Wednesday, February 22, 2006



The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana's lieutenant governor is jumping into the wide-open race for mayor of New Orleans, where the nationwide dispersal of voters by Hurricane Katrina has made the outcome of the election as uncertain as the future of the city itself.

Landrieu was set to formally announce his candidacy for the April 22 election at a Wednesday afternoon news conference.

Despite plans by state election officials and the Legislature to assure evacuees can vote, it is uncertain how many black voters will participate. Amid that uncertainty, only two black candidates — Nagin and local minister Tom Watson — have announced. The others hope to be the city's first white mayor since Landrieu's father left office in 1978.

"We don't know who the people are who are going to vote and we don't know where they are," said Ed Renwick, the director of Loyola University's Institute of Politics.

Landrieu brings instant name recognition with him but it is unclear how much that will help him in a large field, said longtime New Orleans political analyst Silas Lee.

That field also includes former City Councilwoman Peggy Wilson, who was instrumental in passing term limits for council members; and Ron Forman, chief executive officer of the Audubon Institute.

The outcome will likely hinge on the success of efforts to guarantee displaced residents an opportunity to vote. Those include laws allowing them to cast ballots at satellite voting centers in 10 parishes around the state and to allow evacuees to vote by absentee ballot even if they have never before voted in person.

"Anytime you're in a change process and you're trying to change a culture that's been around for 300 years, you step on toes and in doing that, you're going to have some people that kind of want to return the favor," he said.

Lee said candidates may have another motive.

"This is a very historic time and they see it as a chance to enhance their political biography," Lee said.

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