Appearing before cheering supporters, Mayor Ray Nagin thanked them and then called for everyone in the city to come together in harmony. He said the time had come to start the healing process.
He also spoke optimistically about efforts to bring the city back from the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina eight months ago, using federal funds and a recovery program he defended throughout his campaign.
"We now have $3 billion for levees, we have $8 billion for incentives, we have $10 billion for housing. New Orleans, delivering on your promise," he said.
Nagin's opponent, Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu, also called for citizens of New Orleans to come together and help the mayor move forward with his recovery plan.
"We, as a people, have got to come together so that we can speak with one voice and one purpose, and I am asking you to join with me in supporting Mayor Nagin and his administration and the people of this city to get this city back again," he said.
The two men met in this runoff election after a contest in April, in which there were two dozen candidates, failed to produce a majority winner. In almost daily joint appearances and debates over the past few weeks, Nagin and Landrieu displayed a respectful, friendly manner with each other.
Landrieu argued that new leadership was needed to move the recovery forward, while Nagin insisted that his plan was working and that changing leaders at this time would not be a good idea.
Race played a role in the election. Nagin is black and Landrieu is white. Many black voters said they wanted to maintain a black in the mayor's office, while some white voters expressed dissatisfaction with Nagin's post-Katrina performance and remarks he made earlier this year about keeping New Orleans a "chocolate city." Many whites interpreted this to mean he would be working exclusively for blacks and not concerned with issues of importance to the white community.
But early examination of voting results shows that Nagin did win votes in some largely white areas of the city, while winning large margins among blacks. Many black people from New Orleans were displaced by flooding following Hurricane Katrina and remain in temporary homes around the country. New Orleans currently has less than half the population it had before Katrina.
Mayor Nagin will be formally sworn in for his new term on May 31, the day before the new hurricane season officially begins. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently announced that all its work on the New Orleans levee system will not be complete by June 1, as previously promised. New Orleans could face further damage and disruption of recovery efforts if another storm were to hit anywhere near the city in the months ahead.