Friday, December 19, 2008

Race to the Punchline 2010: The Setup to City Ha!

If it's the weekend, it's time to irresponsibly speculate about an upcoming election.

I tried this last week and got an enthusiastic response, so it'll definitely be a regular thing.

I also had plenty of suggestions for other likely candidates that ought to be included, so my list of contenders and pretenders will have to be lengthened.

Let's expand upon what should go into a candidate's rank.

- Candidates are ranked from least likely to most likely to be Mayor.
- Candidates "known" to be considering a run will get some extra consideration over those whose interest remains largely a mystery.
- "Democrats" will generally be higher on the list than "Republicans," though liberals might not always outrank conservatives. There is a certain art to figuring what kind of political ideology will make a candidate more appealing to the most voters. I've tried to base it on my perception of the general perception of a candidate's ideology or main constituency, not solely my own perception. Does that make any sense? Can someone articulate that better for me?
- African American candidates have a slight advantage over white candidates in these rankings. African American voters are generally mobilized for big elections, but it is difficult to gauge to what degree turnout will change from primary to runoff, etc. I think it's reasonable to say that African Americans will not be staying home to the same degree as they did during Jefferson-Cao. This is a majority black city, after all. I'd expect the advantage for AA candidates to grow as the number of competitive African American canididates shrinks. How about that? Any sense?

Again, not science.

Tier IV:

21. Eli Ackerman - Beauty and brains.

20. Ron Forman - Very limited electoral base, unconfirmed interest. Big fund raising potential.

19. Austin Badon - State Rep from New Orleans East has poor name recognition, small base.

18. Rob Couhig - Another limited electoral base. Easy soapbox access.

17. Troy C. Carter - Serial candidate with strong but easily confusable name recognition. Could rise if others avoid the race or could choose to try for Congress again instead.

Tier III:

16. Cedric Richmond - Surprisingly spry campaign for Congress earlier this year. Might be more interested in trying again against Cao. He has some Jefferson baggage that may or may not still weigh him down in two years.

15. Helena Moreno - Strong name recognition, citywide campaign experience, but she's grossly unprepared for any elected office and has probably has reached a popularity ceiling.

14. Edwin Murray - State Senator has poor name recognition and a geographic base with diminished political power.

13. Virginia Boulet - Longstanding interest in electoral politics, will struggle to explain her endorsement of Ray Nagin.

12. Cynthia Hedge-Morrell - Unconfirmed interest, has not run a citywide campaign. Diminished post K home base.

11. James Perry - Confirmed interest, has potential to seize untapped grassroots resources, and has credibility to run a fresh start outsider campaign. On the other hand, he's untested, has no clear geographic base, and will be at an extreme fundraising disadvantage. Perry has the potential to put together a diverse coalition if he is able to articulate a vision and spread it. He has time to do that if he can get started before everyone else crowds the field.

10. John Georges - Probably interested, reasonably strong name recognition, and unlimited campaign cash. He can run as an outsider and can probably make up for having no knowledge or interest in local issues by throwing wads of cash into an apolitical outsider theme.

Tier II

9. Cynthia Willard-Lewis - She's probably interested as she lacks few other options for upward political mobility. She's run citywide campaigns before and has a certain dishonest political polish about her that makes her somewhat more dangerous than she otherwise would be.

8. Cheryl Gray - Popular senator has strong geographic electoral base but poor name recognition elsewhere. She's perhaps more likely to run for Cao's seat than for Mayor.

7. Marlin Gusman - He's won a citywide race and can run on an anti-crime platform. It seems intuitive that he'd test the waters but I don't think he'd be able to raise the type of money it would take to swim with the big fish.

6. Jackie Clarkson - She's probably going to take a sniff at the race. She has won a citywide race and her West Bank origins give her a little bit more electoral power. She probably thinks she's more popular than she actually is, particularly if there's a crowded primary field. I don't think there would be much enthusiasm for her if she decided to jump in.

5. James Carter - He's almost sure to think about running but might ultimately be more attracted to the Congressional seat. He doesn't have many enemies around town but doesn't seem to generate much enthusiasm either. His primary run for Congress earlier this year was totally uninspiring but he has an untapped potential that more "successful" campaigners like Clarkson or Willard-Lewis do not.

