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Endorsements Then and Now

The Alliance for Good Government endorsed a challenger in six out of 29 races with incumbents, ramping up to the Oct. 4 primary election. Three of the six races featured candidates the influential political organization endorsed four years ago. Four of the six Alliance candidates will be in the Nov. 15 run-off elections.

In 1999, the Alliance endorsed the reelection bid of Keith T. Johnson, the veteran District 1 incumbent of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE). This year, the Alliance opted to support political newcomer Louella Givens' campaign to oust Johnson. Givens now faces Johnson in the Nov. 15 run-off. Both are Democrats.

In BESE District 2, the Alliance supported Republican Donna Contois four years ago. For the Oct. 4 primary, however, the group urged voters to replace Contois with challenger Barbara Ferguson, a Democrat who made the run-off with Republican Penny Dastuge. Contois finished third in the three-woman field.

In the House District 99 race, the Alliance voted to replace incumbent Leonard Lucas Jr. with lawyer Charmaine Marchand. The two Democratic candidates face each other in the run-off. In 1999, the alliance endorsed then-state Rep. Sherman Copelin, a Democrat who was ousted by Lucas.

In the state Senate District 2 race in 1999, the Alliance backed veteran Democratic incumbent Jon D. Johnson. The group switched to his challenger, banker Ann Duplessis (also a Democrat), for the 2003 primary. Johnson and Duplessis meet in the run-off.

In the state Senate District 4 race on Oct. 4, the group supported political newcomer Jim McKay over veteran incumbent Sen. Paulette Irons, who was unopposed four years ago. Both are Democrats. Irons easily defeated McKay and Independent Greg Kahn in the primary.

In state Senate District 8 race in 1999, the Jefferson Parish chapter of the Alliance supported veteran Democratic incumbent Chris Ullo. For the Oct. 4 primary, however, the alliance backed Republican challenger Robby Evans. Ullo defeated Evans in the primary. -- Allen Johnson Jr.

Changing of the Guard

The changing of the guard in the New Orleans criminal justice system is underway -- one election at a time. With Criminal Sheriff Charles Foti Jr.'s election as state attorney general on Oct. 4, coroner Frank Minyard, 73, will soon be the last of four major officials ushered into office on a wave of reform nearly three decades ago.

Harry Connick, 76, retired as district attorney last year. Edwin Lombard, 55, who took office as clerk of Criminal Court, vacated his seat after his election last fall to a judgeship on the state Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal.

Minyard last year won election to his eighth consecutive four-year term as coroner. When Foti, 65, takes office as attorney general on Jan. 12, Minyard will be the last of the political quartet at Tulane and Broad.

"He can handle it," Connick chuckled, back in town with his band to sing for U.S. Rep. David Vitter's fundraiser at the National D-Day Museum last week.

"I always thought Charlie would have been the last to go," Minyard says. "He was very happy there (at the sheriff's office). He was king of the hill."

So how does it feel to be the last one left? "Well -- it's lonely," Minyard says. "Even though we had a few disagreements over the years, especially with the district attorney's office, we settled them privately; it never got into the news. We're all great friends." -- Johnson

End of a Tradition?

For the first time since the 1950s, local voters who went looking for an election guide by the League of Women Voters of New Orleans came up empty. The League did not publish a print guide for the Oct. 4 primary election.

"This is the first major election when the League of Women Voters did not publish an election guide," Christine Jenkins, president of the LWVNO, says, ruefully. Jenkins cites a lack of funds and high printing costs as the main reasons why the League did not publish and distribute its usual 10,000-plus copies of the guide citywide. The guide can still be found at the League's Web site (www.lwvno.org) and that information will be updated for the Nov. 15 election. "Online publishing does not cost us money," she says.

Jenkins also complained that a too-short primary election schedule left the League's guide less comprehensive than she would have hoped. "It's just too much to collect comprehensive interviews on 77 candidates in less than 60 days so you can distribute the information two weeks before the primary election," Jenkins says. "You don't get everybody."

While most of the 77 candidates announced long before the close of qualifying on Aug. 21, more than 30 jumped into various races on the last day. The volume of candidates and the late entries strained the research staff, she says. The League, whose membership has dwindled from 600 at its peak to 200 this year, is seeking more members. For more information, call 581-9106. -- Johnson

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