New Orleans voters still living elsewhere in the aftermath of Katrina and due to national interest.
On 22 April preliminary results showed Nagin with 38% of the vote, with 41,489 votes, and Landrieu with 29% and 31,499. On May 20, a runoff election between Nagin and Landrieu took place. Forman with 17% and 18,734 votes conceded defeat; Couhig came in fourth with 10% and 10,287 votes.
In the runoff campaign, few substantive policy differences emerged between Landrieu and Nagin. Instead, the main issues in the runoff campaign were differences in personality and governing styles.
Alongside stressing his accomplishments in bringing jobs to New Orleans before the storm, Nagin's campaign emphasized the decisive role the mayor played in the aftermath of Katrina and the importance of the relationships he has built with state and federal leaders. The incumbent also stressed the risk of "experimenting" with a new mayor at the start of another hurricane season. Nagin criticized Landrieu's "old-style politics" and implied that he had ties to past politicians like Marc Morial.
Landrieu emphasized his record in the state legislature and as Lieutenant Governor, and his ability to build consensus among a broad range of political players. For their part, the Landrieu campaign criticized Nagin's go-it-alone governing style as alienating to New Orleans's potential allies, and his frequent gaffes as embarrassing to the city. Landrieu said he would restore credibility to city government and jump-start a lethargic rebuilding process: a major Landrieu slogan was "What was OK before Katrina isn't OK after Katrina." Landrieu ads featured shots of the city's abandoned flooded cars and blamed Nagin for his lack of leadership.
In the runoff, Landrieu received endorsements from third-place primary finisher Ron Forman, as well as the city's police and fire organizations and District Attorney Eddie Jordan. Nagin was endorsed by Rob Couhig, who appeared in Nagin ads praising the mayor's pro-business credentials. Other Nagin endorsements included defeated candidates Virginia Boulet and Tom Watson (who vehemently criticized Nagin in the primary), as well as congressman Bill Jefferson and state senator Cleo Fields.
The runoff campaign was also affected by the May 9 release of the first major book about Katrina: historian Douglas Brinkley's The Great Deluge. The book offers a scathing portrayal of Nagin's performance in the week after Katrina, describing him as a man on the verge of breakdown, hiding in the Hyatt hotel and refusing to emerge to take decisive action. Nagin described the book as a "political satire" that twisted the facts, and criticized the timing of its release as politically motivated.
As polls were largely based on New Orleanians still reachable by their pre-Katrina telephone numbers, pollsters admitted they were subject to an unusually large margin of error, and declined to speculate exactly how large that margin of error was.
|Poll conducted by||Date conducted||Date released||Link||Nagin||Landrieu||Forman||Couhig||Wilson||Watson||Undecided|
|Ed Renwick||January 26-February 13||February 24||||25%||35%||9%||X||7%||X||25%|
|CNN/USA Today/Gallup||February 18–26||March 2||||19%||18%||12%||X||7%||4%||40%|
|Ed Renwick||March 23–28||April 7||||26%||27%||16%||6%||3%||1%||22%|
X = This candidate was not included in this poll
|Poll conducted by||Date conducted||Date released||Link||Nagin||Landrieu||Undecided|
|Tulane University Department of Political Science||May 13–15, 2006||May 16, 2006||[permanent dead link]||38%||48%||14%|
|Democratic||Ray Nagin (incumbent)||41,561||38|
|Democratic||Kimberly Williamson Butler||797||1|
|None||Manny Chevrolet Bruno||100||0|
|Democratic||Shedrick C. White||64||0|
|Democratic||Sonja "Lady" DeDais||62||0|
|Other||F. Nick Bacque||52||0|
As the top two vote-getters, Nagin and Landrieu entered the runoff election held on May 20. All 442 precincts were reported in the official results.
Nagin won 289 of the city's 442 precincts; overwhelmingly in sections of the city which have a black majority. This is a marked difference from Nagin's 2002 showings, when the bulk of his support came from white precincts. In 2006, Nagin received only 6% of the white vote.
Landrieu won 87 precincts, primarily in Uptown, Mid-City, the French Quarter, the Faubourg Marigny, and Bywater neighborhoods. He attracted 24% of black votes and 30% of white votes.
The two front runners did better at attracting voters from outside of their own race than any of the other candidates.