Tier I

4. Irvin Mayfield - He's been making a lot of noise in city government over the last few years. He can run as an outsider without sacrificing too much on 'executive experience.' He's popular, extremely recognizable locally, and has unique national resources and contacts to tap for fundraising help. He's been able to remain cordial toward Nagin and others within the black political establishment without alienating the larger community, but he should probably be careful not to get too close.

3. Mitch Landrieu - Boasts enthusiastic popularity in some quarters and equal vitriol from others. I believe he's looking into this race but can probably afford to wait a little longer than most if he wants to see how the field plays out before making any definitive moves. The high likelihood of a Fielkow candidacy certainly complicates things for Mitch. Would he run to the left of Fielkow while trying to court African American support? Or would he just try to overpower Fielkow for the fundraising support of the business community? What will that look like if Boulet and Forman are also soliciting donations?

Tied 1. Arnie Fielkow - He'll almost definitely run, he has citywide name recognition, and has reasonable fundraising potential. He's probably got a reputation for playing the middle on Council, even if that might not be true. His candidacy might depend on whether or not Landrieu sits on the sidelines. He'd need the same voters as Mitch but probably won't be as objectionable to conservatives that won't vote for a Landrieu. His reputation as someone that's "pro business" could be a double-edged sword depending on who he's up against.

Tied 1. Karen Carter-Peterson - That uncertainty over whether or not she might be more interested in going to D.C. than Perdido St. keeps her from being the undisputed number 1, though calling anyone a "favorite" seems somewhat silly with such a huge field of potential candidates. Word has it that she's been working hard behind the scenes to forge some alliances between some of the AA constituencies that were divided during this last Congressional primary. If she can do that while retaining some of the progressive whites who supported her against Jefferson in 2006, she'll have as strong a foundation as anyone. She's also still somewhat well-known within national progressive circles from her last race and could tap into that for campaign money.


There are two immediate factors that make these rankings so garbled.

First is the possibility that some contenders will opt to run for Congress instead.

Second, the huge number of potential candidates make it almost impossible to gauge where constituencies will split. The projected front-runners must find away to keep people from their home electoral base from entering the fray. Part of the reason Fielkow and Carter-Peterson are at the top of my list is because I believe they're best-positioned to usher potential rivals toward the sidelines. Race will be a big factor, but so will geography.

(For instance, if Clarkson ends up being the only West Bank candidate in an exceedingly crowded field, it's not impossible to imagine her getting into the runoff if she has a smart campaign manager.)

An early ability to flash a big campaign bank account will be central to clearing the field.

Perhaps it's more useful to look at the larger tiers instead of the individual number rankings. What do you think? There are some new names to mull over this time but I've also done some rearranging. Am I shortchanging Forman? Is James Carter too high? Where would you put Mayfield?

Of course there are probably names that aren't here at all that should be. I'm open to all suggestions. I'll push this list to 50 names if I have to. I still think we could see a business community wild card and and perhaps a few more entries from the left end (Suber? Rahim?).

Soon, I'll put forth a line for US Senate, which I think will be a lot of fun. Eventually, I'll also do one for the 2nd Congressional district, which could serve to either complicate or simplify the mayoral picture. (I've already got names for both of those lines, so don't nobody try to beat me to the punch)

And of course, if you're a candidate, the best thing you could do to improve your chances of winning would be to take a cue from James Perry and announce your interest right here on the Race to the Punchline, live from We Could Be Famous.


alli said...

still missing Manny Chevrolet Bruno, a troubled man for troubled times

celcus said...

You can't forget Quentin Brown. What would an election be like without him?

jeffrey said...

Dude. I totally love this feature. Let's keep it going on (maybe) a weekly basis from now until 2010. Except somewhere in the fall of 2009, we get the BCS involved somehow.

Clifton said...

I thought Karen Carter would have been a great congresswoman if it wasn't for Harry Lee and vengeful people from Jefferson Parish that voted for Bill Jefferson. The only person that is currently in city government I would consider voting for is Fielkow because I think he's fair.

