Government & Politics

James Perry campaign a success or a failure?

Fair housing non-profit executive James Perry’s underdog bid for mayor of New Orleans has garnered significant fanfare in the media that may not manifest itself as voters at the polls on Election Day.

When Perry launched his campaign a year ago, it was uncertain that he’d make it this far, considering his youth and his lack of personal wealth, name recognition and political experience. Perry has dominated the conversation online, using social media to spread his message to pretty much everyone in New Orleans with a high-speed connection at almost no cost. He also has had some standout debate performances. Some might dispute the extent to which Perry’s oratorical skills surpass expectation, but he certainly has demonstrated an attention to policy detail beyond that which has been articulated by more seasoned opponents.

Yet, when the final blog is written about the 2010 Perry campaign, how will it be judged?

Will the Perry campaign have surpassed all expectations for an inexperienced politician with limited community stature or will it be judged as a disappointment for failing to capitalize on a rare political opportunity?

What percentage of the vote would Perry need to receive for his campaign to be classified as a success or a failure? For supporters, would a third place finish with 10% of the vote be considered a pleasant surprise or a disappointment? What about a fifth place finish with 5%?

The lengthy profile of James Perry by Katy Reckdahl of The Times-Picayune concedes some degree of long-term political potential. but political observer Silas Lee’s quote is emblematic of the profile’s tacit acknowledgement that Perry’s campaign will not yield victory in this election.

“No one knows who James Perry is…”

Regular consumers of online media may find that hard to believe given the ubiquity of Perry’s e-mails, tweets, Facebook status updates, and his noticeable profile among national progressives and African-American thinkers, but it is true.

Perry has demonstrated remarkable success courting high-profile support with the help of his girlfriend, Princeton professor and rising star Melissa Harris-Lacewell. The endorsement of Harvard’s Skip Gates, one of the leading African American minds in the country, demonstrates the breadth of his national profile.

But Perry’s footprint in local media and on the streets hardly reflects that.

Have you seen a single Perry for Mayor bumper sticker or lawn sign? Have you heard one radio ad for Perry? Have you seen Perry volunteers canvassing crowds at second lines, grocery stores, or churches? Did Perry invest resources into registering the young transplant voters he has courted throughout his campaign?

The truth is that Perry doesn’t even have a sign on the front door of his own campaign office, which, sitting on the corner of South Dorgenois and Palmyra streets in Lower Mid-City, appears unoccupied at first glance.

James Perry's campaign headquarters

Is that a reflection of the difficulty of running a campaign with limited resources? Or did Perry waste what little he had by concentrating on the cultivation of national support?

In many ways, Perry could not have hoped for a better political opportunity for an outsider candidacy like his. The mayoral campaign was quiet for months, allowing unlikely contenders ample time to invest in community organizing. The field of candidates, as it took form, never attracted most of the well-known candidates –Karen Carter Peterson, Cheryl Gray Evans, Warren Riley, Marlin Gusman, and throughout most of 2009, Mitch Landrieu – who would have been able to garner financial support and media attention almost automatically.

Even since the debates began, Perry has survived a war of attrition that has claimed his primary competitor for young transplant professionals, Leslie Jacobs, and the likeliest beneficiary of voters from the African American civil-rights community, Ed Murray. Still, it remains unlikely that Perry can escape Nadine Ramsey, Rob Couhig, and the back of the field to join Troy Henry, John Georges, and Mitch Landrieu, who are conventionally considered legitimate contenders to win the election or force a March runoff.

I’ll be weighing the debate throughout the next few days. I’d like to hear from Perry supporters especially about their Election Day hopes, expectations, and the difference between the two.

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  • Based on what I’ve seen and read, Perry typically comes off as the most well informed and has the most compelling policy positions of the candidates at the debates and candidate forums (did anyone have better answers at the corruption/transparency forum, for example?). Landrieu is playing it safe (his default), taking a shot here and there at Georges, mostly because it’s easy, I imagine (I’ve noticed Georges can’t get through two sentences without making audience members laugh at the unintentionally funny things he says).

