After a bitterly personal campaign, New Orleans City Councilman Marlin Gusman was elected criminal sheriff yesterday, becoming the city’s first newly elected jailer in 30 years. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that Gusman coasted to victory over Warren Riley, deputy superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department. The initial focus was on Riley’s ideas for how the sheriff could assist the New Orleans Police Department, but the race turned sharply negative at the end. Gusman accused Riley of contributing to a woman’s death in 1995 by failing to take action against a police officer she accused of abusing her.
Riley then sought to link Gusman to the cronyism and contracting practices that are at the heart of ongoing federal probes of former Mayor Marc Morial’s administration. With Mayor Ray Nagin in Riley’s corner, the campaign became something of a straw poll on Nagin’s 2006 re-election prospects. Gusman promised to shine a light on the long-shadowy finances of the Sheriff’s Office. In the past, including the time Gusman handled budget negotiations as chief administrative officer, the office defied demands for more disclosure and submitted little detail with its annual requests for money. Gusman succeeds Charles Foti who was elected state attorney general in 2003.