Irvin Mayfield is not ready for the undertaking. He's too high.

If James Perry is serious then he needs to start picking up the pace now and build some support because he will need the money.

The wild card on this list to me is Marlin Gusman. He managed to get through the Morial years without having his name tarnished and he can get the voters that are really upset that the big corruption sweep only found Oliver Thomas serving jail time for what seems to be minor offenses in the large scheme of things. The black community is still waiting for Jim Letten to drop the bomb in the big corruption case that we have all been waiting for. If Marc Morial is not indicted by the time of the next mayor's race, the candidate that represents that group in the race will have more power than people think.

mominem said...

Gusman is an interesting pick.

Since he was CAO under MM, if Cerasoli continues to turn up mismanagement it will cut against him, since he was the guy and could have done something.

Given Cerasoli's likely trajectory I think Fielkow is in a very good place.

I think the Cerasoli factor could be key.

jeffrey said...

Cliff writes:

"If Marc Morial is not indicted by the time of the next mayor's race, the candidate that represents that group in the race will have more power than people think."

In regards to that, I would like to call your attention to one line from Thursday's T-P feature on Mayfield that went unremarked upon. My comment is intended to highlight my impression of what the T-P is thinking and is in no way to be read as a positive or negative reaction to that article at all. It will likely be the last thing I have to say about it.

The line reads,

"But Mayfield and Rica Trigs, 36, a former aide to Mayor Marc Morial now serving as the library's chief administrator, make no apologies for shaking up the institution."

I believe this indicates that... in the T-P's estimation... Mayfield could potentially be the "candidate that represents that (the Morial) group" I further believe this is probably why that particular story got as much space as it did on Thursday. The T-P has something of a Morial complex.

jeffrey said...

As mominem points out, Gusman is another potential "Morial" candidate. If he appears to be a serious contender, watch the paper for reaction.

Clifton said...

You are right Jeffery. The Times will go after anything Morial. If anyone is responsible for building up the anticipation for the big indictment it's them.

In response to what Mominem said, I don't think Mr. Cerasoli has any political agenda in doing his job but the media has to be careful of how they present his findings. It's like I always say, everyone doesn't see and hear things the same way when the news is on. The same information you would think should cut against him may actually work for him if there's no concrete evidence that he did anything wrong.

It will be interesting to see what happens. I am still holding out hope for someone we don't know about yet taking a chance at the office.

mominem said...

I agree Cerasoli doesn't have a political agenda. But if he continues to produce a steady output of reports it will have an impact on the campaign environment. It could do serious damage to anyone who has been standing around doing nothing.

Clifton said...

Do you think the focus on the Nagin administration when these reports come out may limit how far back the level of incompetence goes and not touch Gusman or anyone else from the Morial clique?

bayoustjohndavid said...


For those of you who read the paper online, there's a sidebar in the print edition that includes this item:

March 6, 2008: Saying that consultants from Library Development Solutions recommended it in a report not released to the public, board appoints Rica Trigs, 36, a non-librarian and former assistant to mayor Marc Morial, to the new position of chief operating officer. Job calls for her share authority with library director.

I haven't had a chance to follow up and I kinda wanted to wait and see if Mayfield has the sense to insist he was misquoted in a few places before posting further, but I did say this in a comment to a post that I wrote a couple of days before the article:

There are also some weird personnel moves going on at NOPL, but I don't think the fact the board replaced the city librarian that was brought in after a national search last year with a political appointee is necessarily evidence of corruption.

Damn, my timing was good -- too bad it was buried in a comment. But what do you mean one line that was unremarked upon, Jeffrey? Has there been remarking upon the rest of the article? I haven't seen or heard any. BTW, I don't care about anybody's job at NOPL, but I do care about a ridiculous boondoggle that the city can't afford.

E, I tried to drop a hint last time, have you looked up what a couple of your colleagues wrote about Karen Carter-Peterson, "Left Behind" and Bruno & Tervalon, or Karen Carter and BOLD two years ago?

bayoustjohndavid said...

