New Orleans Recall Weirdness

Legislation Politicians Politics

Marble Falls      The old saying about not slapping the bear unless you can bring the bear down is worth remembering before you get a head of steam and think trying to recall your local mayor would be a good idea.  We’re seeing that in spades in New Orleans, as recallers took a big, hearty kick at the hornets’ nest and are now getting stung, and in many ways seem to have been asking for it.

Full disclosure, I have not been a fan of this recall.  Yeah, maybe the mayor might have been asking for trouble in a lot of ways, but the optics weren’t appealing and made me very uncomfortable, beginning with the fact that they were going after the first woman mayor in the history of the city and an African-American woman at that in a city that is majority Black who only has about two years left in her second and final term.  Add to that the fact that the initial energy seemed to be coming out of the upper middle class, largely white lakefront precincts, and it’s hard not to smell trouble.  Then it turns out to be a big money affair with what has now turned out to be over a million-dollar budget, the vast, whopping majority of it paid for by a big Republican donor in this very, dark blue city.  Some of the other big donors are familiar names from writing big checks to the Bush campaigns.  Too much of this just seemed to smack of the kind of hard right, deep red Republican attacks on big blue cities like what we are seeing in the way the Tennessee legislature is going after Nashville, the North Carolina gang has gone after Charlotte, Michigan kept hitting on Detroit, and so forth and so on.

Reading papers from days I was out of the country, it seems like I wasn’t just imagining these problems, nor was I alone.  The papers ran samples of the signatures once they were filed and 76.2% were white, compared to 36.7% of our voting population.  Only 15.8% of the 54.1% of Black voting population were signers.  Looking at the map where this was hot and where it was not confirmed the lakefront and uptown support and the antipathy in many areas where we organize like the 9th ward.  Furthermore, the recallers made it hard for the paper to do their work, even though The Times-Picayune / New Orleans Advocate has been on this like white on rice.  They filed freedom of information request to get a look at the signatures when submitted, and then, bizarrely, the recallers reneged on a court agreement to show their stuff, and when forced to comply, showed them about 10,000 pages and held back another 7000.  Why if you are trying to unseat the mayor would you make an enemy out of the local paper, which truth to tell has not exactly been a fan of the mayor either?

I’ve tipped my hat to some of their tactics, like mailing the petitions to registered voters to try to get signature returns, which was novel and spoke to their deep pocketed support, but other tactics have been bizarre, and not just the set to with the papers.  They keep being coy about the number of signatures they have turned in.  How does that help their cause?  Worse, when it became clear they were not going to make the numbers they made Faustian bargain with the archconservative Republican Secretary of State to try and declare thousands of voters inactive contrary to the law in a voter purge no matter what anyone might say otherwise, which he supported wholeheartedly.  Not surprisingly that backroom deal is now being challenged in court and rightly so.  The side deal was approved by the judge, but it turns out the judge had signed the petition and didn’t recuse herself, and seems to be about the only local public official whose name has turned up among the signatures.

Local election officials are saying the recallers didn’t make the numbers, maybe missing the threshold by close to 15,000.  Some of what they say is confusing and maybe suspect, but the Democratic governor has weighed in heavy that the recall has failed.  Neither one of these elected officials seems willing to participate in a white Republican coup.

All very strange, though.  Don’t get me wrong.  The legislature has made getting an initiative or recall petition harder and harder to succeed.  They aren’t alone, of course.  Republicans and Democrats alike don’t like this citizen-based mischief, or putting their own issues on the ballot, or kicking an elected official to the curb outside the normal term rotations.  The numbers keep rising all over the country, and the bells and whistles are piled on to make it more difficult.

Nonetheless, I stand second to no one in my support for people power from the bottom up, but nothing about this effort has felt right from the start to what is now, hopefully, the finish.