Inside Jeff Parish



At-Large Line-Up

In 2003, term limits will force Jefferson Parish Council members to vacate their district offices, thereby creating open seats for what will surely be competitive elections. Without doubt, there will be five new faces on the Jefferson Parish Council. However, the other two seats -- the at-large positions -- will most likely be filled by two of the well-known and outgoing district Councilmen.

Right now, five of the Council members are either definitely running or considering a race for the at-large seats. These at-large campaigns will be costly and will generate plenty of attention, being the most high-profile and competitive races expected in Jefferson Parish in 2003. The campaign for the top position in Jefferson Parish, parish president, has a strong favorite right now -- current Council Chairman Aaron Broussard, who has no competitors on the horizon -- so the at-large races will be where the action is. In the "definitely running" category are Council members Donald Jones, Nick Giambelluca and Lloyd Giardina. Currently, Giardina leads the pack in the important department of fundraising, with approximately $400,000 in his campaign coffers. Donald Jones has a campaign fund with an approximate balance of $100,000. Nick Giambelluca just raised $90,000 at a dinner at Ruth's Chris Steak House.

All three of these candidates have been trying to increase their profile parishwide. Giambelluca and Jones have sent mailers to voters throughout the parish. In addition, Jones has paid for full-page advertisements in The Times-Picayune to announce his candidacy. For his campaign, Giardina has used outdoor advertising by placing large billboards throughout Jefferson Parish.

Along with these three candidates, other candidates may emerge. Council member John Lavarine Jr. is considering whether to run for mayor of Kenner or one of the Council-at-large seats. Interestingly, the same decision is being made by his fellow Council member Ed Muniz. Muniz, who can easily fund any type of campaign personally, raised $140,000 for his campaign fund at an event at the Rose Garden this summer.

The two at-large positions were approved by the voters this fall and will be in place for the new Council, assuming the new Council structure receives Justice Department approval. Currently, there are six council districts in Jefferson Parish, and the parish is working on the district make-up for the five new districts. If minority representation is diluted in the new districts, then the Justice Department might not approve the new arrangement. According to an elected official in Jefferson Parish who is involved in the process, the new districts will be crafted correctly and will receive the necessary approval.

Will Another Republican Run for Governor?

The 2003 race for governor is already very crowded. At least 12 candidates have told supporters they are running or seriously considering the race. Therefore, it may come as a surprise to political observers that Secretary of State Fox McKeithen is also giving serious consideration to a run for governor. McKeithen's father, John McKeithen, served as governor for two terms and was a populist Democrat, whereas Fox McKeithen is a conservative Republican.

Fox McKeithen also has been working on garnering the support of an important constituency in the Louisiana Republican Party, the religious right. Former Christian Coalition Executive Director Sally Campbell is behind McKeithen's candidacy. With fundamentalist darling State Rep. Tony Perkins running for treasurer, the evangelicals do not currently have a candidate in the governor's race, so McKeithen may fill that void. If he runs, he will face competition on the Republican side. Currently, State Sen. Ken Hollis, State Rep. Hunt Downer, State Sen. John Hainkel, former Gov. Dave Treen, and Public Service Commissioner Jay Blossman are all considering the race. Most probably, several of these candidates will drop out of the race before qualifying. It all depends on who can score best in early fundraising and in early poll results.

Landrieu vs. Terrell Rematch?

Sources close to Elections Commissioner Suzanne Terrell report that the former U.S. Senate candidate is giving serious consideration to a run for attorney general. If so, she could be pitted against New Orleans State Rep. Mitch Landrieu, who is also considering the race. Based on the rather nasty campaign between Mary Landrieu and Terrell for the U.S. Senate, it will be interesting to observe how Mitch Landrieu and Terrell face-off against each other if that race does actually develop. Other candidates contemplating a run for attorney general are Republican State Sen. Jay Dardenne of Baton Rouge and Democratic Criminal Sheriff Charles Foti of New Orleans.

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