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A Watershed Election

John Kennedy has a long and solid record of integrity, independence and effectiveness.

Nov. 2 is going to be a watershed in American politics. Our country has never been more polarized along party and philosophical lines. Here in New Orleans, divisions run deep in elections for criminal sheriff and school board. Voters also will decide contests for public service commissioner, juvenile judge and a handful of state and local propositions.

We don't expect all our readers to agree with us, but we do hope our recommendations spur them into thinking more often and more deeply about the issues and the candidates on the ballot. Above all, we urge our readers to vote.

Throughout our 24 years of publishing, Gambit Weekly has focused its reporting and commentary on local and state affairs. We therefore make no recommendations in presidential elections. Our recommendations for statewide and local elections follow:

Kennedy for Senate

Louisiana has been blessed by the long and effective tenure of U.S. Sen. John Breaux, a Democrat from Crowley. As we choose his successor, we should look for someone who can represent the diverse population of our state. After looking at all the candidates, we enthusiastically endorse state Treasurer John Kennedy.

Kennedy has a long and solid record of integrity, independence and effectiveness. He works well with other elected officials -- a critical attribute in the legislative arena. His campaign also has avoided the kind of name-calling, half-truths and mudslinging that recently marked the campaigns of his chief rivals. If nothing else, voters ought to reward a qualified candidate who has taken the high road and focused on issues. But there are other, very good reasons to elect John Kennedy as Louisiana's next U.S. senator.

Kennedy is running as a Washington "outsider" who favors a return to the "pay as you go" fiscal policy that produced huge budget surpluses in the 1990s. His four years as state revenue secretary and five years as state treasurer give him an excellent background in money matters and fiscal policy. While directing the state revenue department, Kennedy expanded Louisiana's program for returning unclaimed checks to their rightful owners. He still administers that program today as treasurer.

As a senator, Kennedy will emphasize health care, coastal erosion and jobs. On the issue of jobs, Kennedy has criticized the Bush administration's new overtime rules, calling them confusing and mean-spirited. He supports a tax credit program for industries that create new jobs. Although he is pro-life, he supports federal funding for embryonic stem cell research -- the same position taken by Ron and Nancy Reagan. Kennedy rightfully criticizes the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act. He notes that there is not enough flexibility in the program and that it doesn't make adequate provisions for children in special education programs.

On Iraq, Kennedy supports holding the January elections on schedule and would look to that country's oil reserves so that the Iraqi people can contribute their fair share toward the costs of rebuilding that nation. He supports the United States' move against Saddam Hussein, but he cautions that our country likewise must accept whatever government Iraqis choose in January. Our goal, he says, is to make Iraqis free -- not to make them Americans. On these and other issues, Kennedy makes sense for Louisiana and for America. That's why we support John Kennedy to be our next U.S. senator.

Jindal for Congress, District 1

Bobby Jindal is an easy choice for voters in Louisiana's First Congressional District. The kinetic young Republican was among the brightest stars in the administration of Gov. Mike Foster, so much so that President Bush tapped him to be a special adviser on national health care policy. Jindal offers the intelligence, integrity and energy that the district needs.

Jefferson for Congress, District 2

Veteran Congressman William Jefferson has vast experience and political skills. He has helped secure millions of federal dollars for our area projects -- at the airport, the port, for highways and for flood protection. From his seat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, Jefferson helps write federal tax policies and brings Louisiana's sensitivities to bear on that important process. He deserves re-election.

Boissiere for PSC

The race for Public Service Commission is a no-brainer. Lambert Boissiere III stands head and shoulders above state Sen. Cleo Fields, who has sullied Louisiana politics and his own reputation by taking $20,000 in cash from Edwin Edwards (and stuffing it down his pants, on an FBI videotape) during the riverboat casino scandals. By contrast, Boissiere has done a good job of serving the public as constable of First City Court. Boissiere is honest, hard-working and responsible. He will be a fine addition to the PSC.

Riley for Criminal Sheriff

Warren Riley, assistant superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department, has been attacked in TV ads for not preventing a murder years ago. We think that criticism is grossly unfair because it ignores the fact that the woman who was later murdered had asked Riley not to pursue her initial complaint. He honored that request. In our view, Riley is a good cop and a good administrator. The 23-year NOPD veteran holds a master's degree in criminal justice from Southern University in New Orleans and has managed the largest division at NOPD. In addition to his plan to put 200 deputies on local streets, Riley's priorities include improving employee management and training, inmate education, and a citizen-supported discharge program aimed at reducing the prison population.

Cade for School Board, District 2

School board candidate Cynthia Cade stresses the need for the new school board to come together in reforming our schools, and she pledges to work well with Superintendent Anthony Amato in reaching this important goal. Too often, the board has drowned in its own factionalism. Cade, who holds a degree in elementary education from Southern University, would contribute to a better, more functional board.

Sanders for School Board, District 7

A pastor and social worker, Torin Sanders has earned recognition by the national media and the FBI for his work with New Orleans children who have lost loved ones to violence. He holds a master's degree in social work from Tulane University and has served on a number of civic boards, including Crimestoppers.

Constitutional Amendments

We recommend that our readers vote FOR Constitutional Amendment 1, which guarantees the right of all citizens to hunt and fish.

We recommend voting FOR Constitutional Amendment 2, which clarifies parts of the law dealing with the homestead exemption that have been interpreted in different ways by local tax assessors.

We suggest voting FOR Constitutional Amendment 3, which grants state hiring preferences to anyone who served honorably in the armed forces for more than 90 days after Sept. 11, 2001, for reasons other than training.

We recommend voting AGAINST Constitutional Amendment 4, which would create a new fund for the support of agricultural and seafood products. Conflicts in the wording of the amendment and companion legislation raise a number of questions about the true intent of the amendment and how it would be administered.

YES to City Bond Issue

Mayor Nagin and the New Orleans City Council unanimously agree on the need to continue rebuilding local streets -- and to pump money into NORD playgrounds, parks, libraries, health clinics and senior citizen centers. The $260 million bond issue would actually cost property tax payers nothing for at least three years, and slowly rise to no more than 3.6 mills after that. It's a good plan, and New Orleans needs to continue the mayor's excellent program of improving public spaces. Vote YES on the City Bond Issue.

YES to Jefferson Propositions

Three propositions are on the ballot in Jefferson Parish -- two of them parishwide and one in the unincorporated areas plus Lafitte. We support all three. The first fixes a problem with the way drilling rigs are taxed. The second rededicates 1 mill of existing property tax toward the criminal justice system, culture and public parks. The third rededicates 2.5 mills toward the criminal justice system, economic development, culture and parks, and senior services. None of these will raise existing property taxes. Vote YES on the Jefferson Parish propositions.

The Gambit Weekly Ballot

U. S. Senator -- John Kennedy

U.S. Representative, District 1 -- Bobby Jindal

U.S. Representative, District 2
-- William Jefferson

Public Service Commission, District 3 -- Lambert Boissiere III

New Orleans Criminal Sheriff -- Warren Riley

Orleans Parish School Board

District 2 -- Cynthia Cade

District 7 -- Torin Sanders

Amendment No. 1 -- FOR

Amendment No. 2 -- FOR

Amendment No. 3 -- FOR

Amendment No. 4 -- AGAINST

New Orleans Bond Issue -- YES

Jefferson Parish Propositions

Drilling Rigs Exemption -- YES

1 Mill Rededication -- YES

2.5 Mills Rededication -- YES

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