New Orleans pins Katrina recovery hopes on mayor-elect

February 8, 2010

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NEW ORLEANS - In electing Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu to succeed Mayor Ray Nagin, voters turned to a scion of a prominent Louisiana political family to speed up the city’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

Landrieu, 49, won in a landslide Saturday over a field of 10 opponents in a campaign that concluded amid Carnival celebrations and preparations for the New Orleans Saints’ appearance in the Super Bowl.

The mayor-elect, a moderate Democrat, will become the first white mayor in the mostly black city since 1978, the year his father Moon left the office.

With all precincts reporting, Landrieu had 66 percent of the vote.

Landrieu’s victory party was a nod to the other celebrations of the day. The ballroom of a the Roosevelt hotel - recently reopened after a post-Katrina restoration - was festooned with Saints-themed black and gold balloons. A roving brass band played Mardi Gras tunes and Landrieu prefaced his victory speech by leading the crowd in the Saints’ “Who Dat’’ cheer.

“We’re all going together and we’re not leaving anybody behind,’’ Landrieu shouted to a jubilant crowd as family members, including his father and his sister, US Senator Mary Landrieu, stood beside him.

The campaign also focused on the city’s violent crime and slumping finances. Landrieu, who lost to Nagin in a runoff four years ago, was a welcome change for some voters who grew frustrated with the city’s mayor.

Little known outside New Orleans before Katrina, Nagin became a central, and sometimes controversial figure, in the city’s struggle to recover.

Though he won reelection as he courted black voters in the 2006 campaign, polls showed his popularity fell sharply in the years after the storm.