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Kenner's Mayor Race Shaping Up

As candidates continue to prepare their campaigns for the open Jefferson Parish Council positions, the once uncertain line-up of candidates for the Kenner mayor's race is also becoming clearer. Current Kenner Mayor Louis Congemi is planning to run this fall for the Jefferson Parish Council seat being vacated by term-limited Ed Muniz. Once Congemi is elected -- and, as of now, there is a strong likelihood that will occur -- the Kenner mayor's vacancy will be filled in a special election.

For months, Muniz has been thinking about running for mayor of Kenner, but also considering a race for Jefferson Parish Council-at-large. In the last few weeks, he finally made the decision to be a candidate in the mayoral race instead of the expensive and competitive race for an at-large seat on the Jefferson Parish Council.

Muniz will definitely meet Kenner Councilman Phil Capitano in the mayor's race. Capitano has already assembled a team and is making plans for the campaign; his next step will occur on Saturday, Feb. 8, when he hosts his annual Valentine Dance for supporters at the Kenner City Park. The cost is $30 per couple, so the councilman says he views the event as more of a "friend raiser" than a fundraiser.

Last week, Capitano sent a mailing in the form of a job application to all regular voters in Kenner announcing his intention to run for mayor. Capitano has been approached by some in the community to run for another office, but, he says, "There is nothing anyone can do to keep me out of this race."

Other potential candidates include businessman Nick Baroni, Kenner Councilman-at-large Terry McCarthy, Kenner Council member Michele Branigan, Kenner Council member Jeannie Black, Jefferson Parish Council member John Lavarine Jr. and Kenner Police Chief Nick Congemi.

Who Will Secure the African-American Vote?

Because Gov. Mike Foster is term-limited this year, there is plenty of attention on the race to succeed him. As of now, 13 serious candidates have expressed varying degrees of interest in a gubernatorial campaign. However, for the first time since 1991, there is one element missing in the race: a serious African-American candidate.

It seems that African-American leaders such as Congressman Bill Jefferson and State Sen. Cleo Fields will forgo a candidacy this time, preferring to play the role of kingmaker. One other major African-American leader who will surely play a significant part in the campaign for governor is outgoing State Democratic Party Chair Ben Jeffers. Jeffers just resigned after six years as party chair, finishing his tenure on a high note with Rodney Alexander's upset congressional victory in the 5th District and Mary Landrieu's hard fought reelection to the U.S. Senate. No longer in a restrictive party position, Jeffers will be free to choose favorites and become involved in political campaigns.

One such contest in which Jeffers will definitely play a role is the governor's race. Buddy Leach, the former congressman from Lake Charles who is probably the strongest progressive Democratic candidate in the governor's race, is trying to lure Jeffers to his camp. There are also indications that Cleo Fields will throw his support to Leach as well. If Leach can claim support from Jeffers and Fields, he will have created a team that will provide a formidable outreach to the state's African-American community, which accounts for approximately 30 percent of the statewide electorate.

Other Potential Council Candidates

A few weeks ago, I reported a host of potential candidates for the newly open Jefferson Parish Council seats. Since that column, other candidates have expressed interest in the races.

In District 3, being vacated by term-limited Donald Jones, Democrat Byron Lee is set to announce his candidacy in April. Lee ran against Jones eight years ago, narrowly losing. Lee lives on the West Bank, where he also operates a home health care business, and has good ties to business, political and civic leaders on the East Bank.

In the District 6 race to replace the term-limited Nick Giambelluca, add one more potential candidate: Republican attorney Mitchell Gibbs. Gibbs lost the 1999 State Representative District 81 race to replace the outgoing David Vitter to Jennifer Sneed. Gibbs is a member of the Republican State Central Committee, where he is known for his outspoken views as a member of the moderate wing of the state party organization.

Alliance for Good Government to Hold Jefferson Banquet

The Jefferson Chapter of the Alliance for Good Government will hold its 1st Annual Awards Banquet at 7 p.m. on March 11 at The Balcony in Metairie. Jefferson Parish Council Chairman Aaron Broussard, last year's Legislator of the Year, will serve as the honorary chairman for the event. The chapter will honor Jefferson Parish public officials who have provided excellent service in the following areas: judicial, law enforcement, administrative and prosecutorial. The Jefferson Chapter will also honor their Member of the Year. For more information or to order tickets, contact Roger Villere at 830-4505.

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