Our Endorsements

Gambit Weekly makes the following endorsements in this Saturday's primary election. Above all, we urge our readers to vote.

Governor: Randy Ewing

Because Louisiana needs bold new leadership and a governor who can raise the bar on economic development, education and political reform, we enthusiastically support Randy Ewing for governor. A veteran of the state Legislature, where he served three terms and finished as president of the Senate, Ewing also is a businessman, farmer and banker who understands what it takes to promote economic development. Because of his experience in government, he will hit the ground running, but he won't be stifled by ties to the status quo.

More than any other candidate, Ewing has the integrity, the experience and the courage that Louisiana needs to turn itself around. He's steady, not flashy. He is solid, industrious and articulate. Most important, he has a vision of how great our state can be -- and he can be counted on to bring his vision to the corporate boardrooms and governmental corridors beyond our state's borders. He is a proven leader who delivers on his promises.

While Senate president, Ewing pressed for ethical reforms, such as stopping legislators and government officials from doing business with the state. He also supported lobbyist disclosure laws and a ban on campaign fundraisers during legislative sessions. He authored numerous reform bills, including a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget.

He is supported by Mayor Ray Nagin and many other local leaders because he has the ability to bring diverse interests together for the betterment of all Louisiana. We urge our readers to join the growing number of citizens who support Randy Ewing for governor.

Lt. Governor: Mitch Landrieu

The lieutenant governor plays a major role in economic development by overseeing the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. In this race, one candidate stands out as the consensus choice: Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans. A veteran state lawmaker with impeccable reform credentials, Landrieu has always distinguished himself as one who can unite disparate interests in the name of progress. He has a clear vision of how Louisiana can grow economically, and he has a record of proven leadership for the entire metropolitan area. He recently led the fight for juvenile justice reform, and he has been a leading proponent of fiscal reform for more than 10 years. Above all, he has been a beacon of integrity as a public servant. Mitch Landrieu deserves this promotion, and Louisiana will be well served by his election as lieutenant governor.

Secretary of State: Fox McKeithen

This is not a high-profile office, but to thousands of professionals and companies doing business in Louisiana, this is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to interfacing with state government. For more than a decade, incumbent Fox McKeithen has run an efficient office staffed by courteous, competent professionals. During that time, the office has continued to improve services to attorneys and companies by expanding and upgrading its Web site and by making it easier than ever to file or retrieve important business records. We therefore recommend Fox McKeithen for re-election.

Attorney General: Suzanne Terrell

The attorney general is the state's chief legal officer and serves on the front lines of legal, political and ethical reform. The AG's office defends state laws against constitutional challenges and is called upon daily to offer legal opinions on many controversial subjects. Our next attorney general must have the courage to take positions rooted in the law and devoid of political considerations. Above all, we need a proven reformer in this job. For all these reasons, we recommend Suzanne Terrell for attorney general. As the state's Commissioner of Elections, Terrell cut more than $20 million in waste and cleaned up a cesspool of corruption and cronyism. Her credentials as a reformer are unquestioned. She deserves the chance to continue serving the people of Louisiana.

Commissioner of Insurance: Robert Wooley

We have opined before that this office should be appointive. Ironically, the incumbent is a positive example in support of that argument. Robert Wooley was appointed to the number two job in the department by his predecessor, and he became commissioner when Jim Brown was convicted of lying to the FBI. Since taking the helm, Wooley has been an effective consumer advocate and an even-handed enforcer of Louisiana's insurance regulations. He gets universal high marks for his performance, and he has remained above political distractions. Robert Wooley deserves the chance to serve a full term as insurance commissioner.

Commissioner of Agriculture: No Endorsement

Board of Elementary & Secondary Education

District 1: Barbara Ferguson

Barbara Ferguson knows how to rescue failing schools. She has read the research, and she's done it herself as the principal of Fisk-Howard Elementary School (1980-84) and Warren Easton High School (1984-91). She has served as interim superintendent of Orleans Parish Public Schools and as superintendent of St. John Parish Public Schools. She's also a practicing attorney, has overseen accountability standards for job training in the state Department of Labor, and is responsible for implementing UNO's Partnership Zones Project, which puts volunteers into New Orleans-area public schools. The depth and range of Ferguson's experience make her the best candidate for this job.

