After publicly admitting his potential interest in running for governor next year and sparring with Gov. Mike Foster over the casino compact with the Jena band of Choctaw Indians, U.S. Congressman David Vitter now finds himself with probable opposition this fall.
Early on, Vitter was viewed as an easy victor in his re-election bid. Now Vitter has certainly angered Foster, who is trying to recruit a candidate against the Congressman, according to a well-placed source.
Who will Foster find to run against the incumbent? According to this source, the governor has talked to former Jefferson Parish District Attorney Jack Capella and Public Service Commissioner Jay Blossman. As of yet, neither has jumped at the offer. Capella is still awaiting a decision on whether he will be the next U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, and Blossman is still in the race for the U.S. Senate against Mary Landrieu. Other potential candidates include State Rep. Steve Scalise and Dr. Monica Monica. Former Gov. Dave Treen, who lost a close race to Vitter in 1999, is looking at the governor's race in 2003.
Another name surfacing is radio talk show host Robert Namer. Namer, who broadcasts on WASO 730 AM, has run in several races, including a losing bid against Congressman Bill Jefferson. He is considered to be a wild card in the race and a candidate who not only will give Vitter trouble from the right, but who also will not shy away from aggressively attacking Vitter. In the past, Foster has been close to Namer, and, in fact, has been criticized for his ties to the controversial talk show host. Because Namer and Foster are now at odds, it seems Foster will most probably throw his support to another candidate in the race.
Not Over Yet
Believe it or not, Fred Heebe's quest to be U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana is not over yet. According to an insider in the process, Heebe still wants the position and has been advised to lay low for a while. His supporters will try to bring his name back up at a later date, according to this source.
It seems that Heebe's real opposition is in the U.S. Senate with one of Louisiana's two senators. If that can be overcome, then Heebe can still succeed with final approval, regardless of the opposition of the National Organization of Women.
In the meantime, Jim Letten is serving as interim U.S. Attorney and meeting everyone's satisfaction for the present time. Other names on the short list of candidates include former Jefferson Parish District Attorney Jack Capella, Assistant U.S. Attorney Constantine Georges and local attorney Shaun Clarke.
The whole Heebe matter was discussed at the March 9 meeting of the Louisiana Republican State Central Committee, with many members still expressing support for Heebe.
Jones Seeks Chairmanship
Jefferson Parish Councilman Donald Jones, the council's only African-American member, has announced his intention to run for council chairman in 2003. Due to term limits, all council members will need to seek other offices if they want to continue to serve in office.
Jones joins a race that already has two probable candidates, council members Lloyd Giardina and Ed Muniz. Being an African-American Democrat, Jones is considered a long shot to win the position, but he is not deterred. "Our bid to win parish-wide office will not be easy," he says. "However, we are used to overcoming long odds and proving the pollsters and non-believers wrong."
Most observers believe that Jones will harm Giardina more than Muniz. Giardina's base is on the West Bank, and Jones should draw more votes from the West Bank than from Muniz's base on the east bank of the parish.
Will Connick Get a Walk?
This fall, Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick is up for re-election after a six-year term in office. In 1996, Connick narrowly squeaked past previous incumbent Jack Capella in a hotly contested election. Now the question is whether Capella will decide to run against Connick again.
If he doesn't run against David Vitter and doesn't get appointed to the U.S. Attorney's position, Capella could very well be talked into a rematch against Connick. It will be a costly endeavor for whoever decides to take on the powerful incumbent. Estimates are that it will take at least $1 million in the campaign war chest to run a credible race.
Other names being mentioned include Judge Martha Sassone, Judge Ronnie Bodenheimer, former Assistant D.A. and Gretna City Attorney W.J. LeBlanc. Finally, one other name being mentioned is Fred Heebe. Heebe has garnered a tremendous amount of sympathy in Republican circles for how he has been treated in the U.S. Attorney appointment controversy.
Does he want the job? In 1996, Heebe ran a strong third behind Connick and Capella. He would probably have the support of the governor and the assistance of campaign consultant Roy Fletcher.
Either way, a Republican opponent could give Democrat incumbent Connick some trouble. "His office has the worst conviction rate in the past 20 years," says one Connick critic. "They try a lot of cases, but their success ratio is bad."
If a race does occur, look for that record to be debated and party affiliation to become a factor, something rare in Jefferson Parish.