Inside Jefferson Parish



Africk's Nomination Creates Controversy

President George W. Bush's nomination of U.S. Magistrate Lance Africk to a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana has created a storm of controversy.

Africk has served as a federal magistrate since 1990 and was initially a registered Republican; however, right after the election of Bill Clinton as president in 1992, Africk switched his registration to Democrat. Despite the efforts of Louisiana's two Democratic U.S. senators, Africk did not obtain the judgeship during the Clinton years. Now, after the defeat of Al Gore, Africk has switched his registration back to Republican, and Bush has nominated him for a vacancy on the U.S. District Court in New Orleans.

Many Republicans are upset at Africk's party switching and would like to see Bush nominate a more committed Republican. In fact, some Republicans are launching a campaign to derail Africk's appointment. The Executive Board of the Jefferson Parish Republican Executive Committee has written to Gov. Mike Foster to solicit his involvement in their campaign to stop the ascension of Africk to the U.S. District Court. "We have been told that if the Governor of a State opposes a nomination, the President will withdraw that nomination," the Jan. 16 letter states. "We are officially requesting you to ask President Bush to withdraw Mr. Africk's name from consideration for an appointment to the U.S. District Court."

The letter continues, "We cannot support a 'Make Believe Republican' over more deserving and more qualified legitimate Republicans."

So why would a "Make Believe Republican" be nominated by a Republican president? First of all, the Republican members of the U.S. congressional delegation submitted Africk's name to Bush. Many believe, however, that the real driving force behind Africk is Republican power broker and businessman Boysie Bollinger of Lockport. Bollinger has been a long-time activist and donor to the Louisiana Republican Party, which seems to have gained him influence with a succession of Republican presidents and governors. However, Bollinger's perceived influence in this nomination has upset some Jefferson Parish Republican leaders because the Africk appointment was made without the consultation of local party leaders. According to Vincent Bruno, the secretary of the Jefferson Parish Republican Executive Board, "This is not the personal party of Boysie Bollinger. How would he like it if we picked the judges in Lockport?"

So far, Foster has not given the board an official response. "I don't know if the governor has done anything or not," Bruno says. "But I know he is for the other candidates," all long-time members of the party and including attorney Lloyd Lunsford and Judge Charles P. Cusimano.

But with the support of the Republican congressman, the two Democratic U.S. senators and now perhaps Republican activists like Bollinger, the nomination of Africk would seem to be on secure ground. Time will tell whether the opposition of grass-roots Republicans causes Foster to intervene and call on his friend President Bush to withdraw the nomination.

Republicans Rally Around Heebe

When Eddie Jordan resigned as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, few could have predicted the controversy that would engulf the person who was selected to succeed him. Today, more than a year after the inauguration of George W. Bush, the official successor to Jordan is not in place.

Acting U.S. Attorney Jim Letten is presiding over the office, but the man chosen to replace Jordan, attorney Fred Heebe, has faced several challenges. First, Heebe had to wait an extremely long time for Bush to make the nomination. Then, since the nomination, Heebe has been under criticism from several quarters, including the National Organization of Women (NOW). NOW wants the Heebe nomination to be stopped because of allegations brought forward by ex-wife Nanci Easterling and ex-girlfriend Gina Herbert. Easterling and Herbert allege physical abuse at the hands of Heebe during their respective relationships with him. NOW is asking U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu to intervene to stop the Heebe nomination.

In response, Republican groups have started to mobilize in an effort to save the Heebe nomination. A letter-writing campaign has been organized involving local Republican activists and clubs, including many women's clubs in the area. So far, about 80 letters have been sent to Bush with more on the way.

"Please do not allow militant extremists in the National Organization of Women to make Fred their latest prey," says the letter from the Jefferson Parish Republican Executive Committee.

So far, there has been no official response from the White House, and Heebe's nomination remains in place, but in limbo.

New Alliance Leadership

The Alliance for Good Government started in 1967 and is a non-partisan organization dedicated to the election of individuals who will promote good government in office. Many people believe that the endorsement of this organization is the most prestigious one a candidate can garner during a campaign. After starting in New Orleans, the Alliance for Good Government has grown to four chapters: Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard and St. Tammany.

One of the fastest growing chapters has been the Jefferson Parish branch, which boasts 55 members. The president of this chapter is Chip Shear, who will now be joined by two new officers. The new vice president is Roger F. Villere Jr., and the new secretary is Loretta Orlando Schmidt. Both of these new officers replaced individuals who had to resign for personal reasons.

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