Forman won 57 precincts, almost exclusively in the wealthiest and whitest sections of the city: the university section of Uptown, Lakeview, the Garden District, and the lower coast of Algiers. He received more support from white voters than any other candidate, but got only 4% support from black voters.
Couhig won only 6 precincts, in the Lakeview, Lake Vista, and lower coast of Algiers. Many observers speculated that Couhig served to split the conservative vote and prevented Forman from making the runoff, while others pointed out that even if Couhig's and Forman's votes were combined the total is still almost 2500 short of the amount which would have been required to beat Landrieu.
The very poor showing of Peggy Wilson surprised some of her supporters. She finished behind candidates with much less local name recognition who spent far less on their campaigns. Formerly a well-known and powerful figure on the city council, some saw Wilson's failure to get significant voter support as the end of her career in local politics.
|Democratic||Ray Nagin (incumbent)||59,460||52|
With unofficial results showing 53% of the vote for Nagin, Landrieu conceded defeat shortly before 10:30 pm on election night. Nagin gave an acceptance speech shortly thereafter, at about 10:35 pm. Nagin won by the slimmest margin for an incumbent facing re-election since the mayoral election of 1965, in which mayor Victor Schiro's handling of Hurricane Betsy also affected his poor showing. Nagin also won with a dramatic shift in the racial breakdown of his voter base; in this election he received the support of about 80% of black voters and 20% of white voters, a reversal of his support base in the 2002 election.
Some outside observers were shocked that Nagin defeated Landrieu, assuming that the embattled and controversial incumbent would not be able to muster the votes required to keep his position. Due to the high percentage of black voter support for Nagin, there were some accusations of racialized 'bloc voting.' Others noted that Landrieu's support was also lopsided in favor of white voters, although he received a significant minority of African American voters. The racial breakdown of votes was roughly equal for the two candidates; each won roughly 80% of the votes of the members of their own race, and 20% of the votes from the other race.
Nagin's chief campaign strategist Jim Carvin attributed Nagin's victory to a number of factors, including competition between Forman and Landrieu for the anti-Nagin vote in the primary, the lack of a well-funded and well-known black challenger, and Landrieu's unwillingness to make strong attacks on Nagin. Taking these factors into account, Carvin and the Nagin campaign took a strategy of building a biracial coalition consisting of the large majority of black voters plus enough white conservatives to bring the mayor over 50%. A main Nagin campaign theme, centered around the slogan "Re-elect our mayor: Re-unite our city," was supplemented with targeted ads touting Nagin's pro-business and conservative credentials and criticizing Mitch Landrieu as a career politician and member of a powerful political family. His criticism of Landrieu as a representative of "old politics" was able to appeal to both white voters wary of a potential return to patronage politics and to black voters unwilling to return to the days of white political domination of a majority-black city.
Some analysts attributed Nagin's victory to a black turnout which was much larger than expected, mobilized by worries about the threat of a white political takeover and anger over what they perceived as an effort to disenfranchise dispersed voters who were unable to return to the city to vote. One political commentator made links between the mobilization of support for Nagin and the Civil Rights Movement, and noted the contrast between the 2006 election and previous perceptions of Nagin as the "white candidate."
The strong white conservative and Republican Party turnout for Nagin, however, may have been the factor that tipped the balance. Defeated primary candidate Rob Couhig led the Republican rally behind Nagin. The Nagin campaign sent out flyers to heavily white Republican neighborhoods quoting some local black leaders calling him "Ray Reagan", a reference to Ronald Reagan intended to be insulting, but which was seen more sympathetically among Republicans.
Other factors cited by some were the fond memory of Nagin's famous "get off your asses" radio interview during the worst days after Katrina, and what some saw as Landrieu's cautiously dispassionate campaigning style which some found uninspiring. In particular, Landrieu was criticized for not focusing on Nagin's shortcomings in the post-Katrina recovery, and in not sufficiently differentiating his policy proposals from Nagin's.
In New Orleans politics, incumbency is a large advantage; an incumbent mayor has not been defeated in an election since deLesseps Morrison beat sitting mayor Robert Maestri in the election of 1946. In contrast to the mayoral election, the simultaneous City Council election results were strongly anti-incumbent, with three established well-known Council members losing to newcomers promising reform.
2002 mayoral election
|New Orleans mayoral elections||Succeeded by|
2010 mayoral election