Sunday, April 16, 2006



By Frank Donze
Staff writer

(Candidate Peggy) Wilson has been ferocious, pounding Forman and Landrieu during debates and airing a TV ad this week that labels them "corruption enablers" for their past political support of former Mayor Marc Morial, whose City Hall contracting practices are the subject of several federal investigations.

For his part, Nagin has focused on how he stood by his "post" during the tumultuous weeks after the storm. But now and then he takes a poke at his chief opponents. For instance, he has tried to foist blame for the state's failure to deliver federal recovery dollars on Landrieu, who as lieutenant governor has no control over the money.

But the second-tier white candidates appear to be eroding support for both Landrieu and, to a larger degree, Forman, who is drawing much of his backing from Republicans and white Democrats.

"You might say we have a mini white primary between Forman and Landrieu, with Couhig, Boulet and Wilson attempting to get in there," said University of New Orleans political scientist professor Susan Howell

"The conventional wisdom is that Nagin is a given for the runoff and everyone else is competing for the second spot," Howell said.

"For the most part, they've been cautious and unimaginative," said veteran political consultant Ron Nabonne, who is not working for any mayoral hopeful. "In these uncertain times, many people have been looking for something different, and none of the big three has provided that so far.

Not surprisingly, the boldest proposals have come from the second-tier candidates, ranging from Wilson's call for a tax-free city...

"Basically, it's been a race about personality, character and race," she said. "The way many voters are looking at it is: 'Who do I trust? Is it a white person or a black person?

"It's sad but true that this is ultimately going to turn into a racially polarized election," she said.

Forman was reluctant to throw the first punch, but he was the logical one to do so, given his third-place standing in most polls. After weeks of lobbying by his campaign staff, he agreed to air a TV spot Wednesday night that raised questions about Landrieu's support for taxes as a legislator and the low ratings he received from business groups.

Landrieu struck back immediately with an ad that painted Forman as a highly paid executive whose publicly financed projects have come in over budget and behind schedule.

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