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Inside Jeff Parish 

Surprise Endorsement

In a shocking move, the Jefferson Alliance for Good Government bypassed Kenner Council-at-Large incumbent Betty Bonura and endorsed challenger Dominic O. Weilbaecher at its March 5 meeting.

Many Kenner citizens are still upset at Bonura for being part of a group of four Kenner council members who walked out of a 1999 meeting, breaking a quorum and effectively ending that meeting. At the time, some Kenner residents were waiting to address the Council. Bonura also has faced questions concerning her actual residency in the past.

Also, incumbent Council member Phil Capitano was able to secure the alliance's endorsement over his rival Jules Corona and two other opponents in the Council District 5 forum.

In the forum, Corona and Capitano quarreled over the Louis Armstrong International Airport, the infrastructure needs of Kenner and a legislative auditor's report concerning the city of Kenner.

Although both Capitano and Corona expressed opposition to the new runway at the airport, Corona, an executive who retired after a 37-year career in the airline industry, charged that his supporters were being contacted and given erroneous information about his position on the issue.

In turn, while both Capitano and Corona expressed support for implementing the suggestions of the legislative auditor, Capitano claimed that Corona had not even read the report and was not familiar with the controversial issue. The legislative auditor had criticized the city of Kenner for not being able to account for all of its spending in an informational campaign, paying a PR firm twice and allowing the firm to hold the overpayment for many months.

While Capitano received the endorsement of the Jefferson Alliance for Good Government, another organization, the Jefferson Alliance, endorsed Corona.

Wide-open Race

With the withdrawal of Fred Heebe from the competition to become the next U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, the race is now wide open.

Last time, four candidates were recommended to President George W. Bush. Beside Heebe, the list included attorney Shaun Clarke, assistant U.S. Attorney Constantine Georges and former Jefferson Parish District Attorney Jack Capella. Now those three candidates will probably be joined by other names. It could take another four to six weeks for another nomination to occur.

In the Heebe nomination fiasco, Gov. Mike Foster played a major role. Foster claimed that his appointment was the only thing he wanted from the Bush administration. Many people speculate that the reason Foster pushed for Heebe so hard was his concern about the ongoing investigation into David Duke and the sale of his mailing list to candidate Foster in 1995. Others believe that Foster was only helping his friend, consultant and political advisor Roy Fletcher. Fletcher is a close friend of Heebe and worked for him in the 1996 race for Jefferson Parish District Attorney.

Whatever the motivations, Foster has received criticism for the way the whole episode transpired. According to one key player in the process, "Foster handled this poorly. He doesn't have any political skills."

With Foster's candidate out of the picture, look for other Republican power brokers such as Congressman Billy Tauzin and Elections Commissioner Suzy Terrell to have more influence. The current acting U.S. Attorney Jim Letten is well-respected but has the handicap of being a career federal employee. Letten's only chance for a permanent appointment would be for Foster to push hard to his retention. Usually, such key appointments do not go to career prosecutors, but are given to those that have other attributes they can bring to the office, such as political skills, public relations skills, and key political contacts in the political party that controls the White House.

With those criteria being important, look for former Jefferson Parish District Attorney Jack Capella to have the inside track among the remaining candidates. Of course, that could always change if other candidates are proposed in the weeks ahead.

Jefferson Leader Expresses Support for Nagin

With Ray Nagin sweeping to victory over opponent Richard Pennington, a key leader in Jefferson Parish is extending the hand of cooperation. "A lot of people in the region are excited about the possibility of working closely with Ray Nagin," says state Rep. Steve Scalise. "His victory signified that the voters in New Orleans are ready to end the old ways of doing things."

Scalise cites the custom software tax removal as a project that he will be working on with Nagin as soon as possible. Scalise believes that job creation and economic development need to be the first priority for the Nagin administration. He also is convinced that a business-friendly environment should be established in New Orleans and will help Jefferson and other surrounding parishes. "Our whole region grows if we have a friend in City Hall," Scalise says.

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