District 2: Louella Givens

Louella Givens became interested in running for BESE after having a child with special needs that weren't accommodated in the regular public-school setting. She's a trained educator with an MBA and a law degree and -- using that background -- she has assembled what she calls "Eight Steps to Educational Success," including raising teacher pay to the national average, reducing classroom size in grades K-3, and reconfiguring the current school-funding formulas. Givens still has some homework to do on a few of the issues facing public schools, but she's a quick study and is especially strong when talking about "reducing the sting" of the high-stakes testing system.

Legislative Elections -- State Senate

Senate District 1: Walter Boasso

A businessman with impeccable credentials and a "can-do" approach to every undertaking, Walter Boasso stands out as the choice in this race to succeed retiring state Sen. Lynn Dean. Boasso started his company, Boasso America, from scratch and built it into a major economic force in his home parish of St. Bernard. He has distinguished himself as a member of the Dock Board, and he has been a community leader on many fronts. He is also a man of integrity who believes that public service is a sacred trust. The people of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Lake Catherine and southeastern St. Tammany will be well served by his election.

Senate District 2: Ann Duplessis

The incumbent has been a major player on the political scene for more than two decades, during which time his eastern New Orleans and Lower Ninth Ward district has stagnated economically and socially. It's time for new leadership. Ann Duplessis is a banker and business leader who has served as a leader on the Downtown Development District and the New Orleans Business and Industrial District. She has distinguished herself by an attitude of selfless dedication to the public trust -- the kind of integrity this district needs now more than ever. Eastern New Orleans and the underserved citizens of Lower Nine need a senator who will put them first. Ann Duplessis will do just that.

Senate District 3: Lambert Boissiere Jr.

Incumbent Lambert Boissiere Jr. is a skilled legislator who stays in touch with his constituents. Boissiere's committee assignments in the Senate include Local and Municipal Affairs, the Millennium Port and the Subcommittee on Health. From these vantage points, he guides key legislation affecting the City of New Orleans, regional economic development and the Charity Hospital system. His district now includes vast portions of the West Bank of Jefferson Parish. His ability to get along with this colleagues makes him well suited to serve the diverse interests of his Orleans and Jefferson constituents.

Senate District 4: Paulette Irons

Incumbent Paulette Irons has been a leading voice for families, women and children since she was first elected to the Legislature more than a decade ago. She has authored legislation to combat teen pregnancy, and she has aided programs for seniors as well as after-school care for children. Irons serves as vice chair of the powerful Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee and as a member of the Joint Capital Outlay, Commerce, and Education committees -- as well as the state Bond Commission. Her seniority and dedication to issues that affect people make her a standout in the Senate.

Senate District 5: Diana Bajoie

Incumbent Diana Bajoie has been a strong advocate for Pre-K and early childhood programs, which are sorely needed in her Central City district. She also supports strengthening Louisiana's community college and Charity Hospital systems. While working to bring better social services to her poorer constituents, she also favors eliminating Louisiana's practice of taxing corporate debt, a change which will help promote economic development. Above all, she has a record of staying in touch with her constituents.

Senate District 8: Robby Evans

We recommend a change in this district because we believe it needs the kind of new, energetic leadership that challenger Robby Evans can provide. He is endorsed by the Jefferson Chamber and supports an aggressive economic development program based on reduced business taxes and better management of the state's fiscal resources. He also favors consolidating duplicative state agencies and overlapping bureaucracies and would eliminate the so-called "slush funds." Among his top legislative priorities will be improved flood protection, drainage improvements and highway construction.

Senate District 9: Polly Thomas

The incumbent started the political season by running a lackluster campaign for governor and ended it by being the only local senator who refused to fill out our candidate questionnaire. By contrast, challenger Polly Thomas has aggressively taken her message of change and political accountability to all corners of the Metairie district. She is supported by the Alliance for Good Government, among others. As a member of the Jefferson Parish School Board, Thomas has worked to improve public education by being a consensus builder. She will bring those same skills to the Senate, where her priorities will include fighting coastal erosion, promoting economic development and fully funding Pre-K educational programs.

