In an interview with Moon Landrieu, the former New Orleans mayor, for Fridayâs article about the fortunes of his political family business in Louisiana, the familyâs patriarch weighed in on the familyâs prospects. His son, Mayor Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans, has a Democratic primary on Saturday and his daughter, Senator Mary Landireu, also a Democrat, is facing a grueling re-election effort later this year in increasingly Republican Louisiana.
âThe fact that they are running within a year of one another is not entirely new to us, what is a little different is the nature of the opposition in Maryâs campaign at this time, which is the totally negative PAC money that has started so early to mischaracterize her,â he said, referring to a deluge of ads underwritten by the billionaire conservative activists Charles and David Koch. âBecause they keep feasting on one aspect of her voting record and that is the Obamacare act.â
He acknowledged Mr. Obamaâs unpopularity across the state, saying the president âhas had a couple of bad momentsâ and fretted that it increased the degree of difficulty of his daughterâs re-election. He expressed less worry about any spillover from a rumored Republican plot to stir up anti-Landrieu sentiment among blacks in the mayorâs race into his daughterâs contest down the road.
âIf you know our history on race going back to the 1960s, we have always had a very solid good relationship with the African American community,â he said. After pausing to accept a kiss from another daughter, Melanie, named after a character in Gone With the Wind, Moon shook his head. âI have at times said âMary, come on home girl, thereâs another life out here.ââ
There is a reason politics is the life Mary and Mitch know. A half century ago, Moon stood in Ella Brennanâs kitchen and made the case to her then-husband, a political consultant, as to why he was uniquely suited to run for mayor.
âBack then the city was like a Pousse-cafÃ©,â said Ms. Brennan, referring to a layered cocktail of rainbow colored alcohols. Now the 88-year-old grand dame of New Orleans restaurants and matriarch of another of the cityâs great – and at times feuding – families, she added, âWe felt Moon was the man who could really mix it.â
Since then, Ms. Brennan has seen the Landrieu family rise and has thrown countless parties for them at her stately Garden District home next to her famed Commanderâs Palace restaurant. She has lent Mary her house for functions and seen Mitch serenade George W. Bush at a post-Katrina party and sing the Ave Maria at the funeral of Representative Lindy Boggs, her frequent Sazerac drinking buddy. (âI saw them lunching at Commanderâs one day,â James Carville said of the women, âand told my daughter to go to the table and genuflect.â)
Mr. Carville has played a significant role in launching the career of the similarly bald mayor, who is a former lieutenant governor with big ambitions and possible designs on the governorship â” or something more. Mitchâs father served as President Carterâs onetime housing secretary, and his supporters see a potential role in Washington for Mitch, too.
Asked if he would serve out his term if re-elected, Mitch said, âLet me answer your question for a minute.â He then spoke for 2 minutes 47 seconds about having the best job on earth, knowing who he is, catching the city from falling off a cliff, what went wrong in 1960, his ârun to the fireâ governing style, the new airport he was building, âthe younger generation of New Orleaneans,â and âmultidimensionalâ goals. âAt the end of the day I think the future is going to win out,â Mitch concluded.
Asked again if he would serve out his term he said: âThe answer is I will. Now, in politics you can never say neverâ and added âTo speculate what could happen in Washington or not, who the heck knows! It would have to be something really really dramatic for me to interrupt.â
âLike something really good?â he was interrupted.
âReally really good,â he said. âReally good.â
That healthy sense of self also allows the mayor to say such things as âI am the symbol of New Orleans catching herself turning herself around and going in the right direction.â
But while there are indeed clear signs of progress in a city devastated by Hurricane Katrina, the mayor also still struggles with high crime rates, blight and blatant inequality. The pousse-cafÃ© Ella Brennan spoke of his father stirring is still not entirely mixed. In the TremÃ© neighborhood just outside the French Quarter, a pink graffiti scrawl reads âSchoolâs Out Foreverâ across a dilapidated junior high schoolâs âHave A Happy Sum erâ sign. Downtown, drivers pass under yellow billboards reading âThou Shalt Not Kill.â Attendees of a mayoral forum Wednesday night in the Katrina devastated Lower Ninth Ward swerved around potholes as deep as ditches.
But electorally speaking at least, one of the kids is probably all right. At the forum, Mitch, the middle child of the Landrieu clan, sat next to a candidate who pleaded with the crowd to âGoogle me.â The mayor instead made his pitch for continuing to move forward as one city and noted all the federal assistance New Orleans had received during his tenure. All at once, he was campaigning for his older sister.
âWe have to give credit to Senator Landrieu for this,â he said.