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Tuesday of Reckoning


Louisiana voters, long accustomed to voting in state and local elections on Saturday, must remember to go to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 5, instead.

Voters statewide will elect a candidate to the United States Senate for a six-year term and decide 12 proposed constitutional amendments. (See "Commentary," Oct. 22, 2002.) Voters also will elect members of Congress for two-year terms.

In addition, Orleans Parish voters will resolve runoff elections for District Attorney, a seat on the state Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, and two judgeships at Criminal District Court. Gambit Weekly does not make endorsements in judicial elections.

Jefferson Parish voters, meanwhile, are asked to vote on four amendments to the parish charter. Our recommendations are:

U.S. Senate. War against Iraq, the sour economy and affordable prescription drug care are key campaign issues. Writ large, this campaign season is also a partisan battle for control of Congress. Facing a Republican president and a GOP-majority in the House, Democrats argue a congressional balance of power is critical to blocking the appointments of right-wing extremists to the U.S. Supreme Court and district judgeships, and to preventing the dismantling of critical environmental regulations.

We are longtime supporters of Democratic incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu, a native New Orleanian and former state treasurer who began her distinguished public service career at age 23 as the youngest woman ever elected to the state House of Representatives. We endorse Landrieu's re-election enthusiastically.

First elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996, Landrieu serves on three powerful committees: Appropriations, Armed Services, and Energy & Natural Resources. She has the political muscle to strengthen Louisiana's three military bases, including the naval air station at Belle Chasse. She also has secured millions of dollars in vital shipbuilding jobs at Avondale by supporting investment in military defense vessels.

Landrieu has staked out leadership roles in protecting Louisiana from coastal erosion, floods and hurricanes. She secured $45 million for the Canal Street streetcar and has helped win millions to complete I-49. She's fiscally prudent but not afraid to seek progressive solutions to our state's many education woes and social ills. The Republicans, both locally and nationally, have spent millions trying to tear her down by distorting her record and engaging in vicious smears. It hasn't worked. Because the truth is, Landrieu is right for Louisiana. We strongly endorse Sen. Mary Landrieu.

First Congressional District. Incumbent Republican Rep. David Vitter is a strong proponent of the conservative values of former Rep. Bob Livingston's old district. Of Vitter's opponents, Dr. Monica Monica is a passionate and knowledgeable advocate of health care reform. Nonetheless, Vitter's role on issues such as the Lake Pontchartrain cleanup and his impressive appointment to the Appropriations Committee demonstrate his worthiness to be re-elected. We endorse Rep. David Vitter.

Second Congressional District. Eleven-year incumbent Rep. Bill Jefferson has given voters a lot of reasons to consider other candidates. In particular, he consistently meddles in local politics, often to expand or protect his family's narrow political interests. (See "Commentary," Oct. 27, 1998). Such machinations divide his constituents and detract from his considerable intellect and ability on Capitol Hill, where he is a member of the powerful House Ways & Means Committee. We would like to see Jefferson build upon his valuable congressional seniority by focusing more on his duties in Washington -- and less on his politics back home. He has been a good congressman, but he could be an even better one. With that hope in mind, we endorse Rep. William Jefferson.

Orleans Parish District Attorney. We reaffirm our earlier endorsement of Dale Atkins, Clerk of Civil Court, to replace retiring District Attorney Harry Connick Sr. Atkins understands the plight of victims and has personal experience prosecuting major cases in Criminal Court.

Jefferson Parish Charter Amendments. Voters in Jefferson Parish face four amendments to their parish Charter. The non-partisan Bureau of Governmental Research states that the Parish Council altered some amendments suggested by a citizens panel to "skirt" council term limits approved by voters in 1994. Our recommendations follow:

No. 1. -- This proposal would give the parish president line-item veto power, providing extra accountability over parish spending. Vote for Proposition 1.

No. 2 -- This amendment would reduce the number of council districts from six to five and increase the at-large council district seats from one to two. With parish council elections only one year away, Proposition 2 smacks of a subterfuge against term limits. Vote against No. 2.

No. 3 -- Five proposed changes appear within this one proposition. One deal-killing proviso attempts to end the charter's lifetime ban on council members who have served two terms by misleading voters into deleting a "typographical error" in the Charter, says BGR. Vote against No. 3.

No. 4 -- This cynical proposal by the Parish Council would enable council incumbents to circumvent the ban on term limits by allowing members to run again by simply gathering petition signatures from 20 percent of the voters in his or her district. Vote against No. 4.

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