Big weekend for New Orleans
New Orleans hasn't had a nail-biter of a weekend like this since Hurricane Katrina came roaring up the Gulf Coast that fateful August weekend in 2005. Today, voters in the Crescent City will go to the polls in a mayoral primary that could lead to the election of their first white mayor since 1978. And then on Sunday, the beloved Saints take on the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl 44 in Miami.
Four people are running for mayor, including Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu (D). He announced his candidacy the day I was in New Orleans to speak at the annual luncheon of the Bureau of Governmental Research. (Aside: That December event came two days after the Saints eked out a victory over the Redskins. Now, I'm no football fan so I had no idea such a triumph had occurred until my hosts started razzing me the night before.) Anyway, Landrieu is ahead in the polls. He enjoys strong support among African Americans, many of whom remember Landrieu's father, Moon Landrieu, as the man who desegregated New Orleans and expanded opportunity for blacks in the Big Easy.
Campbell Robertson had a good story in the New York Times on the significance of today's vote. If Landrieu snags more than half the vote, he can avoid a March 6 run-off. He would also be the first white mayor of New Orleans since his father left office 32 years ago. Current Mayor Ray Nagin has been a major disappointment. He presided over the city when the levees broke due to a storm surge by Katrina on Aug. 29, 2005. He became a national sensation when he dropped mayoral reserve to bluntly plead for help on a radio show four days later. But his popularity plummeted as residents judged his efforts to rebuild the city less than optimal and grew weary of his impolitic pronouncements.
But the mayoral contest has nothing on the "Who Dat?" fever that's swept New Orleans. After years of a seemingly unbreakable bond with defeat, the Saints will play in their first Super Bowl on Sunday.
In the nearly five years since Katrina, the people of New Orleans have suffered. But they've pulled themselves up, forged ahead and continue to refuse to give up despite the odds against them. Their hearts and souls are with the Saints. That's why when Peyton Manning and his Colts hit the field tomorrow, they won't be facing 11 players. They'll be facing 336,644.
| February 6, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Capehart | Tags: Jonathan Capehart
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