New Orleans Council Now Majority White

New Orleans Council Now Majority White STAFF PHOTO BY ELIOT KAMENITZA joyous Jackie Clarkson enters the grand ballroom at the Royal Sonesta Saturday night, escorted by her husband Arthur Buzz Clarkson, for an election night victory party. The political fallout of Hurricane Katrina has culminated in the first majority-white city council in New Orleans in 22 years.

A former councilwoman won an at-large seat on the New Orleans City Council, creating the first white majority in more than two decades.

Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson defeated Cynthia Willard-Lewis, who is black, with 53% of the vote. With all votes counted, Clarkson won with 27,740 votes to Willard-Lewis’ 24,874. Clarkson, 71, will take a seat vacated when councilman Oliver Thomas, who is black, resigned in August after pleading guilty to a bribery charge.

Analysts had said the race could set a baseline for the changing political landscape in a post-Hurricane Katrina city in which the gap between the numbers of white and black voters is narrowing. Blacks remain the majority but are now about 58% of the population, down from 67% before Katrina struck in August 2005.

Clarkson, a real-estate agent who campaigned on a corruption-fighting platform, served terms on the council in the early 1990s and from 2002 to 2006. Her election creates the first white majority on the seven-member body since the mid-1980s, when blacks consolidated political gains that began in 1978 with the election of the city’s first black mayor, Ernest “Dutch” Morial. Morial succeeded New Orleans’ last white mayor, Moon Landrieu.

A rather stunning development. New Orleans has two at-large council seats which tends to heavily favor the majority race. Michelle Krupa of The Times-Picayune reports that, “The shift appears to be part of an emerging trend in city politics” away from race-based voting.

Though the examples hardly represent a wholesale takeover by white candidates, political observers said Sunday that the changes suggest black politicians may be losing their monopoly on certain elected posts in New Orleans, particularly citywide seats.

“Symbolically what it shows is that we have a realignment politically, and that advances made by African-American elected officials and the African-American political structure over the last 30 years … right now are in neutral or being lost,” Xavier University pollster and sociologist Silas Lee said.

Like most changes to hit the city in the past 27 months, the effect appears to be a direct result of Hurricane Katrina. Despite the fact that at least on the voting rolls African-Americans still outnumber whites by a ratio of more than 2-to-1, both white and black voters in New Orleans have gone to the polls in nearly equal numbers since the storm. Orleans Parish Registrar of Voters Sandra Wilson has estimated that more than 100,000 people on the rolls have left New Orleans and eventually may be removed from the list, and recent voting patterns suggest the bulk of those voters are black.


Political pundits said these results should serve as a lesson to candidates considering a run for public office. “Now, politicians are going to have to construct a coalition” to get elected, [University of New Orleans political scientist Ed] Chervenak said. “There’s no more relying on a particular community to be elected.” Chervenak noted that the influx of Hispanic residents will likely impact the balance, but to what degree remains unclear. “In the future, you’re going to have to satisfy the entire city of New Orleans,” said Lambert Boissiere, a former City Council member and state senator. “You can’t just… satisfy one sector.”

That certainly sounds like a good thing.

via OTB News

Photo credit: Eliot Kamenitza/Times-Picayune

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Mike says:

    Does this mean the days of race-baiting are over or will it just evolve?

  2. Christopher says:

    Heck, I’m wondering why this is even a story. Isn’t it racist to talk about how one race is gaining on another race politically? Who the heck cares what color they are!

    Oh yea! That’s right! ……..

    D E M O C R A T S care. But isn’t that racist?