Inside Jeff Parish



Benge and Green Reelected
The newest development in the judgeship campaigns of the 24th Judicial District occurred when Division A incumbent Judge Joan Benge's opponent dropped out of the race, thereby electing Benge to another term. Republican Jude Trahant left the race after effectively telling friends that he misread Benge's standing in the court house and in the community. Benge was ready for another campaign, with husband and campaign manager Mike Benge reporting that he could not get her yard signs out fast enough to satisfy the demand of her supporters.

Benge joins fellow 24th Judicial District Judge Alan Green who was also reelected when his opponents dropped out of the race. This development surprised some observers who believed that Green would face stiff competition in light of the FBI video tape that supposedly shows him accepting a $5,000 cash contribution in his judicial chambers.

Hot Races
The race to succeed Judge Ronnie Bodenheimer is relatively competitive between two Republicans: Hans Lilejeberg and Jeff Hand. Lilejeberg seems to have the lead right now with a greater public presence and some key endorsements; both the Alliance for Good Government and the Jefferson Alliance endorsed Liljeberg, giving him a boost in this open seat election.

Another competitive race is occurring in Division P where incumbent Melvin Zeno is being challenged by longtime Kenner City Councilman Marc Johnson. In this race, Johnson picked up the endorsement of the Alliance for Good Government, but Zeno was endorsed by the Jefferson Alliance.

Blossman vs. Schwegmann
In the race for Public Service Commissioner, incumbent Jay Blossman is being challenged by former commissioner John Schwegmann. Schwegmann, who once owned a chain of grocery stores and was one of the wealthiest men in Louisiana, has announced a low-scale attempt to unseat Blossman. He will not accept donations from any utility companies in his quest to defeat Blossman, who outspent him in their last race in 1996. Blossman is the favorite in the race and has a large campaign war chest at his disposal. Last week, he began airing television commercials touting his record in office.

Group That Endorsed Namer Under Fire
A local grassroots organization that endorsed radio talk show host Robert Namer in the First Congressional District race against Monica Monica and incumbent David Vitter is being criticized by some in the community for failing to maintain their charter with the Louisiana Secretary of State.

The Conservative Civic Council (CCC) endorsed Namer after a rowdy forum with incumbent David Vitter. In the forum, Vitter accused Namer of lying, and Namer offered to withdraw from the race if the campaign brochure in question was not truthful. At one point in the debate, Vitter and Namer were face-to-face shouting at each other before the crowd of 50 in attendance. The Council ultimately endorsed Namer, surprising some who felt that Vitter would continue his streak of picking up group endorsements. Earlier, Vitter received the endorsement of the Republican Party Executive Committee of Jefferson Parish.

The CCC was incorporated in August 1996, but, according to the Louisiana Secretary of State's office, their charter was revoked in November 2001 due to a failure to file the required annual reports. According to club officer George Van Houten, the required paperwork has recently been sent to the Secretary of State's office and all payments are now up to date.

All of this controversy does not faze Namer, who is excited about the endorsement. "If this organization was so lacking in credentials," he asks, "why did David Vitter spend his time the other night trying to win their endorsement?"

Perkins Picks Up Another Endorsement
U.S. Senate candidate and State Rep. Tony Perkins came back from his recent trip to Washington, D.C., with another endorsement from a conservative organization. Michael Bowman, executive director of the Concerned Women of America's Political Action Committee, endorsed Perkins. "Tony is really the only committed pro-life candidate in the Louisiana race," says Bowman.

This backing is the latest in a string of endorsements by groups considered to be in the forefront of the social conservative movement. Perkins has also been endorsed by Dr. James Dobson, Eagle Forum's Phyllis Schlafly, Gary Bauer of Campaign for Working Families, American Family Association's Don Wildmon and Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition.

Ringside to Host Televised Forum
In the hot campaign to succeed retiring Orleans Parish District Attorney Harry Connick, many candidates are running. The voters will have an opportunity view the major candidates in action on Ringside Politics, the Cox 10 TV show, which airs at 7 p.m. Tuesday, 9 p.m. Thursday and 7 p.m. Sunday. DA candidates will be questioned by hosts Jeff Crouere and Marc Morial and by a studio audience of uncommitted voters. The forum will be split into two parts, with the first 30-minute forum debuting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 24, and the second 30-minute forum debuting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1.

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