Senate District 10: Art Lentini

Incumbent Art Lentini is one of the best senators in Louisiana and is widely recognized as a quiet but effective reformer. He does his homework, casts honest and intelligent votes, and leads the fight on key reform issues -- such as tightening loopholes on bail bondsmen. He also initiated the idea of nighttime shifts for local highway construction projects so that they don't tie up commuter traffic during rush hours. For all these reasons and more, Lentini recently was named the area's outstanding senator by the Chamber of Commerce. The citizens of Kenner and west Metairie are fortunate to have such a senator, and we heartily endorse him for re-election.

Legislative Elections -- State House of Representatives

House District 78: Shirley Bowler

Veteran Republican incumbent Shirley Bowler of Harahan has a pro-business record in the House, where she has served since 1991. For her final four-year term, she pledges to improve drainage in Harahan and River Ridge, support completion of Interstate 49 and the widening of the Huey P. Long Bridge, and improve academic and athletic facilities at state universities. She serves her district well, and we endorse her without reservation.

House District 80: Charles Lancaster Jr.

Incumbent state Rep. Charles Lancaster Jr. of Metairie is a tough, wizened veteran of the House and the state Republican Party. A staunch conservative, he fought in the early wars for good government reforms against the administrations of former Gov. Edwin Edwards. Lancaster is a strong advocate for a return to a closed party primary system, re-organization of the state Department of Health and Hospitals, and elimination of legislative "slush" funds. His district and the entire House will be well served by Lancaster's re-election.

House District 81: Mickey Landry and Eric Skrmetta (Dual Endorsement)

Seven candidates are running for the Metairie seat being vacated by Rep. Jennifer Sneed. There are so many good candidates in this race, we couldn't pick just one. We therefore offer a dual endorsement of Republicans Mickey Landry and Eric Skrmetta. Landry, an attorney, emphasizes legal and political reforms as well as neighborhood preservation issues in Bucktown and other older areas. Skrmetta, a businessman, offers a platform that includes fighting alleged inequities in state funding of Jefferson Parish public schools and championing tax reform at a constitutional convention. Either candidate would serve this district well.

House District 84: N.J. Damico

Incumbent N.J. Damico of Marrero is a veteran Democrat who has served the West Bank well in the Legislature -- with only a brief hiatus -- since 1983. He gets the job done for his district without controversy or grandstanding. His lone opponent failed to make a case for change. Damico deserves another four-year term.

House District 87: Derrick Shepherd

Attorney Derrick Shepherd, a Marine Corps veteran of Desert Storm who is now an Army captain in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps, is making his first run for political office. He pledges to work for economic development and transportation improvements in this impoverished West Bank District. "It's unacceptable to us that District 87 should be the poorest district in Louisiana's richest parish (Jefferson)," Shepherd says. We agree, and we endorse him wholeheartedly.

House District 91: Jalila Jefferson

This predominantly poor, inner-city district in New Orleans has many needs. Jalila Jefferson, an attorney who graduated from Harvard Law School, is intelligent, energetic, and promises to be the kind of team player the city needs at the state capitol. Her priorities include increasing teacher pay and promoting economic development in the region's poorest areas. We endorse her as the best person to advance the city's legislative agenda while meeting the needs of her district.

House District 93: Karen Carter

In 1999, attorney Karen Carter won half of our dual endorsement for this seat vacated by the death of the Rep. Rev. Avery Alexander. Carter gets our undivided -- and enthusiastic -- support this time. As a freshman lawmaker, she has worked hard for this diverse district, which has many needs ranging from affordable housing and crime control to job training and termite protection. She is universally regarded as one of the top young legislators in the state, and her return as a veteran will strengthen the city's delegation.

House District 96: Ed Murray

Incumbent Rep. Ed Murray, an attorney and Democrat, is a provocative thinker who works well with others in the diverse Legislature. First elected to the House in 1991, he has served on key legislative committees as a thoughtful and tireless advocate for the city's agenda. His goals for his final four-year term in the House include requiring the state to fund the New Orleans criminal justice system, providing an addition to the Dutch Morial Convention Center, and improvements to hurricane evacuation routes. He is not only a leader in the New Orleans delegation, but also one of the "go-to" legislators in the House. He deserves to be re-elected.

