Will N.O. Remain a Chocolate City?

The fate of New Orleans to remain a “chocolate city” rests in the results of a runoff between current mayor, Ray Nagin, and Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu-husband of Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.).

New Orleans’ mayoral primaries ended on Friday (April 22) leaving current mayor Ray Nagin and Mitch Landrieu in close standings. The electorates in Saturday’s election split along what some say are racial lines because Nagin dominated in the city’s Black neighborhoods of New Orleans East and the Lower Ninth Ward but struggled virtually everywhere else, according to an analysis by GCR & Associates, a consulting firm working on the election for the secretary of state’s office.

Most of the white votes were divided among three candidates, Landrieu, lawyer Rob Couhig and Audubon Nature Institute CEO Rob Forman so now, they are up for grabs. In Saturday’s primary, Black and White residents voted in relative similarity. The analysis shows Black residents made up 52 percent of the electorate, with white residents and other races making up the remainder. In a typical pre-Katrina election, Black people generally made up 60 percent of the voting population.

Nagin won 66 percent of African-American votes, according to preliminary figures from GCR, winning by large margins in majority-black precincts. While Landrieu won 23 percent of African- American votes and about the same percentage of white votes, the GCR figures showed. Nagin won the primaries with 38 percent of the city’s total votes (41,489 votes), while Landrieu cashed in 29 percent (31,499). In the 2002 election, African-Americans cast 62 percent of about 135,000 votes. On Saturday, they cast 52 percent of about 108,000 votes.

According to a report in the Times Picayune, a New Orleans newspaper, the runoff sets up a fascinating, and perhaps hopeful, scenario. Though residents of New Orleans have long voted along racial lines-a trend that one might expect to sharpen, given the balanced electorate and a runoff featuring a Black candidate and a White one- the 2006 runoff could well break that tradition.

“The basic vote that’s out there is the white conservative, so you have to have two Democrats appeal to white conservatives to get the vote to put them in office," said Ed Renwick, director of Loyola University’s Institute of Politics, on WWL-TV on Sunday.

The runoff is scheduled for May 20. If elected, Landrieu would be the city’s first White mayor since 1978, when his father, Moon, left office.