Hollis and His Heir
Jefferson Parish State Sen. Ken Hollis has announced that he is running for governor. He has named his campaign team, which comprises media consultant Greg Buisson and fundraiser Brent Barksdale. Hollis has already placed billboards around the metropolitan New Orleans area and is inching up in recent polls on the 2003 governor's race.
Last Sunday, Hollis held his kick-off fundraiser at Pat O's on the River in Jax Brewery. Several hundred people attended, giving Hollis early momentum and early money in the upcoming race. Next month, he has a major fundraiser scheduled in Alexandria, hosted by longtime Mayor Ned Randolph.
Because Hollis is running for governor, he will be vacating his state Senate position. Among the candidates who will be running for that seat is former Jefferson Parish School Board member Polly Thomas, who served on the board from 1992 to 1999 and now teaches at the UNO School of Education. Thomas will headline a $35-per-head breakfast at the Wyndham Hotel in Metairie on Dec. 6.
While Thomas assembles her war chest, other prominent Jefferson Parish politicians are also looking at the Senate seat. State Rep. Steve Scalise is being encouraged to run by friends and supporters. Another state representative, Thomas Capella, will lose his legislative seat due to redistricting, so he is looking at the race as well.
All in the Family
One of the most prominent political families in Jefferson Parish is the Lavarine family. John Lavarine Jr. serves as Jefferson Parish Councilman. His son, John Lavarine III, serves as Kenner City Councilman, and another son, David Lavarine, serves on the Republican Parish Executive Committee and the State Central Committee. Due to term limits, John Lavarine Jr. will be vacating his council seat next fall. Speculation is rampant as to what his plans will be.
He has been eyeing the Kenner mayorship for years. He almost ran last year against Louis Congemi, but backed out at the last moment. With Congemi almost certainly running for the Parish Council next year -- and having to vacate his mayor's office if he wins -- Lavarine Jr. will have the option of running for mayor of Kenner. He could be joined in the race by other potential candidates including Kenner City Council members Terry McCarthy, Phil Capitano, Jefferson Parish Councilman Ed Muniz and Kenner Police Chief Nick Congemi.
Another option for John Lavarine Jr. is to run for one of the two newly created Council-at-large positions. Other candidates looking at those two seats include Parish Council members Ed Muniz, Donaald Jones, Nick Giambelluca and Lloyd Giardina. Both Giardina and Jones have already started campaigning.
With John Lavarine Jr. looking at other offices, his son David will be running for his seat on the Parish Council next fall. David has already opened a campaign account and has hired phone bank operator John Grimm and consultants Greg Buisson and Bill Allerton. For the past five years, David Lavarine has been teaching and coaching at Christian Brothers Academy in City Park. His brother, John Lavarine III, was just reelected to the Kenner City Council and can serve until 2005 before term limits force him to also look at other options.
New Council Districts Will Be Challenged
Voting rights expert Cedric Floyd is part of a group of concerned Jefferson Parish residents who believe that the Nov. 5 election to create a new Parish Council structure of 5 district seats and 2 at-large seats was illegal. According to Floyd, the election was in violation of federal law because Jefferson Parish did not send the ballot proposition to the Justice Department 60 days before the election, but was sent on Sept. 20. Another option would have been for the parish to submit the new council districts to a federal court for approval, but that did not occur either. In 1991, Federal Judge Peter Beer ordered the parish to draw six council districts and have one council chairman, the current 6-1 line-up.
According to attorney Ronald Wilson, the local cooperating attorney for the NAACP, a lawsuit is being prepared to challenge the recent election results and the new council districts. "We are going to ask the federal court to nullify the election results because Jefferson Parish did not have court approval or Justice Department approval for the new districts," says Wilson.
Wilson and Floyd believe that the new districts will dilute minority representation, which is why they will be asking the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to share in the costs of the lawsuit. The new districts, says Wilson, violate Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. According to Wilson, if the new plan is adopted, African-American voting percentages will drop in the one district where they compose the majority and such "retrogression" is not allowed by federal law.
Wilson plans to file the lawsuit in federal court in the beginning of the week. It may be given to Judge Beer because of the earlier case, or it may be assigned to another federal court judge.