Inside Jeff Parish



Weilbaecher Tries for Council Presidency
Newly elected Kenner Councilman-at-large Dominic Weilbaecher has been meeting with his fellow council members in an effort to line up their support for his bid to be the next president of the Kenner City Council.

Weilbaecher shocked many political observers with a stunning defeat of incumbent Betty Bonura on April 6. The Council presidency is a rotating position and Bonura was slated to be next in line, so with her defeat, Weilbaecher wants the position. Even though he is new to politics, Weilbaecher has experience conducting meetings from his career in business so he believes that he will be prepared to manage Council meetings and to handle the other responsibilities of the presidency.

As of now, Weilbaecher doesn't have any announced opponents for the position, so he is the clear frontrunner. In fact, one Kenner insider reports that Weilbaecher has already locked up the support of a majority of the Council members.

Terry McCarthy, the other councilman-at-large, is the outgoing president. The new president will take over on July 1.

Cooksey Tours Jefferson Parish
Last week, Republican Congressman and U.S. Senate candidate John Cooksey toured Jefferson Parish with supporters. Cooksey hopes to make Jefferson Parish the base of his support in his uphill race against incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu this fall.

During his visit, Cooksey visited with members of Victory Fellowship, an evangelical Christian congregation, and met with newly elected Kenner Council members Phil Capitano and Dominic Weilbaecher. Interestingly, he also met with some prominent Kenner Democrats in an effort to line up bipartisan support.

Cooksey made national news recently by declaring to a pro-Israeli organization meeting in New Orleans that PLO leader Yasser Arafat was most probably suffering from dementia. Cooksey, an ophthalmologist, met with Arafat in a recent visit to the region and cited Arafat's physical condition as a strong indication of dementia.

This is the second controversial comment Cooksey has made in the last few months. Previously, in an interview with a Louisiana radio talk show host, Cooksey commented that Arabs with "fan belts" on their heads should be stopped by security officials in the war on terrorism.

Many Republicans believe that President George W. Bush will not campaign for Cooksey in the fall because of his anger over Cooksey's comments. That remains to be seen, of course, but Cooksey definitely needs major help. Recent polls have shown Landrieu to be enjoying a large lead over Cooksey. In fact, Cooksey's recent statements and poll problems have prompted many Republicans to encourage other candidates, like Louisiana Elections Commissioner Suzy Terrell, to enter the race. With the primary election just six months away, if other candidates are going to enter the race, they better move quickly.

1st Congressional District Fireworks to Begin
A possibility first reported in this column, controversial radio talk show host Robert Namer has officially announced his candidacy in the race against 1st Congressional District incumbent David Vitter. With Namer's entry into the campaign, look for fireworks to begin.

Namer is known for making incendiary comments, and this campaign should be no exception. In recent years, he has been linked to Gov. Mike Foster, but, according to one insider, Foster is not pleased that Namer jumped into the race.

Acknowledging Foster's dislike for Vitter, it can only be assumed that he was hoping for a more mainstream candidate to challenge the powerful incumbent. Namer will be campaigning throughout the district in a traveling billboard, a newly purchased motor home with his campaign logo painted across the side. This expensive purchase is an indication, according to one Namer supporter, that the radio talk show host will be well financed and a serious opponent for Vitter.

Recently, Vitter moved $700,000 from his federal campaign account into his state account in response to legislation passed in the just-completed special session of the Louisiana Legislature. The newly enacted law prevents candidates from using funds raised for a federal election campaign in a state campaign.

Speculation is mounting that Vitter will run for governor next year so, by moving the funds before the law was officially enacted, Vitter can now use that $700,000 in that race. However, Vitter might need that money according to Namer friend Vincent Bruno. "Namer will do better than people think," Bruno says. "He is a hard worker who will travel the district. If I were Vitter, I would take him seriously."

"Vitter should have kept those funds in his congressional campaign account," he adds. "He is going to need a lot of money to fight off Namer."

Regardless of Namer's campaign tactics, most analysts believe that Vitter is the heavy favorite. One factor that may change that equation is the entry of a well-financed second opponent. Several prominent Jefferson Parish politicos have been quietly encouraging Dr. Monica Monica to make another try for Congress. Monica finished a close fourth in the 1999 campaign for the 1st Congressional District. As of now, she continues to look at the race, but has not made a final decision.

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