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Inside Jeff Parish

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As the Cooksey Crumbles
With a new poll showing Congressman John Cooksey badly trailing U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, many Louisiana Republicans have given up on Cooksey as a viable challenger. Last week, State Rep. Tony Perkins of Baton Rouge confirmed his intention to join the race. According to his campaign officials, Perkins is currently raising $10,000 to $12,000 per day and will officially announce on June 9.

State Elections Commissioner Suzanne Haik Terrell continues to consider the race. Last week, members of the Republican State Central Committee were encouraged by political advisors in the governor's office to support a dual endorsement of Terrell and Cooksey at their June 8 meeting.

The State Party Executive Committee has already endorsed Cooksey, and his supporters want the State Central Committee to reward the congressman for months of campaigning with the official party endorsement. The endorsement carries no major funding from either the state or national party, but can help a candidate raise funds from other sources.

In the midst of this turmoil, Republican Secretary of State Fox McKeithen announced his potential interest in the race, citing favorable polling information and donor support. Many observers continue to be perplexed in the interest among so many Republicans, citing Landrieu's strong poll numbers. Two factors need to be considered: her narrow victory margin in 1996 and the December run-off this year. The run-off would be very favorable to a Republican challenger in a low-turnout environment in which President George W. Bush can focus his attention on the race. Before that can happen, someone or something will have to move Landrieu's poll numbers down considerably.

Brass Welcome Mat
As the New Orleans Brass hockey team vacates the New Orleans Arena for the Municipal Auditorium, officials in Jefferson Parish are trying to work out an arrangement to move the team to Jefferson Parish for the long term.

State Sen. Ken Hollis is taking the lead on a plan to create a dual-use facility that can accommodate both a performing arts center and a hockey arena. "Let's look outside of the box," he says.

Building architects and engineers will have to confirm the viability of such a facility, but none of this will be possible without funding. The first step is to secure $2 million from the state's capital outlay funding that can be used for a cash line of credit to complete final engineering plans and start initial stages of construction. The facility is slated for the Lasalle tract near Zephyrs Stadium. Hollis envisions the entire area as an entertainment complex that will lure visitors with a variety of attractions: the current baseball stadium, this proposed dual-use facility, and future projects such as a baseball hall of fame and a restaurant.

The facility will cost a total of $20 million and take 18 months to construct. Hollis says that even though the Jefferson Parish legislative delegation supports the project, the funds may not be available in the state's capital outlay budget.

Muniz Makes Move
Councilman Ed Muniz, who has served on the Jefferson Parish council for 15 years and the Kenner Council for nine years, will run for council chairman next year.

Last week, Muniz held a very successful fundraiser, bringing in $140,000. He projects that a multi-candidate race will cost about $500,000 in the first primary alone and has hired consultant Greg Buisson to help plan his campaign. Muniz, who considers competitor and fellow council member Lloyd Giardina a close friend, cites his business background and his ability to work with people as qualities that distinguish his candidacy.

Muniz was in the radio business for 40 years, owning a dozen stations throughout the South. The Kenner resident is also the founder and current captain and chairman of the board of the Krewe of Endymion. Muniz is not worried about claims that Kenner will have too much power if he is elected chairman and Aaron Broussard is elected parish president. "Fifty-five percent of my constituency is outside of Kenner right now," he says. He also points out that he and Broussard are from different political parties and have different political philosophies.

Muniz supports the current term limits for council members, but would like to see the composition of the council changed to a five-district, two-at-large system similar to Kenner and New Orleans. This would take a charter change amendment approved by the council and voters. Muniz believes that the amendment could be constructed to insure that current district council members not be allowed to run for their seats, retaining the term limits desired by the voters. Muniz says he likes the 5-2 set-up better because "everyone will have three councilmen to vote for, and it will eliminate the parochialism that exists now."

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