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Church Change
For much of his nearly four decades as the chief lobbyist for the Catholic Church in Louisiana, Kirby J. Ducote has clashed in the Legislature with supporters of abortion and opponents of public funding for non-public schools. As executive director of the Louisiana Family Conference at Baton Rouge, which reports directly to seven bishops representing as many dioceses statewide, Ducote has more recently lobbied for abolition of the death penalty.

But on June 30, Ducote, 71, will step down as the Church's point man at the Capitol. Ducote will be retained as a consultant and a lobbyist, and will continue as executive director of Louisiana Citizens for Educational Freedom, an organization that advocates public funding of non-public schools. But the upcoming regular session of the Legislature will be Ducote's 35th and last as the Church's chief lobbyist.

He says he has been negotiating his own transition since January 2001. "I have had a good run, and I continue to at least jog," Ducote says. His replacement will be Danny Loar of Baton Rouge.

"I have never, never thought in terms of retiring as long as my health holds up, God willing," Ducote says. "My wish is that I would die in the halls of the legislature. I want to be here as long as I possibly can."

Stymied by a 1972 United States Supreme Court decision that has upheld the constitutionality of abortion, Ducote nonetheless has played a lead role in lobbying the Legislature to discourage the practice. He is especially proud of his successful efforts for a state law requiring abortion doctors to first notify the parents of minors seeking the procedure.

Despite often-bitter debates over abortion, Ducote has won the grudging respect of abortion-rights lobbyists. "He has been absolutely a worthy foe and I have learned a lot from him," says Russell J. Henderson, an 18-year veteran lobbyist and abortion-rights advocate in New Orleans.

Not Nagin's Noggin
Mayor-elect Ray Nagin is disavowing any connection to a mystery bus advertisement that features an aerial view of a bald-headed African-American man in business attire, accompanied by the red-and-blue message: "City of New Orleans. It Doesn't Matter Who You Are!!"

Nagin campaign strategist Jim Carvin says the ad is a "teaser" for a record company. Neither the man depicted in the ad nor its message has any relation to the mayor-elect. "It's certainly not Ray Nagin," Carvin says. He adds: "At first, we thought it was some kind of [political] attack deal."

Light Turn-out Predicted
Orleans Parish Registrar of Voters Louis Keller last week predicted a "very light turnout" for the April 6 elections for two legislative seats: House District 91 and House District 102.

As usual, Keller based his projections on absentee voter turnout, which was still underway at Gambit Weekly presstime. In fact, the registrar's offices were scheduled to close for the Good Friday holiday, but re-open for the final day of absentee balloting on Saturday, March 30.

"If we get five people Saturday, we will be doing fine," Keller says, adding that the Algiers office (HD102) expected a higher absentee vote. But not much higher.

By noon Holy Thursday, after a week of absentee voting, only eight people out of 22,809 registered voters in HD91 had cast ballots. In HD102, only 71 of 22,949 registered voters had voted absentee.

click to enlarge Kirby Ducote
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