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Endorsements, Round 1

On Saturday, Oct. 4, voters across Louisiana will begin deciding a host of local, state and federal elections. The separate party primaries for federal elections, originally scheduled for Sept. 6 were postponed until Oct. 4 because of Hurricane Gustav. This week, we restate our support for candidates in the Democratic congressional primaries and offer our recommendations for two other area elections. As we noted before, we will consider all the congressional candidates once the Democratic nominees have been selected. In next week's issue, we will offer recommendations in the remaining races. Above all, we urge all our readers to vote next Saturday, Oct. 4.

1st Congressional District: Jim Harlan
Businessman Jim Harlan is not your typical Democratic congressional candidate. He is a successful businessman, a centrist and an experienced policy wonk all rolled into one. A chemical engineer by training, he helped craft federal energy policy while working for Presidents Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. He then made his fortune in the private sector. He has since sold his businesses and now offers himself for public service again — this time as a candidate for Congress. His pro-life and pro-gun positions are not mainstream Democratic planks, but they do reflect the values of most voters in the First District. He supports creation of an 8/29 Commission to examine the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, floodgates to keep Lake Pontchartrain from rising during hurricanes and tropical storms, and a national catastrophic insurance program.

2nd Congressional District: Cedric Richmond
Voters in Louisiana's Second Congressional District are starved for effective representation and leadership. The 18-year incumbent, Congressman William Jefferson, has lost his coveted committee assignments and virtually all of his influence in the wake of his indictment on 16 federal felony charges. Those charges include bribery and racketeering, among others. Clearly, this district needs a new representative in Congress. We recommend state Rep. Cedric Richmond. In addition to understanding the issues, he also has a solid record of legislative experience and accomplishment that the next congressman will need from Day One. No other challenger offers that.

A nine-year veteran of the Louisiana Legislature, Richmond is a leader not only in the New Orleans delegation but also on matters of regional and statewide import. As chair of the House Judiciary Committee, he oversees the important work of enacting legal reforms. As a member of the Legislative Audit Advisory Committee, he took the lead in holding officials at Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and the Orleans Parish School Board accountable for their sloppy financial records. Another measure of his fiscal restraint: he voted against the legislative pay raise earlier this year.

Even more important, Richmond understands that the best way to get legislation passed is by reaching across geographic, racial and party lines. Examples of this include his authorship of Louisiana's new markets tax credits law — one of the few areas in which our state beat Mississippi to federal hurricane relief funds — and his leadership in pushing for utility tax relief for businesses. In those instances and others, Richmond worked with Republican and conservative lawmakers as well as Democrats to pass laws that make a real difference to Louisiana businesses and families. These are the attributes that New Orleans desperately needs in its next congressman.

Public Service Commission: John F. Schwegmann
The Louisiana Public Service Commission holds as much sway over economic development as any entity in state government because it regulates utilities. For the past 12 years, incumbent commissioner Jay Blossman has been one of the worst examples of a compromised regulator. He was routinely in the pocket of utilities and blatantly defended his acceptance of trips and contributions from those he regulated — after promising not to accept such contributions. Blossman's record is so poor that he dropped out of the race after initially qualifying, and now he supports one of his erstwhile challengers, attorney Eric Skrmetta — who shares Blossman's affinity for political contributions from utilities. We recommend former PSC member John F. Schwegmann for this job. Schwegmann served honorably on the PSC for 16 years and accepts nothing from those he would regulate. He also understands the issues and challenges of the job better than anyone in the race.

State Senate, District 9: Conrad Appel
We are impressed by all three candidates in this Metairie-based state Senate district, but we give the nod to businessman Conrad Appel. A former member of the Dock Board and past chair of the Jefferson Business Council, Appel will bring a unique, highly focused, long-range vision for regional economic development to the Senate. He understands the importance of building coalitions to get meaningful legislation passed, and he supports a holistic health-care policy that will address the needs and strengths of all elements of the health-care industry.

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