Despite wall-to-wall coverage of the Saints’ first-ever Super Bowl appearance in Miami, a high voter turnout is expected in today’s local and special state elections in New Orleans. A 40-45% percent turnout is expected based on the unusually high number of early and absentee ballots cast: over 17,000 out of 272,000 registered voters, more early votes than in last presidential election.
The marquee matchup is the mayor’s race. Six candidates emerged as contenders after two big names dropped out around New Year’s, largely as the result of the late entry of Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, the 2006 runoff loser. First to drop out was insurance executive Leslie Jacobs. Then state Sen. Ed Murray, the best-known black candidate at the time, shocked political observers — and the African-American political establishment in general — with his sudden withdrawal.
That set off a convulsion in the city’s traditional political landscape, as local pundits and national media outlets alike began speculating that New Orleans could elect a white mayor for the first time in 32 years, Pre-election polls have shown Landrieu with a sizable lead, with the rest of the candidates scrambling for enough votes to claim a place in a runoff.
Along with Landrieu, businessmen Troy Henry and John Georges have enjoyed far the largest campaign war chests, helping them disseminate their message through heavily rotated television and radio ads. The other major candidates — lawyer Rob Couhig, fair-housing advocate James Perry and former Judge Civil Court Nadine Ramsey — have all struggled to raise money, though all six of the major candidates have gamely touted their platforms at an unprecedented number of debates and campaign forums in a short but intense election season..