Magazine article Newsweek

Absentee City, U.S.A. in New Orleans, Chasing Votes Is a Nationwide Manhunt

Magazine article Newsweek

Absentee City, U.S.A. in New Orleans, Chasing Votes Is a Nationwide Manhunt

Article excerpt

Byline: Arian Campo-Flores

Fasten your seat belts if you hope to keep up with the contenders in New Orleans's mayoral race. One recent Saturday, candidate Mitch Landrieu woke up at 6 a.m. to fly 200 miles north to Alexandria, La., where he greeted Katrina evacuees. From there, he jetted another 500 miles east to Atlanta, where he joined six of his opponents, including Mayor Ray Nagin, at a gathering of some 75 displaced residents. Then he hopped on a plane back to the Big Easy, where that night he worked the crowd at a Hornets basketball game. "You've got to figure out where your votes are and go get them," said Landrieu, Louisiana's lieutenant governor.

Good luck. With only one third of New Orleanians back in the city and the remainder scattered across the country, the electorate is more elusive than ever. The two dozen candidates--led by Nagin, Landrieu and businessman Ron Forman--are struggling with questionable polling data and out-of-date voter lists. They're hunting for supporters in cities like Houston and Memphis with large concentrations of evacuees. And they're doing it all on a harried schedule, with less than a month left until the April 22 election (with a likely runoff scheduled for May 20). "It's a totally different ball game," says Nagin consultant Jim Carvin.

To track down voters, candidates are trolling for any data they can get their hands on. Greg Rigamer, who has advised numerous Louisiana campaigns in the past, suggests a start: take the voter-registration file and cull those who live in habitable areas and have likely returned. …

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