    That said, why no Perry signs? We’ve been complaining about a lack of signs and stickers for months. And you’re right about canvassing the second lines. I caught a second line in the Treme Saturday and there was one old guy riding a 3-wheel bike with a Ramsey sign but that was it. Easy pickings.

    I see that Perry is doing some meet-and-greets this week. Don’t know if he’s been doing that all along, but Wed. he’s at Pal’s Lounge (949 N. Rendon) from 5-6 and Thursday from 5:30-6:30 at Mimi’s in the Marigny (though there’s a candidate forum Thurs. at the Delgado West Bank campus from 6:15 to 8:30, so I don’t know which one he cuts short).

    I think he’s established himself as a credible voice–he should get more votes than Couhig ,,,
    But for the left leaning voter, it’s only between Perry and Landrieu, right?

  • beanwave

    Wow, Ackerman. I guess you take your Haterade straight up, no chaser. I think that you’re highly underestimating A. the power of the Internet; B. the power of Plantation John Georges and Troy Conspiracy Brother Henry to torpedo their own campaigns; and C. the ability of a message of genuine transformation to seep through the petty and parsimonious politics that have plagued the city for so long (did you like that? Grown-ups call that “alliteration”).

  • Jeffrey

    Ha ha “power of the internet” If I go to my grave “underestimating” the “power” of the young white pseudo-lib echo chamber’s effect on NOLA politics I will quite happily take that ride.

    Otherwise I agree with Eli and with DSB here. I find it striking that the candidate who appears to take the policy discussion aspect of this campaign the most seriously also takes his campaign itself so lightly. Whoever heard of a citywide campaign with no yard signs? And please don’t tell me they went “paperless” out of environmental conscientousness. I suspect that Perry was always in this for the purpose of networking and resume building with he girlfriend’s intellectual circle. I can’t prove that. It’s just an impression. Either way it’s hard to view his refusal to even try and connect with the vast majority of the electorate as anything other than condescension, indifference or both.

  • I’ve been a Perry fan from the moment I heard about him, but I am disappointed the campaign didn’t create more momentum during the year. I believe in his understanding of the issues and his positions, and I would love to see the outsider win his way to the Mayor’s office.

    It takes a whole lot to quiet my rough hewn Georgia cynicism – I’ve seen too many local lawyers campaign for the advertising opportunities. I just never got that vibe from Perry. Disingenuous campaigns usually turn on one theme or issue; they are used for branding and marketing purposes. This campaign obviously isn’t that.

    So now, my tough voting decision comes down to a choice between my idealism and my cynicism: do I vote for the candidate I like the best, who I think didn’t run a winning campaign? Or do I vote for the candidate I like the second best, to make sure he wins the election this time (hoping that the first choice will have another opportunity in the future)?

  • I WANT people to hear of Perry – the ones who actually LIVE IN THIS CITY. When will the campaign materials and the true face time beyond the forums come out? The week before February 6th? I was sent through email a call for volunteers to do phone calls and canvass neighborhoods to get the word out about him. Why wasn’t HE and HIS STAFF doing that all this time?

    The other problem I have is his many jaunts outside of the state to get funding. I fear that, if he gets to the mayor’s office, he’ll be spending more of his time in a “Where’s Bobby?” sort of situation at first and we’ll rarely see the man who is supposed to be the chief official of this city for all the fulfillment of his financial obligations. We rarely saw the Walking Id we still have in City Hall as it is.

    Aside from that, I think it is as Coozan said – idealism or cynicism? if you are a knowledgeable voter keeping up with the circuses. Otherwise, there are still at least four people who have a chance in this thing – the ones that DON’T have the first names Rob and John.

