Any race for the U.S. Senate is critical. On a local level, the office represents a direct link between the citizens of Louisiana and the awesome power of the federal government. Nationally, our senators represent our hopes and dreams to the rest of America and to the world. For the past 12 years, Louisiana has been ably represented by U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, and we think she has earned another six-year term. We make this recommendation for several reasons.
First, Landrieu reflects Louisiana's centrism and pragmatism on the national scene. A Democrat, she has broken party ranks on key issues that affect our state offshore and domestic drilling, mineral revenue sharing, and increased military spending. She is universally hailed as the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, and she artfully uses her position as a centrist to leverage support on both sides of the aisle for issues that matter to Louisiana. In fact, she has been a leader in many bipartisan efforts.
Second, Landrieu has vitally important seniority and a key committee assignment. From her seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, she singlehandedly rescued the state's ailing Road Home program by steering more than $3 billion in federal funding to Louisiana. Almost simultaneously, she worked with Republican U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici to open millions of acres to offshore drilling and provided Louisiana with a future share of billions in mineral royalties for the first time in more than 50 years. The importance of Landrieu's seniority cannot be overstated: Louisiana has no one in either the House or Senate who has served more than six years, other than the thoroughly discredited Congressman Bill Jefferson. If sent back for a third term in the Senate, Landrieu will rank among the most powerful and influential senators in the country.
Landrieu's opponent, Republican John Kennedy, has done an excellent job in his current position as state treasurer. This newspaper has supported him, literally, every time he has run for public office including his bid for the U.S. Senate four years ago as a Democrat. We like and admire Kennedy, but we believe Louisiana cannot afford to change senators at this time. We urge our readers to re-elect U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.
Congress, District 1 Jim Harlan. In this district, voters are presented with two candidates who share some conservative views yet differ significantly in their experiences and approaches to problem solving. Both five-month incumbent Steve Scalise and retired businessman Jim Harlan are pro-life, pro-gun and pro-drilling. On other fronts, however, we feel that Harlan best matches the temperament of the district: conservative, but not didactically right wing. Scalise's views are more those of a culture warrior he co-sponsored the Federal Marriage Amendment, which seeks to prohibit same-sex marriage by force of the U.S. Constitution. Harlan would focus instead on protecting southeast Louisiana from flooding.
Harlan also has previous Washington experience that far outstrips Scalise's five months in Congress. He served as an energy policy adviser in both the Carter and Reagan administrations, and he helped draft the Energy Security Act of 1980. Closer to home, Scalise believes FEMA should remain under the umbrella of the Department of Health and Human Services, whereas Harlan supports elevating FEMA to its own Cabinet-level agency, with a head who reports directly to the president. In the wake of Katrina, we like Harlan's approach much better. Harlan also has made floodgates at the eastern edges of Lake Pontchartrain his top infrastructure priority. Once built, those floodgates would protect the entire lake basin from dangerous storm surges.
On balance, we believe Jim Harlan is the best choice for the First Congressional District.
Congress, District 2, Democratic Runoff Helena Moreno. The voters of this district have endured incumbent Bill Jefferson's scandalous tenure long enough. His own Democratic colleagues have stripped him of all committee assignments and exiled him from the corridors of power.
Jefferson's opponent, Helena Moreno, has two qualities that easily make her a better choice: integrity and energy. If elected, Moreno will be accepted immediately into the Congressional fold and given the chance to prove her mettle. Moreno also has a boundless enthusiasm for the task ahead, and she has made coastal restoration and flood protection her top priorities as opposed to Jefferson, who is solely focused on staying out of jail. New Orleans cannot afford to embarrass itself again by re-electing Bill Jefferson.
As the state's only African-American congressman, Jefferson represents a "franchise" of sorts to many black voters. We would ask our African-American readers to consider this paradigm: Next Tuesday, Nov. 4, millions of white voters all across America and many thousands here in Louisiana will overlook race and vote for Sen. Barack Obama as our nation's next president. You can't get a bigger political franchise than that. In the face of such enormous crossover voting for the highest office in the land, how can black voters in New Orleans vote to keep Jefferson in Congress just because he is black? We urge all our readers who can vote in the Democratic runoff in the First District to vote for Helena Moreno.
Capitelli for DA
New Orleans is fortunate to have two highly qualified candidates in the runoff for district attorney. While both men would serve the city well, we believe former First Assistant DA Ralph Capitelli is the better choice.
As former DA Harry Connick Sr.'s top assistant, Capitelli knows exactly what it takes to run the DA's office. He managed all of the office's divisions, support staff and lawyers and he earned high marks in the process. During his tenure as first assistant, Connick's office functioned at its peak. Capitelli also brought key reforms and "best practices" to the office, including the Career Criminal Bureau, the predecessor to today's Violent Offender Unit. If elected DA, he will use that model and others to get violent crime under control in New Orleans.
Capitelli also has the political and professional skills needed to help the office repair its fractured relationships with NOPD and other local offices. He will work directly with Police Chief Warren Riley to implement joint training classes to get cops and assistant DAs working as a team and not as adversaries. In the critical area of professional retention, he will insist that every new prosecutor remain with his office for a minimum of three years. When he was Connick's first assistant, he successfully implemented that policy.
The campaign for this office has been a political bloodbath. That's unfortunate, because both Capitelli and former Judge Leon Cannizzaro have served the public well. We look forward to the day when the Orleans Parish DA's office reclaims its position at the leading edge of New Orleans' crime-fighting efforts. We believe Ralph Capitelli offers the best hope for making that happen.
Public Service Commission John F. Schwegmann. The Louisiana Public Service Commission is one of the most important agencies in state government. The commission regulates utilities, and for the past 12 years, incumbent Commissioner Jay Blossman has routinely and blatantly been in the pocket of companies he regulates. His one redeeming move was his decision to drop out of the race, but now he's trying to elect attorney Eric Skrmetta, who, like Blossman, sees nothing wrong with accepting campaign contributions from utilities. We recommend former PSC member John F. Schwegmann for this job. Schwegmann served honorably on the PSC for 16 years and accepts nothing from those he would regulate.
State Senate, District 9 Conrad Appel. A former member of the Dock Board and past chair of the Jefferson Business Council, businessman Conrad Appel will bring to the Senate excellent credentials in the area of regional economic development. He understands the importance of building coalitions to get meaningful legislation passed, and he supports a holistic health care policy that will address the needs and strengths of all elements of the health care industry. Gambit Weekly Ballot U.S. Senate Mary Landrieu
U.S. Congress, District 1 Jim Harlan
U.S. Congress, District 2 (Democratic Runoff) Helena Moreno
New Orleans District Attorney Ralph Capitelli
Public Service Commission John F. Schwegmann
State Senate, District 9 (Metairie) Conrad Appel
New Orleans Charter Amendment (Master Plan) YES
Jefferson Parish Sales Tax Rededication YES
State Constitutional Amendments
No. 1 FOR
No. 2 AGAINST
No. 3 FOR
No. 4 FOR
No. 5 FOR
No. 6 FOR
No. 7 FOR