Candidates for New Orleans mayor seek support from hurricane evacuees |

Candidates for New Orleans mayor seek support from hurricane evacuees

HOUSTON – Seven candidates vying to be the next mayor of New Orleans sought support from displaced voters Saturday, two weeks before the election to decide who will guide the city through its long recovery from Hurricane Katrina.The candidates fielded questions about rebuilding in a forum from New Orleans that was broadcast to evacuees in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin, as well as Shreveport, La., and Baton Rouge, La.Mayor Ray Nagin, who is seeking a second term, reminded the audience that the April 22 primary comes just weeks before the start of the next hurricane season.”Do you want experienced leadership that is tried and tested? Or do you want to experiment at this important time in our city’s history?” he asked, drawing applause and cheers in Houston, where about 100 evacuees watched from an auditorium at Texas Southern University.Evacuees pushed the candidates for answers to questions about restoring basic services, such as electricity and trash pickup.”I cannot lie to you and tell you every single service in every single neighborhood is going to come back immediately,” said candidate Ron Forman, an executive credited with turning New Orleans’ zoo into a national showcase.Other candidates agreed.”If I said yes, it would be an empty promise,” said the Rev. Tom Watson, a politically influential minister who is also running for mayor.The candidates urged displaced citizens to find a way to vote. Louisiana officials plan to establish satellite voting centers for New Orleans voters in other parishes and loosen absentee voting rules for those sending ballots from out of state.”This is the most important election in the city’s history,” said Louisiana Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, another candidate.If no candidate gets a majority of the votes in the nonpartisan primary, the top two finishers will compete in a May 20 runoff election.Thomas Wells, who evacuated to Houston after the storm but returned to New Orleans for the forum, said he was frustrated with the city’s appeals for residents to come home.”I am very angry with the statement, ‘Come back home.’ To what?” he asked, complaining his wife has to get dressed each morning out of the trunk of the family’s car. “We are a family with dignity, and that is unacceptable.”Vail, Colorado

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