  • jeffrey

    liprap says, “I WANT people to hear of Perry – the ones who actually LIVE IN THIS CITY” The question is, does Perry want people who live in this city to hear of Perry? It doesn’t seem like it. And that’s the real shame of it. Even if he were destined to be a long-shot candidate, Perry clearly has a lot to contribute to the discussion. If he had put any effort at all into invigorating his campaign, he might have been able to make that contribution meaningfully. By choosing not to do that, he’s essentially telling New Orleans that it isn’t as important to him as his cred with the in-crowd seems to be.

  • alan

    I think this perspective is spot on. As a young white pseudo-lib I attended a couple of weakly organized events publicized only on Facebook. I donated money and offered to volunteer. This began some 9 months ago. I hesitate to make the comparison — in part because I find Perry’s invocation of Obama a little insulting — but our current president faced a loosely analogous situation. He organized and hustled for months before the established candidates started paying their dues. Perry could have had a half-year jumpstart on his retail effort, but he chose instead to attend fundraising parties on the East Coast at the expense of raising his profile among voters. I found his campaign extremely disappointing, if only because the mix of his thoughtful positions and unique electoral circumstances led me to high expectations. By the end of December though, I found myself wondering if his mayoral effort was even in good faith.

    There is nothing wrong with a long-shot candidacy that is a sure loss. It affords you a chance to raise your profile for the next round, to influence the conversation, and to motivate civic participation. Maybe Perry just played that hand, and was disinclined to change course when presented with the opportunity to make a much more significant impact than he did. Or maybe he just didn’t see it.

  • Hey, he would prefer to use Huff Post to attack his opponent Henry with local Blog links to American Zombie…like today, and he doesn’t even do it himself but uses his “partner”.
    Here are the statement-links in brackets and the link since I can’t do that fancy stuff.
    [Some of our opponents are playing the race card from the bottom of the deck.]
    Indeed Perry was the first person I saw play The Card, in his very Huff Post, the day Murray pulled out.
    [padding their resume and misrepresenting their professional credentials and accomplishments,]
    Brilliant when you consider, he doesn’t have to point at Henry, but instead uses the local blogger who is pointing at Henry, and Perry doesn’t even have to do this himself but instead through the mouth of a babe.
    Hell who needs roadsigns? I know where this dog is lying.
    Oh and after he’s linked the Zombie you can give $5, $25 or $50 to help the Mayor’s Race in New Orleans not degenerate into a Race’s Mayor… or something like that.

    The Lens is lookin’Sharp yes indeed!
    Thank you.

  • BTW, y’all, American Zombie didn’t have anything to do with being linked-to, other than Sterling Nola Blogging.
    I didn’t want it to look like I at all inferred a connection between that Forking Boyscout Perry and an actual valued local asset.

  • Editilla, you actually think the HuffPost piece is somehow playing “The Card”? So you think Henry WASN’T playing “The Card”? I think you’re way out there on this one. By your definition, your linking to the HuffPost piece is itself a form of playing “The Card.”

    And this beef you have about the links to Zombie is absurd. What, that can only be done in Orleans Parish–but once one gets on the national stage (HuffPost) it’s off limits or some underhanded form of trickery? Huh?

    [full disclosure: I’ve given $20 to the Perry campaign and let it use some pictures I took]

  • Hey dsb!
    I should have left better links.
    This is the Huff Piece that I considered a deal on the game of Racial 3 Card Monte, opened by Mr Perry the day of (or day after) Murray pulled out:
    (It’s Time to be Honest About Race in New Orleans)
    What ever Actually reason caused Murray to pull out, it started an understandable movement amongst the other candidates. Indeed, within days it began to seem to me that Henry and Perry were almost “out-race baiting each other”.
    Perry was attempting to juxtapose his place opposite, natural.
    But what I find unnatural is, in light of the article above, and other obvious realities, is that Perry is not investing much here, especially with Huff Post –hell they might even Pay him who knows.
    So what is Perry raising money for when he is Obviously Not Invested in Winning this Campaign? Another run later, after using the Huff Machine and this current election to build his exposure (while at the same time campaign wallet)?