House District 97: Arthur Morrell

In 1999, we endorsed an opponent of longtime Rep. Arthur Morrell, after the incumbent expressed interest in other offices. Thankfully, this phase of his career appears to have passed. We have always been encouraged by Morrell's unfailing advocacy for the local public schools, and he has ably represented his district -- which includes the Faubourg Marigny and Gentilly areas. In his final four-year term, Morrell pledges to work to reduce highway traffic fatalities and support development of a light rail system.

House District 98: Randy Evans

We have long admired insurance attorney Randy Evans, a socially progressive Republican who has twice campaigned previously for the legislative seat now being vacated by Mitch Landrieu, a Democrat who is running for lieutenant governor. The re-drawn district, which includes Uptown and parts of Mid-City, will be well served by Evans, a pro-business advocate who will fight for the environment as well as expansion of the so-called medical corridor in downtown New Orleans. There are several qualified candidates in this hard-fought contest, but in our view none is better than Evans.

House District 99: Charmaine Marchand

This impoverished district, which includes the Lower Ninth Ward and parts of eastern New Orleans, is sorely in need of a leadership change. We join the Alliance for Good Government, Mayor Ray Nagin and others in supporting attorney Charmaine Marchand. She comes from a well-known family with a legacy of working to improve the neighborhood and pledges to work hard for economic development in a district that sorely needs it. Her platform includes working to bolster the local tourism and cruise ship industries and fighting for improved flood protection. The citizens of the Ninth Ward need and deserve a representative of her qualifications and commitment.

House District 100: Dana Henry

Democratic incumbent Pat Swilling, a real estate developer and former pro football star, has not been the pro-business dynamo we were hoping for when we first endorsed him in 2001. We believe challenger Dana Henry, an attorney, can do significantly better. This district -- along with all of eastern New Orleans -- is longing for change, and desperately in need of progressive leadership that puts constituents' needs first. We therefore think it's time to "bench" Swilling and put Dana Henry into the starting lineup for the city.

House District 101: Cedric Richmond

Democratic incumbent Rep. Cedric Richmond has been a quiet, youthful force in this eastern New Orleans district, and his efforts to clean up Chef Menteur Highway have been commendable. He has a good work ethic, does not grandstand, and with more experience may become a model legislator. Richmond deserves another term.

House District 102: Jeff Arnold

Democratic incumbent Jeff Arnold of Algiers, a business consultant, is up for re-election just one year after winning a special election. His legislative priorities are a constitutional convention to revise the state's tax code, criminal justice reform, and economic development. His district agenda includes improved drainage, hurricane protection, and improvements to Behrman Park. We endorse Jeff Arnold for re-election.

Proposed Constitutional Amendments

Gambit Weekly supports all 15 proposed constitutional amendments, but the first three are especially critical. They send a message to Washington and the nation that Louisiana is serious about stopping the coastal erosion that is destroying our wetlands, our natural hurricane barriers and key industries. The bottom line is that we need the feds to pay the bulk of Coast 2050, a massive long-term environmental restoration plan priced at $14 billion. The projected cost to Louisiana: $150 million to $200 million per year for the next 15 to 20 years. The state and the U.S. Corps of Engineers head to Congress next year to make a case for the first round of coastal restoration funds. Voter approval of amendments 1-3 should help convince skeptics in Washington.

Amendment No. 1 -- This proposal expands potential funding for the Wetlands Conservation and Restoration Fund (WCRF), the central source for state spending on coastal erosion. Amendment 1 would allow the "conservation fund" to receive a share of nonrecurring revenues as well as the first $35 million available from mineral revenue settlements. This amendment also would raise the cap of the WCRF from $40 million to at least $500 million. The proposal does not guarantee funding for Coast 2050, but it demonstrates the state's resolve to pay its share. Amendment 1 has widespread support, ranging from Gov. Mike Foster to environmentalists.
Vote FOR Amendment 1.

Amendment No. 2 -- This proposal creates the Louisiana Coastal Restoration Fund, another state matching mechanism for coastal restoration. The restoration fund could potentially receive up to 20 percent of any future sale of the state's tobacco settlement. Proceeds from any sale, estimated as high as $200 million, would be limited to coastal restoration projects. The restoration fund would share tobacco monies currently allotted to special funds for health care and education. The amendment takes effect only if a federal match is found.
Vote FOR Amendment 2.

