NEW ORLEANS — Surrounded by friends and family at the Hyatt-Regency, Mitch Landrieu strode to the stage, his suit coat perfectly fitting a man confident in the support of his city.
Landrieu, dressed in a blue tie and a white dress shirt, accepted four more years as New Orleans mayor, winning a second term by a landslide over former New Orleans judge Michael Bagneris and leader of the city’s NAACP branch Danatus King.
“Four years ago, New Orleans faced the biggest crisis that any city in America has ever faced,” Landrieu said in a nearly six-minute victory speech. “Four years ago, we found our city in disarray and on the brink of collapse. Four years ago, the recovery was stalled, our city was heading in the wrong direction.
“What we were doing just was not working. So, together, together we locked arms and we pledged that we would try to do something different. We said that together we could move forward and we did.”
Eyewitness News consultant Greg Rigamer called the race for Landrieu about 15 minutes after polls closed, based largely on returns from early voting.
Landrieu’s re-election comes on the heels of the city’s lowest murder total in nearly 30 years and the handling of an ice storm that saw the city come through with few problems compared to other large Southern cities Atlanta and Birmingham. In early January, President Barack Obama endorsed the incumbent, striking a blow both to Bagneris, Landrieu’s main competitor, and King.
In conceding, Bagneris spent much of his time thanking his supporters and those organizations that endorsed him. He said that while they might have lost the campaign, they didn’t lose because the main issues were brought to the forefront.
WWLTV political analyst Clancy DuBos said Bagneris was hampered a bit by timing, saying the campaign was only a month long and was bookended by two big moments that held back positive momentum.
“The first week of that campaign, Barack Obama endorsed Mitch Landrieu,” DuBos said. “I think it really took the wind out of Bagneris’ sail, at least momentarily. It made him stop and say, ‘Wait a minute, I’ve got to assess this,’ and he had to huddle with his group."
The ice storm, DuBos said, further held back opportunities for Bagneris to campaign.
Meanwhile, long-time national political consultant James Carville called the win a death-knell for the way politics and elections used to be won.
“The old order of politics, Mitch Landrieu destroyed,” said Carville, a Landrieu supporter. “The Democratic committee, the Republican committee, every piece of alphabet soup as they call it, every powerful person had come out and did not endorse Mitch Landrieu and he ran over the whole thing.”
He added, “I’ve been here for over four years and I think people saw progress and saw the city moving in a direction and I think they said let’s keep it rolling.”
Landrieu ran by touting not just the drop in city’s murder total, but the creation of 4,500 new jobs and new retail as well as improving schools and graduation rates.
But he cautioned that his vision isn’t complete.
“People of New Orleans, let’s not be confused,” Landrieu said. “Let’s make no mistake. The pathway forward for all of us is not and will not be easy. We see big challenges all around us. We have crime. We have unemployment, families and communities that face deep struggles. But we cannot lose heart and we cannot leave anybody behind.”