GOV. RAY NAGIN?

first_imgBy John Moreno Gonzales THE ASSOCIATED PRESS NEW ORLEANS – Mayor Ray Nagin could be days away from announcing he will run for governor of Louisiana – a move many in this stricken city regard as preposterous. If Nagin runs, he will do so on his stewardship of New Orleans. But this is a city in great distress two years after Hurricane Katrina, with large swaths still empty, an appalling murder rate and a painfully sluggish recovery. Nagin’s disapproval rating stood at 65 percent in a recent poll. “He’s clearly seeing his election potential differently than most of Louisiana. Statewide, Ray Nagin is dead in the water,” said G. Pearson Cross, an assistant professor of politics at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. “One thing is clear: New Orleans has not had the forceful and dynamic leadership necessary to get recovery on the right track.” But Nagin, in a City Hall interview late last month, struck an optimistic note. “What I’d like to make sure everybody understands around America is that this city is overcoming a lot of odds. It’s like a miracle city in some respects,” New Orleans’ fourth black mayor said. “Our citizens are doing incredible things out there in spite of a lack of resources, or broken promises.” A member of Nagin’s inner circle said last month that the second-term Democratic mayor planned to announce a run for governor shortly after Labor Day. He has already taken several fundraising trips, and his technical adviser secured the naginforgovernor.com address. Of the possibility of a run for higher office, the 51-year-old Nagin said: “The only way I would do something like that is if I thought it would help this recovery.” The sign-up period for the Oct. 20 election ballot opened Tuesday and runs through Thursday. Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco decided not to seek re-election after she was widely criticized as weak and indecisive following Katrina. Nagin’s detractors call him ineffective and bristle at the thought that he would consider higher office with nearly three years left on his term, city services in traction and the black community that re-elected him suffering acutely since the storm. Privately, some said they suspect Nagin knows he has little chance but wants to use the publicity to ensure a political future in Louisiana. But Nagin points to areas where he believes he has made a difference, citing the population’s rebound to 60 percent of its pre-Katrina level. Nagin boasted that higher police salaries have led to the biggest recruiting class since the hurricane, and added that a new garbage contract has cleaned up the French Quarter and helped keep the city’s tourism-based economy rolling. But David Bell, a juvenile court judge and community leader in mostly black eastern New Orleans, said Nagin’s efforts are often seen as incremental and misdirected. Bell alluded to Nagin’s hiring of planner Ed Blakely as his recovery chief, and Blakely’s promise of “cranes in the sky” that have yet to be seen. “It’s great to have large vision. But I think right now the public is more concerned about potholes, and the sewer lines, and the water lines,” Bell said. Nagin was elected in 2002 with strong support from the white business elite. He soon delivered on promises to crack down on City Hall graft. But after Katrina, he was bitterly criticized for not evacuating the city sooner, and many wrote him off after his emotional calls for federal help in the aftermath of the storm.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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