Amendment No. 3 -- If approved by voters, this proposal would limit the state's liability for past and future damages to private property associated with coastal erosion and restoration projects. If it fails, Amendment 3 is "potentially a deal breaker with the federal government," says Jim Brandt, president of the Public Affairs Research Council (PAR), a nonpartisan think tank. Unlike the feds, who use a lower fair market value standard for expropriating private land for public purposes, Louisiana law presently requires state compensation for the value of property and future lost earnings. Case in point: the staggering $2.2 billion in damages awarded by state courts to 200 oyster farmers. Companion legislation would retroactively apply the lower federal standard.
Vote FOR Amendment 3.

Amendment No. 4 -- This proposal would allow -- but not require -- the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to take temporary control of Louisiana's failing schools, most of which are located in Orleans Parish. BESE would take over only those schools that have not responded to four years of local school board remedies. PAR's Brandt calls Amendment 4 a "missing piece" of the public education "accountability puzzle." We agree. State officials have promised Orleans Parish schools chief Anthony Amato time to enact his reforms before using this tool of last resort.
Vote FOR Amendment 4.

Amendment No. 5 -- If approved, this proposal would change the method of selecting three of the 12 members of the Louisiana Workers' Compensation Corporation board of directors, giving the LWCC board more control over the appointment process. Created by constitutional amendment in 1991 to help firms get workers' compensation coverage, LWCC has evolved into a private mutual insurance company requiring no state funding. If approved, the governor would appoint an insurance representative from three nominees submitted by the LWCC.
Vote FOR Amendment 5.

Amendment No. 6 -- This proposal originated with the state Department of Transportation and Development. It makes three fairly minor changes to highways designed in rural, border areas -- at a projected savings of $62.6 million to the Transportation Infrastructure Model for Economic Development (TIMED).
Vote FOR Amendment 6.

Amendment No. 7 -- If approved, the Louisiana Infrastructure Bank would be allowed to use public funds to make low-interest loans to local governments for highway construction and road improvements. This is a "repeat amendment" that has returned to the ballot with additional safeguards, including state Bond Commission approval of any loans. Gone is a prior version's provision that state money could be loaned to private entities. DOTD also must approve any projects under the program.
Vote FOR Amendment 7.

Amendment No. 8 -- A retooled proposal of an amendment that failed last year, Amendment 8 is designed to re-capture offshore drilling rig repair and restoration work by offering a tax exemption to the rigs being towed to Louisiana for repair. Currently, rigs hauled into Louisiana ports are subjected to ad valorem taxes -- even though they are only temporarily in port. That's not the case in Texas, where most rigs are now going -- and bringing with them millions of dollars in jobs. This proposal aims to level the economic playing field for our coastal ports.
Vote FOR Amendment 8.

Amendment No. 9 -- State lottery proceeds have averaged roughly $100 million a year for the last five years. Since 1994, with the exception of $500,000 designated for treating gambling disorders, the rest of the lottery money has been statutorily dedicated to funding K-12 education programs. Amendment 9 would lock that practice into the constitution and the Legislature could not use the money for other purposes. This proposal would not mean any extra money for education, but it would guarantee that lottery tickets are going to support education.
Vote FOR Amendment 9.

Amendment No. 10 -- Since 1996, the state has had a centralized administrative law judge (ALJ) system housed in the state civil service system. The system provides hearing officers for regulatory issues before state boards and commissions for such matters as revocations of various state licenses. The Department of Insurance filed a constitutional challenge last year, arguing the system is unconstitutional because ALJ decisions are not subject to appeal. Amendment No. 10 would both provide constitutional authority for the ALJ system and allow the Legislature to review ALJ rulings.
Vote FOR Amendment 10.

Amendment No. 11 -- Double-counting revenues is no way to build a rainy day fund. But, because of a technicality, that's what has been happening. If approved, this proposal would end the deceptive accounting practice; it would also correct an erroneous reference to the fund's formal name, which is properly known as the "Budget Stabilization Fund."
Vote FOR Amendment 11.

