Benjamin Flanders: last Republican mayor of New Orleans

It is important for me to understand Philadelphia doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

It is no secret that since the 1960s, when the Democratic Party became the benefactors of black voting loyalty, as many urban centers have seen white flight, large cities haven’t been particularly kind to Republicans.

So, while Philadelphia hasn’t seen a Republican mayor since 1952, other cities have gone longer. Though I’ve had some difficulty – as you’ll see – last week it seemed to me that the last Republican mayor of New Orleans was Benjamin Flanders who was last elected in 1870!

That is why right now my research doesn’t have a lick to do with Philly. Instead, I am creating a better understanding – however basic and marginal – of the city-wide, particularly mayoral, politics of the largest cities in the United States.

I emailed and called a dozen journalists and academics and got my first response back today, from Ray S. Mikell, an associate professor of political science at the University of New Orleans.

In my research, I was having difficulty finding definitive proof of who was the last Republican mayor of the city, considering many contenders were without party affiliation after Flanders, according to many sources. It just goes to show how disproportionately little research is done on big urban politics.

Below see an email I received from him today. It has been so long since a Republican that a political science professor in that city can’t remember, showing how little play the GOP has in many locales.

Date: Fri 25 May 11:50:11 EDT 2007
I’m not completely sure, but I’m thinking it’s Benjamin Flanders, appointed mayor during Reconstruction. White people in the South (of which New Orleans is definitely included, even if it’s not Deep South as far as accents, certain social mores and food culture, accents etc., although the differences are sometimes exaggerated–just not with accents; also, white NOLA residents were as bitter as any white people in the region after occupation and reconstruction) were rabidly anti-Republican after Reconstruction. By the time white southern people were going Republican, New Orleans was majority black, the Voting Rights Act’s impact was being felt and New Orleans was electing one Democratic mayor after another. Now, some people will tell you that Nagin is really a Republican in spirit (despite speeches from him that would seem contrary to that impression–he certainly plays up the free market all the time), and was before running for mayor, but that’s a totally different story. -Dr. Mikell

In a follow-up email later today, Mikell came across the same source at the New Orleans Public Library.

Date: Fri 25 May 12:01:44 EDT 2007
From the New Orleans Public Library. Notice that every mayoral biography included after that of Flanders either a) Includes no reference to party, b) or includes a reference to the Democrats or the “Old Regulars,” which is a reference to a local Democratic organization. (The Regulars still exist, to what strength I don’t know. I received a little card from them last year in which only Republicans were endorsed. Go figure.) – Dr. Mikell

Much thanks to Dr. Mikell and other journalists and academics on whom I will depend for this project.

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