Sunday, March 05, 2006
"She qualifies for mayor -- and a straitjacket."
By Brian Thevenot
Ending one strange political saga by starting another, the clerk of New Orleans Criminal District Court, Kimberly Williamson Butler, surrendered herself to an irate criminal court judge Friday morning after a week of ignoring court orders and arrest warrants, and then walked outside the courthouse to announce her candidacy for mayor.
The last thing political observers expected was for Butler to end the standoff by announcing a run for the city's highest office. The announcement stunned and puzzled political analysts.
"You have to be kidding me," said Bernie Pinsonat of Southern Media and Opinion Research.
"With all the things Orleans is being attacked for, she just throws out a big sign: 'We're nuts.
Everything you all have said about us is correct.' As she tries to avoid jail, she qualifies for mayor -- and a straitjacket."
Record of controversy
This week's dispute marks the third major dust-up in Butler's short political career, following an ugly and public fight with Nagin in 2003 after he forced her out, alleging she was unable to get along with his staff, and the 2004 election she botched as clerk of court, forcing hundreds of voters to wait hours in line before voting machines arrived.
Nagin, through a spokesman, declined to comment on Butler's announcement.
Butler, with only a few thousand dollars in her campaign coffers, will likely drift back into the field of minor candidates, Pinsonat said, even though her resume of serving as a top City Hall staffer and court clerk might otherwise qualify a person to be a major contender.
Butler's most recent campaign finance report, filed Feb. 14, actually shows her campaign war chest in the hole by $92,000. But a state Board of Ethics staffer said that's because of an error in her staff's accounting of a personal loan.
Before the election was postponed to April 22, Butler loaned $100,000 of her own money to her campaign, then later took it back. She reported just $6,500 in contributions on her latest report. Major candidates for mayor have raised more than $1 million.
Even so, Ed Renwick, director of the Loyola University Institute of Politics, said he wouldn't completely discount Butler's ability to pull at least a small percentage of votes in a free-for-all of a mayor's race that now includes 24 candidates.
"She did win once in a citywide race," Renwick said. "Whether she can keep a chunk of those votes she got, I don't know."