Ray Nagin

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Clarence Ray Nagin
Ray Nagin.jpg
Mayor of New Orleans
Former Mayor
In office
2002 - 2010
High schoolO. Perry Walker High School (1974)
Bachelor'sTuskegee University (1978)
Master'sTulane University (1994)
Date of birth6/11/1956
Clarence Ray Nagin, Jr. (b. June 11, 1956) is the former Mayor of New Orleans, Louisiana, serving from 2002 to 2010. Nagin gained international attention in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the New Orleans area.


Nagin was born in New Orleans, Louisiana to a Creole family. He spent his early years in the Seventh Ward, until his family moved to the New Aurora section of Algiers, Louisiana in the early 1970s. He earned his B.S. in Accounting from Tuskegee University in 1978 and his M.B.A. from Tulane University in 1994. He and his wife, Seletha Smith Nagin, a graduate of the University of New Orleans, have three children; Jeremy, Jarin, and Tianna.[1]

Before his election in 2002, Nagin had never held public office; he was a vice president and general manager at Cox Communications, a cable company and subsidiary of Cox Enterprises. Several news sources, including BBC News and numerous blogs and editorials stated that Nagin was a registered Republican for most of his life, switching to the Democratic Party shortly before seeking office.[2][3] In a January 13, 2006, interview on the Tavis Smiley show, Nagin himself denied these rumors, stating that he "never was a Republican" and that he has been a "life-long Democrat," and several of the news sources reporting that he was a Republican have since issued retractions.[4] He did give contributions periodically to candidates of both parties, including Representative Billy Tauzin in 1999 and 2000, as well as Democratic Senators John Breaux and J. Bennett Johnston, Jr. earlier in the decade.



The elections for mayor and city council scheduled for early 2006 were postponed by the state due to the disruption caused by Hurricane Katrina and were rescheduled for April 22, 2006. In the election, Nagin faced a record 23 challengers, most prominently sitting Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu and Audubon Institute head Ron Forman. Nagin won with 38 percent of the vote. Landrieu came in second with 29 percent. Nagin and Landrieu faced each other in a runoff election on May 20th, 2006, which Nagin won 52-48. Nagin also won with a dramatic shift in the racial breakdown of his voter base; in this election he received the support of about 80 percent of black voters and 20 percent of white voters, a reversal of his support base in the 2002 election.


In the first round of the crowded mayoral election in February 2002, Nagin received first place with 29 percent of the vote, against opponents such as Police Chief Richard Pennington, State Senator Paulette Irons, City Councilman Troy Carter and others. In the runoff with Pennington in March 2002, Nagin won with 59 percent of the vote. His campaign was largely self-financed.


Corruption charges

On January 18, 2013, Nagin was indicted on 21 corruption charges related to his alleged dealings with two troubled city vendors following Hurricane Katrina.[5] On February 20, 2013, he pleaded not guilty in federal court to all charges.[6] He was convicted on 20 of 21 of these charges on February 12, 2014.[7] On July 9, 2014, a U.S. District Judge sentence Nagin to ten years in a federal prison. Under federal sentencing guidelines, he could have been sentenced up to twenty years.[8] Nagin began his sentence at a facility in Texarkana, Texas on September 9, 2014. His lawyers filed an appeal immediately following the sentencing in July.[9] Nagin's deadline to appeal was April 9, 2015.[10]

Ground Zero controversy

In an interview with Byron Pitts on CBS's 60 Minutes (aired August 27, 2006), Nagin responded to criticisms regarding his leadership during the aftermath of Katrina and the fact that much of New Orleans is still in ruins almost a year afterward. Nagin made a reference to New York City's World Trade Center site, saying, "That’s all right. You guys in New York can’t get a hole in the ground fixed and it’s five years later. So let’s be fair."[11]

Prior to the airing of 60 Minutes, Nagin appeared on NBC's Meet The Press and offered clarification on his comments. "I meant no disrespect for anyone. I have seen death, I’ve seen the destruction, and I was just using it as a comparison to show how difficult it is for people to rebuild after a major disaster," he said. When asked by Tim Russert if he wished that he'd chosen other words, Nagin replied, "I wish I would have basically said that it was an undeveloped site, which it is."[12]

Comment on Mexicans

At a town hall meeting in October 2005, Nagin said: "I can see in your eyes, you want to know, 'How do I take advantage of this incredible opportunity? How do I make sure New Orleans is not overrun with Mexican workers," referring to the influx of Mexican laborers coming to New Orleans to help rebuild the city. Hispanic groups, including the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, criticized Nagin's statement as prejudiced, although those attending the town hall meeting reportedly applauded; many in the area argued that the jobs should instead go to local workers displaced by the hurricane.[13]

Criticism of Hurrican Katrina relief efforts

On September 1, 2005, Nagin held a high-profile interview on the relief situation with Garland Robinette on radio station WWL, in which he bluntly criticized the delays in aid to the city. He expressed anger with what he saw as the slow federal and state response, imploring citizens to request that President Bush and Louisiana Governor Blanco send the required resources. "I don't want to see anybody do anymore goddamn press conferences. Put a moratorium on press conferences. Don't do another press conference until the resources are in this city," he said. He compared the reaction to Hurricane Katrina with the swift national reaction to 9/11 and the war in Iraq. He concluded the interview by telling Bush and the federal government, "Now get off your asses and let's do something, and let's fix the biggest goddamn crisis in the history of this country."[14]

As part of what was apparently a larger effort to assign responsibility for the inadequate response, Michael Chertoff, secretary of Homeland Security, explained on September 4 that "the way that emergency operations act under the law is, the responsibility and the power, the authority, to order an evacuation rests with state and local officials. The federal government comes in and supports those officials."[15]

On September 4, President Bush responded to Nagin's criticism by focusing on the failings of state and local authorities, stating that the disaster's magnitude "created tremendous problems that have strained state and local capabilities. The result is that many of our citizens simply are not getting the help they need, especially in New Orleans. And that is unacceptable."[16]

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