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Inside Jefferson Parish 

With this issue, Gambit Weekly debuts the new weekly column "Inside Jefferson Parish" by writer Jeff Crouere, host of Ringside Politics on WTIX 690 AM and on Cox 10 television. As a journalist, Crouere has broken a number of national stories, including David Duke's non-payment of taxes on the sale of his 1995 donor list to Gov. Mike Foster. As a political insider, his strong showing in a 1995 race for state representative prompted Louisiana Republican Party officials to appoint him to a number of leadership positions, including executive director and deputy chairman. "Inside Jefferson Parish" will focus on political and breaking news about Jefferson Parish.

A Treen/Vitter Rematch?

Former governor and U.S. congressman Dave Treen is "seriously considering becoming a candidate" for governor, according to a statement he released last week. Treen served as governor of Louisiana from 1980 to 1984 and represented Jefferson Parish in the U.S. Congress from 1973 until 1980. In 1999, Treen lost a hotly contested bid for Congress to David Vitter that left him with bitter feelings and large campaign debts. Yet, according to his brother, John Treen, the campaign debt is for a federal election and "is a separate matter" from the governor's race. John Treen says his brother will announce plans for the state's economy and education system. Concerning the possibility that Vitter may run for governor and create another Treen vs. Vitter race, John Treen says he is "confident my brother will prevail."

Cooksey Eyeing Jeff Parish as Base

U.S. Congressman John Cooksey is optimistic about his chances of becoming U.S. senator despite the recent entry of Public Service Commissioner Jay Blossman. Cooksey, who has been raising funds and traveling throughout the state for months, is keeping to a self-enforced three-term limit as 5th District U.S. congressman and will take on U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu in the fall. According to Cooksey, the key to his victory will be a strong showing in Jefferson Parish, where he is hoping to translate the support of the powerful Jefferson Parish Assessor Lawrence Chehardy into a major turnout. In fact, Cooksey is planning to spend so much time down in this part of the state that he will be renting an apartment in the parish for the duration of the campaign.

The latest rumor in the senate race has State Rep. Hunt Downer of Houma forgoing a race for governor to jump into this campaign. If that occurs and there are four major candidates in the race, some observers believe that the chances of a run-off in December 2002 will increase. If needed, the run-off will be the only race on the ballot, thereby favoring a lower turnout, which might help a Republican upset the incumbent Landrieu. Also, a December run-off election should generate national interest, which might entice President Bush to play an active role in the campaign.

Kenner Takes the Spotlight

Politics will be heating up in Kenner over the next few weeks. On April 6, the mayor and all council members will face re-election, with all incumbents able to serve one more term before term limits are reached. Most of the council members expect easy victories, but the campaign to watch will be the mayor's race between Jefferson Parish Councilman John Lavarine Jr. and incumbent Mayor Louis Congemi. "Congemi's poll numbers look good right now," says one Kenner insider, but Lavarine is a tough campaigner and will be well funded. Congemi has served as mayor of Kenner for six years, filling the unexpired term of Aaron Broussard and winning re-election to a full term four years ago. Both of the candidates are Republicans, but Congemi's brother, Nick, is both the police chief of Kenner and a Democrat, which might help Congemi attract votes from Democrats and African Americans.

Republican Restructuring

Across the state, Republican party organizations on the parish level are eliminating all Parish Action Councils (PAC) and creating new councils, which will include more party activists and leaders than the old PACs. Members of the new organization will elect the council chairman; previously, the PAC chairs were appointed positions. These new councils will include up to 70 members, composed of state central committee members, elected officials, representatives of local clubs and appointees of the Republican parish executive committee. The main job of the councils will be to conduct grassroots politics and register more Republican voters. In Jefferson Parish, there will be a Louisiana Republican Party Council in East Jefferson and one in West Jefferson, and according to one Republican council member in Jefferson Parish, the local parish group will strive to register enough new Republicans to have Jefferson Parish join St. Tammany Parish as the only parish with a plurality of voters registered as Republican.

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