Also, Jeffrey you're probably partly right about the TP's motivation, but they wouldn't need that. Even though I'd only met Rica once, she seemed pleasant, and I'd only heard nice things about her, I wondered when one of the nineteen positions that survived the original budget cuts was the obviously political "executive assistant to the library board." I looked and even found a tenuous Gill-Pratt connection. When I saw she had been promoted to COO, my first thought was that the city will never be too broke to increase salaries for favored people at the top, but my second thought was to wonder if something political was afoot.

Flash forward to July, a high school friend is in town, his visibly upset mother, a FNOPL board member, asks me if I heard anything about the staff shakeups. I'm pretty sure that she knows a few people at the paper. Since then, I've gotten emails from other former staffers and higher-ups who I never interact with at my current job have started conversations about it, some talking about writing various national organizations and publications. This was before the TP article appeared.

I wasn't going to criticize Mayfield personally, but he's a bit of a putz for calling Shremser "out to lunch." That might justify his actions for a local audience but it looks very unprofessional and has got to hurt fund raising efforts nationally.

adrastos said...

Love the Fix-like feature, Eli. I'd be willing to bet the ranch that Mitch won't run for Mayor for a third time. It's what I'm hearing from mutual friends.

I also think Gusman would be a stronger fundraiser than you do. The LIFE/Morial base is still there and Marlon would be their guy.

jeffrey said...


I'm sorry I can't comment further publicly about those issues. My only purpose here is to point out a recurring tendency of the local paper.

bayoustjohndavid said...

I understand that, but recurring tendencies are in the eye of the beholder. Considering the amount of money involved and the level of behind the scenes attention that I've been aware of, the recurring tendency I see is a reluctance to rock the boat.

E said...

Very good convo thus far...

I'd say that Gussman will probably be higher on the list next time around, he's as well positioned to make a move, as most others. Cliff is right, he's a big time wild card.

The more I think about Mayfield, the more likely his candidacy seems.

I need to tease out some more info on how Morial's base is maneuvering, I think Cliff is on to something about the latent power of that community.

BSD, do you think KCP's enemies and associations limit her viability? I think there's been some maneuvering since 2006 that will make certain waters a little bit more navigable this time around. I've been reading some of the things that were written about her a few years ago, but I'm not sure what the long term political implications of some of those two year old disclosures will be in another two years. It seems to me like she's toward the head of the pack for 2010.

Another thing for everyone consider is the possibility of a candidate from the university to emerge. Who might be on that short list? Could be from either academic or administrative side...

bayoustjohndavid said...

If a failure to show the proper level of deference to the founder of MCCI gets somebody damned as a racist, the patron (patroness?) of Bruno & Tervalon is probably bulletproof.

I can't believe that Mayfield is now considered a leader because he's put his name behind a grandiose plan. It seems like we should see if that plan's going to be anything other than a colossal waste of money before giving its main booster a promotion. But, at least one Picayune writer has labeled him a "reformer," and Gambit loves "visionaries." So, you never know. I'm sorry, I have to question the judgment of somebody who accept the NORA post with so much already on his plate.

bayoustjohndavid said...

Jeffrey, I know you can't discuss the library, but how the T/P portray Mayfield as the candidate of the Morial group without acknowledging the extent of the overlap between the Nagin group and the Morial group? It seems like it would be a lot harder to ignore the Nagin/Mayfield connection than the Nagin/Rodney/Barre connection.

jeffrey said...

The T-P is quite good at ignoring those connections, as I realize you have noticed time and again.

Red said...

I have it on good authority that Michael Cowan of Loyola and the New Orleans Human Relations Commission is considering throwing his hat in the ring, depending on Mitch not throwing his in.

And James Carter is threatening to quit politics altogether - seen too much ugliness and is totally disillusioned, which would explain him being on mute-mode for the past year. So he's not running - at least that's what he's saying now. And it doesn't appear he's getting a second wind.

E said...

I've heard the same about Cowen.

As for Carter, if that's true, it would explain a lot. I thought if he had done a few things differently he could have defeated Bill Jefferson and been our Congresssman. All summer I struggled to understand what his strategy was.

This would explain where it might have gone.

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