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Nagin Out: New Orleans Gets a New Mayor

NEW ORLEANS - In an event-packed weekend here that included the New Orleans Saints' first-ever trip to the Super Bowl and seven Mardi Gras parades, Mitch Landrieu, the state's lieutenant governor and scion of a well-known Louisiana political family, captured enough attention to become the city's 61st mayor.

Landrieu received 66 percent of votes at the polls Saturday, avoiding a runoff. His landslide victory over 10 opponents brings to a close the tumultuous eight years of Ray Nagin, who has been the public face of New Orleans since the floods following Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005. Nagin had served the maximum number of terms allowed by law.

A litany of tasks await the new mayor: lowering one of the highest crime rates in the nation, rebuilding schools and streets and the ongoing recovery from the 2005 floods.

In a recent interview with USA TODAY, Landrieu said he plans to create a unified strategy for recovery.

"We have a bunch of disparate plans being pushed by a bunch of different organizations. It needs to be brought together coherently," he said.

John Fowler, 44, a New Orleans resident, said his motivation for voting for Landrieu was recovery. "In the four years since Katrina, we're nowhere near where we should be," said Fowler, a real estate agent. "People are truly looking for someone to move the city forward."

Landrieu, a lawyer and a Democrat, grew up in New Orleans and served 16 years as a state legislator and the past six years as lieutenant governor. He's the son of former mayor Moon Landrieu and the brother of Sen. Mary Landrieu, also a Democrat.

"We took a huge leap forward into the future today," Landrieu, 48, said at his victory party. "The city of New Orleans showed America what it takes to rebuild a great place. We're all going together, and we're not leaving anybody behind."

Landrieu is the first white mayor in 32 years in a city that is more than 60 percent African-American.

Landrieu's outright victory underscores the confidence black voters have in the Landrieu name, said James Carville, a political analyst and New Orleans resident. Moon Landrieu was instrumental in integrating City Hall and appointing African Americans to key positions there.

Mitch Landrieu "has enormous support within the African-American community in the city," said Carville, who supported Landrieu's campaign. "That's the big thing he brings to the table."

Landrieu will oversee about $1.5 billion in recovery projects throughout the city and billions of dollars more in infrastructure improvements by the Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies.

"No city could have had a worse decade, and no city has a more promising future," Carville said.

Nagin beat Landrieu in a 2006 contest for mayor. Many within the African-American community became disappointed with Nagin when the city's recovery projects became bogged down, said Silas Lee, a pollster and political scientist at Xavier University of Louisiana.

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