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The Year of the Artful Codger?



Up to now, it's been all talk. Now it's time to see who's ready to play. No, I'm not talking about the NFL preseason. I'm talking about qualifying to run for everything from U.S. senator to Jefferson Parish School Board. Qualifying is Wednesday through Friday (Aug. 20-22).

  Louisiana's U.S. Senate contest will top the November ballot. Incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu has the toughest race of her career. She faces not only the full force of the local and national GOP but also a phalanx of "independent" super-PACs with unlimited budgets. By the Nov. 4 primary election, Landrieu's opposition could spend $15 million trying to defeat her, maybe more.

  All six Louisiana Congress members also must stand for re-election in November. Some are likely to be unopposed or face only minor opposition. Individual congressional races rarely draw national attention, but one Louisiana contest already has garnered scads of national press — former Gov. Edwin W. Edwards' bid, at the age of 87, to win the 6th District seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, who is Landrieu's main opponent.

  The Silver Zipper leads all pre-qualifying polls, though few believe he can win a Dec. 6 runoff. Don't sell the old buzzard short. If he draws the right (or wrong, depending on your point of view) GOP opponent, he might defy the odds once again.

  If EWE does go back to Congress (he served from 1965 to 1972), I doubt he would embarrass Louisiana any more than Vance McAllister in Louisiana's 5th District. "The kissing congressman" changed his mind about not running again after he was caught on video in a passionate embrace with a staffer, who, like McAllister, is married. McAllister faces a passel of opponents and, like Edwards, is probably a cinch to make the runoff.

  In addition to being good news copy, contested congressional races will drive up turnout, which many see as good for Landrieu. A December runoff, possibly with control of the U.S. Senate hanging in the balance, would be a windfall for Louisiana's media, but not necessarily for its senior senator.

  Down the ballot, some local races will be just as volatile as Landrieu's. Any incumbent who draws a well-financed opponent could be vulnerable.

  All district attorneys and district judges are up for re-election, though most will win new terms without opposition. Not so on the Northshore, where veteran DA Walter Reed has wisely chosen to retire amid a federal investigation. The race to succeed him will be one to watch. Ditto for the special election in state House District 97 to succeed former state Rep. Jared Brossett, who recently was elected to the New Orleans City Council. All eyes are on state Sen. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans, who is term limited in the Senate and is being urged to run for his old House seat. If Murray doesn't run this time, he's expected to run in 2015.

  Business folks in Jefferson Parish are preparing for a fight to keep "reform" school board members in place. The business-backed board members are expected to face challengers backed by the teachers union. Elsewhere in Jefferson (and in parts of New Orleans), Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta is up for re-election.

  Some electoral skirmishes could come right after qualifying. A new state law says constables over the age of 70 cannot seek re-election. Many plan to run anyway, and they could be challenged in court. New Orleans First City Court Constable Lambert Boissiere Jr., 71, says the new law doesn't apply to him because his position is governed by a separate state statute, which was not amended.

  Meanwhile, Criminal District Court Judge Frank Marullo, who is the state's longest-serving judge, plans to run again even though he is past the mandatory retirement age of 70. Marullo, too, says the current retirement rule doesn't apply to him; he was elected before the 1974 Louisiana Constitution lowered the retirement age to 70.

  The law notwithstanding, Boissiere and Marullo look like spring chickens compared to Edwards. Who knows, in contrast to the recent citywide elections that saw younger challengers prevail, this could be The Year of the Artful Codger.

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