New Orleans Mayor: Voters have spoken -- again
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — After four years of controversial police reforms, revamps of city contracts and stepped-up efforts to rid lingering Hurricane Katrina blight, Mitch Landrieu is calling his landslide victory for a second term as New Orleans' mayor a message from voters to keep moving forward.
Landrieu captured 64 percent of the vote in Saturday's city election, defeating retired Judge Michael Bagneris and local NAACP leader Dannatus King.
In the New Orleans sheriff's race, incumbent Marlin Gusman finished strong despite last year's release of an inmate-made video showing drug abuse and a loaded weapon in the jail he runs. Gusman faces former Sheriff Charles Foti in a mid-March runoff.
Landrieu recited a list of the city's many diverse neighborhoods and evoked New Orleans images including street cars, St. Louis Cathedral and the Rebirth Brass Band in an election night victory speech.
"Now the people of New Orleans have spoken — again," said Landrieu, who had won a similar resounding victory over 10 opponents in 2010, becoming the mostly black city's first white mayor since his father, Moon Landrieu, held the job in the 1970s.
This year, he faced two African-Americans: Bagneris, who finished with 33 percent of Saturday's vote, and King, with 3 percent. In their campaigns, they said Landrieu did too little to cut crime or create jobs in a city still on the mend more than eight years after Hurricane Katrina.
Landrieu acknowledged during the campaign that violent crime continues to plague the city, but also could point to a murder total that dropped to a nearly 30-year low in 2013. There was also the continued recovery of the city's tourist industry as it hosted a Super Bowl and other major events, renovations of public works and significant blight reduction. He also was endorsed by President Barack Obama.
The victory also appeared to be a mandate for continuing reform efforts at the scandal-plagued police department, including new restrictions and oversight of officers' off-duty security work.
"I congratulated him and asked him to certainly take into account all the hard work that everyone here has done," Bagneris told his election night crowd after a telephone call to Landrieu.
In the sheriff's race, Gusman came close to outright victory, with 49 percent of the vote to 29 percent for Foti. Foti, who had served three decades in the sheriff's office before serving one term as state attorney general.
Each claimed credit in the campaign for innovative efforts to improve the jail and each blamed the other for contributing to the jail's many problems.
Landrieu and Gusman weren't facing each other on Saturday's ballot, although, for much of 2013, they sometimes sounded as though they were running against each other.
At issue was an agreement Gusman reached with inmates' lawyers and the U.S. Justice Department for reforms at the city jail. The city was faced with paying for the reforms, estimated to cost as much as $22 million, and Landrieu was highly critical of Gusman's stewardship.
The fighting between the two men subsided in recent months as the city and sheriff's office have discussed ways of financing the reforms.