NEW ORLEANS - Louisiana Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu was elected mayor of New Orleans on Saturday, replacing term-limited Ray Nagin and becoming the majority-black city's first white mayor since 1979.
Landrieu, 49, won in a landslide over a field of 10 opponents in a campaign that focused on the city's slow recovery from Hurricane Katrina, violent crime and slumping city finances. The city's last white mayor was Landrieu's father, Moon Landrieu.
Mayor-elect Landrieu, a moderate Democrat, is the brother of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.
Voting came amid Carnival celebrations and preparations for the New Orleans Saints' appearance in the Super Bowl on Sunday. As returns came in, jubilation spread through the Landrieu headquarters in a hotel ballroom -- festooned with black and gold balloons in a nod to the Saints. A brass band played Mardi Gras music and meandered through the room.
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 current mayor. Little known outside New Orleans before Katrina, Nagin became a central, and sometimes controversial figure, in the city's struggle to recover. Polls showed his popularity fell sharply in the years after the storm as the rebuilding process dragged on.
"I certainly don't want another Ray Nagin -- a businessman," said Charlotte Ford, a 76-year-old semi-retiree and registered Republican who voted for Landrieu. "They balk instead of finding out what works, how the system works."
Ursula Murphy and her husband, Bill, voted early so they could avoid traffic caused by the parades. Both cast votes for Landrieu. "After eight years of negative, we're going to see some positive," Bill Murphy said.