Amendment No. 12 -- If approved, this measure would clear up a drafting error from a 1989 change to the constitution that left some doubt as to whether state government can seize contraband in non-drug criminal cases. Examples of contraband under this amendment may include property used in commission of a non-drug crime -- such as a net used to illegally catch fish.
Vote FOR Amendment 12.

Amendment No. 13 -- This proposed amendment would allow a parish or municipality to lease property to a new or expanding business. This proposal seeks to clarify provisions that local governments can donate or pledge public assets to induce economic development by giving property or leasing buildings at below-market rates to firms that agree to a certain number of jobs, says PAR's Brandt. This is the fourth time at bat for this amendment. Sufficient safeguards have been added this time.
Vote FOR Amendment 13.

Amendment No. 14 -- If approved, this amendment would constitutionally bar future legislative auditors from running for public office within two years after leaving office. The measure would also limit the political activity of the auditor and his nearly 100 employees. This proposal arises in the wake of former Legislative Auditor Dan Kyle's ill-fated decision to run for governor this fall. The auditor holds a vital position of public and official trust, and this amendment would further insulate the office from political agendas.
Vote FOR Amendment 14.

Amendment No. 15 -- This proposal would amend the mandatory retirement age for state judges, which is currently set at 70. If approved, a judge who reaches the age of 70 would be allowed to serve out the remainder of his or her term. Appeals court judges serve for 10 years at a time, while district court judges serve six-year terms. The amendment would reduce the number of special elections to fill judicial vacancies and allow the most experienced judges to serve full terms. We need more seasoned judges -- and the benches are full of examples that age 70 is not that old anymore
Vote FOR Amendment 15.

New Orleans Citywide Proposition

Fair Grounds Slots: FOR

We support the Fair Grounds in its attempt to stay competitive by adding slot machines to its on-site offerings. Every other racetrack in the state already is allowed to offer slots, which bolster purses and help tracks to compete with casinos and video poker parlors. However, our support of this proposition comes with several serious conditions. First and foremost, we join surrounding neighborhoods in their staunch opposition to any expansion of the Fair Grounds' operating hours past midnight -- a condition currently written into city law. This is not negotiable. Furthermore, as the New Orleans City Council considers changes to make the referendum effective (assuming it passes), we urge the Council to require additional concessions to the neighborhood such as increased police patrols and additional steps to mitigate bright lights and noise after hours.

Jefferson Parish

Jefferson Parish President: Aaron Broussard

Aaron Broussard, the veteran Democratic chairman of the Jefferson Parish Council, former Kenner mayor, and past parish school board member, has the vision and energy needed to succeed the popular Tim Coulon. Broussard has long been a friend of New Orleans, dating to the administration of the late Mayor Dutch Morial, but he also serves his Jefferson constituents ably and loyally. We eagerly anticipate that his partnership with Mayor Nagin and other metro area leaders will break the political gridlock over governance and expansion of Louis Armstrong International Airport and jump-start other economic initiatives to stimulate the regional economy. We enthusiastically endorse Aaron Broussard for president of Jefferson Parish.

Jefferson Parish Sheriff: Harry Lee

Veteran incumbent Harry Lee, a self-described "Lindy Boggs Democrat," is leaner and meaner after his recent surgery, and that should concern criminals and political foes alike. The colorful sheriff should win easily. And while we would like to see an accelerated modernization of the office, it is hard to argue with his successful record of public safety. We support his efforts to get drunk drivers off the road in Jefferson Parish, which has long suffered one of the state's highest alcohol-involved accident rates. We endorse Sheriff Harry Lee for another four-year term.

Property Tax Millage: FOR

The Jefferson Parish School Board proposes a nine-mill property tax which would be dedicated to increasing teacher pay and benefits. The tax would be levied for 10 years and would raise $17 million in its first year. Although it is one of the area's wealthiest parishes, Jefferson pays its starting teachers less than all surrounding parishes. In recent years, moreover, the school board has been forced to make drastic cuts to good programs, such as foreign languages in elementary schools. Good schools require good teachers, and good teachers don't come cheap. This proposal is supported by the Jefferson Chamber, and the board has made its case. Vote FOR the Jefferson Millage Proposition.

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