The Oct. 5 primary election will be the political organization's first test of electoral influence since Morial left office. A runoff is projected for Nov. 5. Some 25 members of the influential group -- including four elected officials -- met behind closed doors at a downtown establishment to decide its endorsements.
By late last week, LIFE still had not interviewed any of the eight candidates for district attorney, one source says -- although candidate Franz Zibilich did appear at the end of the meeting. Another source says the group may still conduct formal interviews for district attorney this week.
Much of the internal debate centers on the problem of "too many friends" in the same race, one source says. Morial has always thought "highly" of candidate and former U.S. Attorney Eddie Jordan, and Zibilich was a tireless defender of the Morial administrations in the courts, a source says. "Individually, however, most of the (Morial political) family members are with Dale Atkins," the source adds, referring to the candidate and Clerk of Civil Court. In addition, Civil Sheriff Paul Valteau, one of the elders of LIFE, is solidly behind Atkins' candidacy, sources say.
Surprisingly, one source says, the only other race that remains undecided among "LIFE-rs" is the Criminal Court Section F race that pits incumbent Dennis Waldron against lone challenger Ermence DeBose-Parent. By late last week, sources say, LIFE had decided on endorsements in the following races:
Ed Lombard for judge of Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, Division A and Leon Cannizzarro Jr. for judge, Fourth Circuit, Division B; incumbent Lambert C. "Li'l Lamb" Boissiere III for Constable, First City Court; incumbent Judge Patrick Quinlan for Criminal District Court, Section B; Ben Willard (brother of City Council and LIFE member Cynthia Willard-Lewis) for the vacated judgeship at Criminal Court Section C; Tim McElroy for the open judgeship at Criminal Court, Section J; and incumbent Criminal Court Magistrate Gerard Hansen.
LIFE will also support Section C Juvenile Court incumbent Judge Ernestine Gray and incumbent Section D Juvenile Court Judge Larry Lagarde, but will back Marie A. Bookman for judge of Municipal Court against longtime incumbent John Shea, sources say.
Assessor Erroll Williams, a longtime LIFE member, will break ranks and support Shea, Gambit Weekly has learned. LIFE will also support incumbent Recorder of Mortgages Desiree Charbonnet and incumbent Register of Conveyances Gaspar Schiro, sources say.
In the third appeals court race, LIFE will either support incumbent Division H Judge Charles R. Jones or take no position in the race. His opponent, Clara Toombs, will not get the LIFE endorsement, sources say.
The race for Public Service Commission District 1, which pits incumbent Jay Blossman against John Schwegmann, "was not even discussed," one source says. There were 37,123 Orleans Parish voters in the far-reaching PSC district as of Sept. 6, according to the Orleans Parish Registrar of Voters.
LIFE's board of directors includes City Council members Cynthia Willard-Lewis and Marlin Gusman, Marc Morial's brother Jacques Morial, and former city finance department director Bobby Major.
Mayor Ray Nagin recently said he wanted to beef up the understaffed city Office of Municipal Investigation (OMI) to help with his ongoing corruption probe of city government. Slim chance that will happen anytime soon.
The Civil Service Commission -- for a second time -- has extended its search for a "special agent" at OMI (annual salary: $28,173), due to a dismal lack of applications. The new deadline is 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11. OMI had hoped to have a list of qualified of applicants by Friday, Sept. 27.
Civil service extended the search last week after only eight people had applied for the watchdog investigator post. Of the eight applicants, four were automatically disqualified for failing to meet basic qualifications. OMI director RoseMaria Broussard has said she needs five investigators; she presently has only two to handle some 221 cases, a staggering case ratio of 110.5 cases per agent. The optimal ratio would be 20 per investigator, Broussard says.
OMI investigates complaints of wrongdoing against city employees, including police officers. The agency investigates only administrative violations but refers criminal matters to other jurisdictions.
Gridiron Show Takes on Reform
The Press Club of New Orleans celebrates its 41st annual gridiron show at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28, with the media's satirical look at the "reform" administration of Mayor Ray Nagin.
Ken Ferguson directs the annual lampoon event that benefits the Press Club's scholarship fund. Planned skits include numbers about the Canal Street brothel, the Galatoire's waiter firing, indicted Judge Ronald Bodenheimer and Wal-Mart, says Nora Wall, development director for WRBH.FM radio and "Top Banana" for the show. Among the few serious moments scripted for the event are a tribute song to the late Jim Monaghan and a special award for Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee.
The event begins with a 7 p.m. patron party followed by a pre-show buffet at Carlone's Dinner Theatre, 100 N. Labarre Road in Metairie. The curtain goes up on Nagin at 8 p.m. (In the event of a hurricane, the show will be rescheduled for Friday, Oct. 11.) For tickets call 523-1010.