    Which brings me to Huff Piece wit’da American Zombie linkages.
    I have no beef with the tactic Perry is using to attack Henry from the side. Indeed it fascinates me to no end.
    The way he uses his “partner” to lay out the story is kinda, well… ‘divested’ as well to put it nicely. But I find the Tactic brilliant.
    And, I have no “beef” with any of this, least of all a fear of so called “campaign funding trickery”. Jeez, it’s politics. Perry apparently doesn’t have the support on his own turf so he has to go Nationwide, just like Jindal? Or, would you like to argue that the Child-Governor isn’t raising so much money out-of-state to run for even Higher Office?
    That’s all I’m saying about Perry’s Huff Duff.
    I never said the man doesn’t understand Race in New Orleans.

  • dsb

    Not like you understand Race n New Orleans, right, Edtilla?

  • Ha! Believe it or not I can’t fit Both Feet in my Mouf, dsb.
    Rape and Racism for me are twin needles of a single Pusher, fangs of our undead body politic as both realities represent weapons of the political rather than enrichment of the cultural.
    Through my own tears I have come to see that Politics is not the solution to racial understanding.
    Because there is no crying in Politics.

  • Beth

    Jeffrey: “I suspect that Perry was always in this for the purpose of networking and resume building with he girlfriend’s intellectual circle.”

    Perry’s father was an English professor. Why would he need to “network” with intellectual pals of his girlfriend? He’s been around them intellectuals whole life.

  • Editlla,

    In regards to your theory and the overarching “internet campaign” discussion per the HuffPo link, it might surprise you to know that I had no idea I was even linked from that HuffPo piece until you pointed it out. Looking at my Statcounter data….I think maybe 5 people actually clicked on those links from that HuffPost column. I get much more traffic daily from local blog links, i.e., Jeffry, Eli, Oyster, and in particular, I get a lot of traffic if I am linked in the comment section of NOLA articles.

    My point being, I think one great big Perry sign off the Read Blvd. exit in the East, or a single sign off the Gentilly Blvd. exit would have produced 1000 times the exposure and name recognition that the HuffPo article did.

    Also, as far as having influence in an election, I don’t really think blogs have as much effect as we bloggers would like to think. I think only if the MSM actually picks the story up, will it produce an effect, i.e., Eli’s posting the video of Georges’ meltdown at OPDEC and linking it.

    This is all good discussion though. I would love for Loyola’s mass media dept. to host a forum (maybe after the election) which discusses the effect of the internet on campaigns and politics. I would love to participate and listen to that conversation.

    In my case, I have published two stories, Henry’s resume/lawsuits, and Tom Arnold brandishing a gun in the courthouse, which have made it into the MSM fray during this election. I also know that information came into my blog anonymously, but I am sure it was all submitted with political motivation.

    For me, I am more concerned about what is true and what isn’t. I have to make a decision if the issues actually warrant further investigation and even more importantly, whether or not they should be published. I have received a lot of stuff during this election which either wasn’t true, or which I decided really didn’t warrant publishing. I realize that is a highly subjective process and I haven’t hidden my biases towards certain candidates, i.e., I really don’t like Jay Batt, but the one standard I demand of myself is that I verify that what I have published is true to the best of my ability and limited resources. Clearly I have biases, but I think that’s also the really interesting effect of blogs and the internet on democracy as opposed to pre-internet where we only digested what the MSM chose to serve up.

    I also think the whole notion of “objectivity” in journalism needs to be brought back up for discussion. While mainstream media resources, politicians, and journalism professors may tend to portray blogs as echo chambers, uninformed pundits, and biased conjecture, I find it ironic that they often fail to mention they’re own special interests, bias and punditry. I am witnessing that hypocrisy on an almost daily basis during this election.

