Politics is an intense spectator sport in Louisiana. Between elections, speculation is rampant about candidates and potential candidates. These potential candidates often talk tough about running against incumbents, but that's easy to do before the qualifying period. The qualifying period is when candidates have to finally put their money where their mouth is and officially jump into a race. For upcoming elections, qualifying ended last Friday, and, as always, it brought some surprises with interesting entries and some potentially strong candidates deciding to forgo the race. Here is a look at several important races affecting the local area.
1st Congressional District
Incumbent David Vitter was elected in 1999. In 2000, he was re-elected with only token opposition. This time, he will be facing two prominent challengers, radio talk show Robert Namer and ophthalmologist Dr. Monica Monica, who had not qualified by press time but had announced her intention to do so. Monica should provide Vitter with an interesting challenge, running as a moderate Republican and focusing on health care as her primary concern. Namer will be running to the right of Vitter as a strict conservative and will probably be his most vocal critic in the campaign.
Most observers believe that Vitter is in a good position to win re-election. Such a prognosis could change based on what information emerges in the campaign, especially since Namer has promised to drop a bombshell on Vitter after qualifying ends.
2nd Congressional District
For the first time since he was elected over then-State Sen. Marc Morial in 1990 to succeed Lindy Boggs, incumbent Bill Jefferson will have a serious challenge for reelection: Public Service Commissioner Irma Muse Dixon. Dixon is a credible opponent who has a good electoral track record and is well-liked. She should be able to appeal to white voters as an alternative to Jefferson and also to several prominent African-American groups, including BOLD, that oppose Jefferson.
Jefferson has had difficulty of late. His turn as campaign chairman for Richard Pennington in the New Orleans mayor's race was a disaster, and his daughter lost a race for state representative in his strongest area, Central City. Despite his losing streak, Jefferson is a favorite to hold on to the seat, with the financial advantages of incumbency working for him.
Also facing Jefferson in the race is political gadfly Clarence Hunt, whom we last saw in the mayor's race running as a Republican. This time Hunt is running as a Democrat. During his campaign for mayor, Hunt traveled between New Orleans and Oakland, Calif. This time, it will be interesting to see whether Hunt is based in New Orleans or Oakland.
24th Judicial District Court, Division N
The race to succeed indicted Judge Ronald Bodenheimer in Division N took a surprising turn right before qualifying when former State Rep. Jim Donelon decided against another run for the judgeship. Donelon, who currently serves as deputy insurance commissioner for the State of Louisiana, lost to Bodenheimer in 1999 and was so embittered by the experience that he was not ready for another race. Donelon would have been the frontrunner, having the highest name recognition and probably access to the most campaign donors.
With Donelon out, other candidates are quite relieved. Jeff Hand and Hans Liljeberg have been campaigning and spending plenty of money advertising. It should be a close and hard-fought election.
Harahan Hotly Contested
The race to succeed the late John Doyle as Harahan chief of police will be an interesting one with several prominent and well-respected candidates opposing each other. Joining the late chief's son John Doyle III in the race will be Harahan councilmen Peter Dale and Tim Walker (the only Democrat in the race), Jimmy Cavalier and Ray Uloth.
The race to succeed outgoing Harahan mayor Vinny Mosca will be a one-on-one affair between two Republican Council members, Paul Johnston and Kerry Lauricella. Mosca will run for a seat on the Harahan City Council.
School Board Not on Firing Line
After the contentious election on July 20 to raise the sales tax in Jefferson Parish to benefit public schools, many voters expected the Jefferson Parish School Board members who approved the tax vote to receive a host of opponents in the next election. Surprising to some, the incumbents are receiving relatively little opposition. The majority have minor candidates running against them, and several others are unopposed. So, even though many voters were angry about the proposed tax increase, they do not seem to be upset with their representation on the Jefferson Parish School Board.