Inside Jeff Parish



Coulon's Future
Regardless of the outcome of the Dec. 7 U.S. Senate runoff, Mary Landrieu should be very grateful to Jefferson Parish President Tim Coulon. During the final weeks of the campaign, Coulon was everywhere for the incumbent senator -- at her side at press conferences, in commercials and prominently cited in news releases. Without doubt, Coulon was Landrieu's most high-profile Republican supporter in her reelection bid.

In a very partisan statewide campaign (typical of most U.S. Senate races), Republican support for Landrieu was scant. Coulon, however, was not bashful about expressing his appreciation, citing Landrieu's accomplishments for Jefferson Parish and his strong belief that she was always there when needed. This unwavering backing is an admirable show of loyalty, especially when you consider that Jefferson Parish is usually considered a rather conservative parish that tends to vote Republican in national elections.

Coulon's political future might now be in jeopardy, since Jefferson Parish Republicans are extremely upset that he was so vocal in his support. With term limits preventing Coulon from running for another term as parish president, there has been widespread speculation about his future. Initially, reports circulated that Coulon might run for offices such as lieutenant governor, public service commissioner or state senator. Now, it seems that Coulon will opt for the private sector, at least initially, with The Chamber of Commerce River Region a potential employer.

Despite Republican heartaches over his support for Landrieu, there is almost universal agreement that Coulon was a good president for Jefferson Parish and worked well with his regional partners. In fact, Coulon placed his belief in being a regional team player for Landrieu above his political future. Time will tell the wisdom of that move.

Overheard Options
Recently members of the Jefferson Parish chapter of the Alliance for Good Government gathered for their annual Christmas party. In the midst of the celebratory throng, Jefferson Parish Councilmember John Lavarine was speaking to a group of Alliance members about his political future. Forced to seek another political position because of term limits, Lavarine told activists attending the party that he is leaning toward running for one of the Jefferson Parish Council at-large seats. (All Jefferson Parish Council members will be seeking another job in the fall of 2003. With Jefferson Parish voters approving a new 5-2 Council structure -- and assuming this plan is approved by federal authorities -- there will be two at-large positions, similar to the city councils in Kenner and New Orleans.)

For months, Lavarine was considered one of the top candidates to become the next mayor of Kenner, a position that will become vacant when current Kenner Mayor Louis Congemi runs for the position on the Jefferson Parish Council being vacated by term-limited Ed Muniz. Congemi is considered the strong favorite to win Muniz's seat. In fact, Muniz is now seriously considered, not for a long-rumored run for the at-large Council position, but for a run at mayor of Kenner, possibly switching jobs with Congemi. If he runs, Muniz will face Kenner Councilman Phil Capitano and possibly others, including Kenner Police Chief Nick Congemi.

For the two Jefferson Parish Council at-large seats, there will be other candidates along with Lavarine, if he does make the race. Confirmed candidates at this point are Jefferson Parish councilmembers Lloyd Giardina and Donald Jones. Also, there has been talk that fellow Jefferson Parish Council member Nick Giambelluca will enter the race as well.

Heebe Back?
Although Fred Heebe officially withdrew his name from consideration for the position of U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Gov. Mike Foster has never stopped pushing for him to be appointed to the position.

After President George W. Bush was elected, it was assumed that he would appoint one of a number of high-profile local Republican attorneys to the coveted position. Yet there was disagreement among top Louisiana Republicans as to who would be the best candidate. Many believe that one of the reasons the governor did not initially support Suzie Terrell for the U.S. Senate was because of her refusal to join him in supporting Heebe for the position of U.S. Attorney. Of course, Foster finally did endorse Terrell, and key Republicans report that in exchange for his endorsement, Foster was able to get a White House commitment to officially nominate Heebe to the position.

In the interim, Jim Letten has served with distinction and almost unanimous commendation for his performance in office. Letten has taken a public role in both the Canal Street brothel investigation and in the investigation into New Orleans City Hall corruption. Still, Letten is not Foster's pick, and we will soon see whether Foster succeeds in his long-term quest to get the appointment for Fred Heebe.

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