    It’s actually forcing me to rethink what role we, as bloggers, serve in this community and whether or not I should rethink my notions of “proper journalism” altogether. To reference Matt Taibi, we need really pissed off people who proceed without caution and rip government, corporations, etc. a new asshole at every turn and even with extreme bias. I agree with him…I think that’s an inherent need of a healthy democracy.

    However, not being a part of the MSM establishment poses tremendous challenges. I was in contact with both the Henry campaign and the Arnold campaign before I wrote the posts about them and neither one would go on record. They, naturally, accused me of being “played” by opposing campaigns, but yet they both refused to go on the record and respond to the allegations. They were more than happy to bitch at me and threaten lawsuits, but they wouldn’t engage in a discussion on the record. I got the expected response from them, “We don’t have time to respond to some stupid blogger.” Yet they had time to contact me and tell me how I was a fool for pursuing the stories.

    I think there’s a symbiotic relationship forming between bloggers/citizen media and the MSM…I have no idea what the scope of repercussions and benefits will be, but I would love it if an institute of higher education would start that conversation on a local level. I also think it’s fascinating to look at how blogs/citizen media are affecting elections.

    I went off on a tangent, but I think this is interesting stuff which needs further discussion.

  • Thanks Dambala. I really appreciate the way you are thinking about the roll of blogging the electorate. My take on Perry’s link-tactic to attack his opponent via your fine work owes less to its efficacy as to its novelty, at least in this election. I wasn’t as cyber aware during the last election.
    Whether or not you knew and number of hits from his links takes nothing away from the efficacy of the tactic he employed. And, as reported in The Lens, Perry doesn’t have any billboards (as you suggested) or signs or particular Street Beat going on, so those 5 hits were well worth his investment –nothing– in budget with the rest of his Nola campaign.
    That is my point about his use of Huff Post for stirring up the carpetbloggers (sorry couldn’t help it man:) for fund-raising, not winning this election.

    It also takes nothing away from his use of bloggers to attack his opponent. That he knows who’s swinging real bats makes me want to vote for him.
    I’m not sucking your toe here. Your work is That good. You are the Moon not the Finger, you move the tide not simply stir the eddies. There isn’t anything you can do about that Dambala. Perry got this in spades, oops, and he didn’t pay a dime for it. Try to imagine how much Leslie Jacobs spent on just her computer dept… oh cheezus, and still she Never Got It!
    Laid it out on her doorstep and she acted like it was a burning bag of kitty litter!
    Don’t get me started.

    While arguably not in that number, I see Nola Bloggers like you et al mentioned above effecting the body politic by saying what can be said clearly… with backup… and all the rest we must piss over in silence. Fortunately y’all also serve it up with half shells of humor on the side. I refuse to consider MSM journalistic news.
    I see that symbiotic relationship between bloggers and MSM — and raise you one afterbirth of the 4th Estate.

  • A qualification:(effecting the body politic)… by that I mean Via your effect on the Campaigns which undoubtedly follow y’all –in some cases like carny barkers.

  • Mr. Goerges nor Mr.Copelin ever encouraged me to run. It was not necessary for either to pay my expenses because I for years have felt that Leslie Jacobs possessed the personality of a termagant.
    The disgust began when I and her father were partners , and the dissolution of our partnership crumbleld as her father spewed filth in my direction. That occurred in 1971.
    On rare occasion we were in the company of each other , and she continued to send barbs in my direction. Always I was facinated because I was a life insurance salesman making a nice living and she was a very successful corp insurance agency owner making probably 10 times my income.
    On the same level of stupidity , why does an LSU fan berate aTulane fan after a very lopsided football score?
    I believe this action represents the inferiority complex of one who is using someone else’s victories to compensate and substitute for one who feels incapable of accomplishing success or equally engaging in a competitive contest.

    Also, she did withdraw from the race because she felt she could not win. I am running for a social statement
    and hope I can help the city.
    She was looking for power , and I am running to effect social change.
    this is one of the many reasons I classify her as a termagant,