Due to term limits, there will be a new parish president, a new council chairman and plenty of new faces on the Jefferson Parish Council after next fall's election. The term limits were not staggered, so all council members will be affected and will have to relinquish their seat at the same time. For some, this is good government in action, by bringing new faces and new ideas into political leadership. Others are bemoaning the complete change and the loss to parish government of years of political experience. For a while, there was talk that some council members would try to overturn the term limits by appealing to the voters; however, with the significant defeat of Mayor Marc Morial's "3T" effort in New Orleans, there doesn't seem to be the will to test the popularity of term limits right now. What will be the next move for these familiar Jefferson Parish politicians?
Most observers give Tim Coulon high marks for his performance as parish president, so he has plenty of political options. In fact, some supporters had been encouraging him to enter the vast field in the governor's race. It is more likely that Coulon will become a candidate to replace Public Service Commissioner Jay Blossman, who is running for the U.S. Senate. Council Chairman Aaron Broussard will most likely be the overwhelming favorite to replace Coulon as parish president.
The most interesting race could be for council chairman; insiders report that council members Lloyd Giardina and Ed Muniz are both considering a race for the seat. Giardina and Muniz are both formidable campaigners -- if that scenario actually develops, it will be one of the foremost races to watch in 2003.
The first council member to test new political waters will be John Lavarine Jr., who has already announced that he will be a candidate against incumbent Kenner Mayor Louis Congemi. The Kenner election will take place on April 6 and should be very competitive. Meanwhile, Council member Nick Giambelluca seems to have set his sights on the state senate seat being vacated by gubernatorial candidate Ken Hollis, and this game of political dominos will most probably lead to State Representative Jennifer Sneed running for Giambelluca's council position. There is no active speculation concerning the future plans of council members Donald Jones and Butch Ward -- both are likely weighing several options.
U.S. Congressman David Vitter, who served Old Metairie as a state legislator for seven years and most of Jefferson Parish as a congressman for the past two-plus years, is now being highly touted -- along with 12 other prominent state politicians -- as a potential candidate for governor in 2003. "I believe that Vitter has a real good chance to win," says one seasoned politico. "If he runs, he will be a very strong candidate."
All this speculation is more fallout from John Breaux's announcement that he will forgo the governor's race and remain in the U.S. Senate. Most predictions had previously tagged Vitter as a likely candidate to run for Breaux's senate seat, once vacated. Now, Breaux could very well decide to run for re-election, leaving Vitter to consider other options.
For Vitter, the attractive aspect of a race for governor is that he has essentially a "free shot" and would not have to give up his seat in Congress. Plus, a large field in the governor's race will most probably guarantee a conservative vs. a liberal in the run-off, which is what we have seen in the past few competitive statewide elections. If Vitter could find himself in a run-off against Congressman Bill Jefferson or even Attorney General Richard Ieyoub, he might very well be considered the favorite to be Louisiana's next governor.
The longer Vitter considers this possibility, the more difficult it will be for another prominent Jefferson Parish politician running for governor, state Sen. Ken Hollis. Vitter shares the same philosophy and the same base with Hollis, who is hoping for a strong showing from Jefferson Parish to propel himself into the run-off. Hollis has been running for governor for many months and was the only candidate with the fortitude to announce that he would take on Breaux if necessary. Vitter or anyone else will surely not scare Hollis out of the race, but a Vitter candidacy will certainly complicate his plans.