Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
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NEWORLEANS-- The loyal opposition to New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu now appears to be rallying behind challenger Michael Bagneris.

Monday, Bagneris walked up to a podium to the campaign chant, 'We like Mike.' He stepped down as an Orleans Civil Court judge to challenge the incumbent in the Feb. 1 election.

Borrowing a line from his former boss, former Mayor Dutch Morial, Bagneris said he's running to 'revive the drive' for a safer city.

He dismisses Landrieu's claims that there has been a reduction in violent crime over the past four years.

'There's been a reduction in the reporting,' said Bagneris. 'There's been doctored statistics. We called that cooked books on the streets.'

Bagneris's supporters packed the room at a downtown hotel for Monday's campaign rally. Well known local politicians, including state Sen. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans and Civil Court Clerk of Court Dale Atkins, stumped on Bagneris's behalf.

'We like Mike for mayor because he is a good leader,' said Atkins. 'He won't hide behind deputy mayors and he won't conduct frivolous, bogus, national searches.'

Actor and New Orleans native Wendell Pierce and boxer Evander Holyfield also showed up to endorse the candidate.

'He is passionate for his people, caring for his city, and he's dedicated to revive the drive for a better New Orleans,' said Holyfield.

Bagneris said his base of support is those dissatisfied with the present city administration.

'His management style is one of division,' said Bagneris. 'Why do you think you have the firefighters upset, the police department upset, the Wisner Board upset, the Civil Service upset, the judiciary upset.'

'It's impossible to mayor of a large American city today without stepping on the toes of some politically connected and powerful people,' said Eyewitness News Political Analyst Clancy DuBos. 'Those people tend to fight back at election times.'

Dubos said a short race normally favors the candidate with the best name recognition or incumbent.

'This race is probably Landrieu's race to lose, but I've seen lots of politicians lose,' said DuBos. 'I expect Bagneris to run a very vigorous, hard-hitting campaign. It's going to be up to Mayor Landrieu to respond and to get his message out.'

Meanwhile, Mayor Landrieu said he looks forward to discussing his record on the campaign trail.

'I've spent four years uniting this city,' said Landrieu. 'We've got a huge amount done. We have a long way to go and I'm going to stay focused on crime, jobs, schools and at the end of the day kids, because that's where it really matters.'

There are two other candidates running for mayor, comedian Manny 'Chevrolet' Bruno and NAACP President Danatus King. The election is Feb. 1.

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