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GOP Recruiting Candidates
After arresting three health-care professionals for allegedly administering lethal injections during Katrina and then wilting under the media glare, Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti Jr. now finds himself in the crosshairs of the state Republican Party, which thinks he may be ripe for the picking in 2007. GOP state chair Roger Villere says the party is still in talks with two district attorneys about possibly running against Foti next fall -- Doug Moreau of Baton Rouge and Buddy Caldwell, a veteran DA representing East Carroll, Madison and Tensas parishes. "There are also a couple of other big names, but we're not ready to put them out there," Villere says. Other statewide races are being approached in the same manner -- the more the merrier, until one contender is chosen. As for the legislative races, Villere says parish chairmen and members of the GOP's state central committee are actively recruiting candidates. "This will be 10 times the effort that we saw four years ago," Villere says. "We plan on having someone in every race, which is something we haven't done in the past. We're going to be active up and down the ballot." -- Alford

 

Spiderman vs. Sugarman?
Wayne Carter, a Republican member of Baton Rouge's Metro Council, may be throwing his hat in the ring against uber-politico Bob Odom, Louisiana's agriculture commissioner and arguably the most powerful Democrat in the state. "There are some people urging me to do that," Carter says. "We'll make a decision in January." Carter, who also goes by the moniker "Spider," is president of Advanced Services, which buys and sells offshore drilling equipment. He's one of those rare south Louisiana Baptists, politically speaking, and he's a card-carrying member of the National Rifle Association. Odom, who has suffered recent sugar-related defeats at the hands of Gov. Kathleen Blanco, still has as much sway -- and money -- as ever. Then again, his public bribery charges will drag him back into a courtroom soon. -- Alford

 

Christmas in Prison
Former Gov. Edwin Edwards, aka federal inmate No. 03128-095, is expected to mark his fifth Christmas in prison since his conviction in 2000 on federal corruption charges. Edwards, 79, is serving a 10-year sentence for racketeering, extortion and fraud at the minimum-security Federal Detention Center at Oakdale in Allen Parish. Barring an act of clemency, Edwards will spend four more Yuletide seasons in federal custody before his scheduled release in 2011. Convicted in 2000, Edwards first reported to prison in 2002 at the Federal Medical Center at Ft. Worth, Texas. He said then, "I will be a model prisoner, as I have been a model citizen." In 2005, he was transferred to the Oakdale facility 35 miles south of Alexandria. Edwards' son and convicted co-conspirator, Stephen Edwards, 52, is serving his sentence at the Talladega federal prison, a medium-security facility in Alabama. The younger Edwards, also known as federal inmate No. 03129-095, was convicted of 18 racketeering, fraud and extortion charges in the casino-licensing scheme -- one more count than his father. Stephen Edwards is scheduled to be released on Nov. 24, 2008, the Saturday before Thanksgiving that year. -- Johnson

 

Marcotte Joins EWE
Allen Parish tourism leaders are touting their parish as the "Gateway to Cajun Country." The south-central Louisiana parish is also "home" to what might be described as a virtual criminal brain trust at the Federal Detention Center in Oakdale. Former Gov. Edwin Edwards, who dominated Louisiana politics for nearly three decades, is the best known inmate at the minimum-security facility. EWE was recently joined by convicted bail bond mogul Louis Marcotte, 45, who recently began a two-year sentence for his role in the "Wrinkled Robe" scandals at the Jefferson Parish Courthouse. Marcotte pleaded guilty to federal charges arising from an FBI probe that put him at the center of a corrupt scheme to monopolize the bail bond business in Jefferson Parish through bribes and gifts to judges and jailers. Two judges were sent to prison, and five former parish deputies, including a captain, were sentenced as a result of the probe. In addition, Andrew Fastow, the disgraced financial whiz of Enron Corp., recently began serving a six-year sentence at Oakdale. Fastow was convicted of looting the now defunct company while concealing its deteriorating financial fortunes. The Bureau of Prisons decides where federal inmates will serve their sentences. -- Johnson

 

Premature Broadcasting
It's all about the media buy. That phrase has become a mantra among political consultants, and the major players in the 2007 gubernatorial contest are taking heed. Even before they officially (or even unofficially) announce, candidates are taking to the airwaves with quasi-political ads -- revealing a sea change in the model of modern Louisiana campaigns. In the new world, early television has replaced exploratory committees. State Sen. Walter Boasso, a Republican from Arabi, took to the airwaves last week with ads for his "Get It Done Louisiana," a nonprofit group that addresses the needs of recovery. "We need an organization where people's voices can be heard and this is just the place to do it," Boasso says. Gov. Kathleen Blanco, meanwhile, has received harsh criticism for inserting herself in "Road Home" commercials, which promote the state's housing recovery program. Congressman Bobby Jindal, a Metairie Republican, bought airtime all over the state during his First Congressional District campaign this fall, and New Orleans businessman John Georges appeared in television ads supporting the consolidated levee board initiative. -- Alford

 

Donelon Aide Retiring
Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon is losing a key aide amid the state's post-Katrina insurance crisis. Bobby Clark, the department's veteran director of public affairs, will retire Dec. 31, after 24 years in state government. "My retirement plans were made well before Katrina and Rita," Clark says. No replacement has been named. Clark is perhaps best known in media circles for her award-winning "Ask the Commissioner" column, which ran in numerous small-town papers. A former English teacher, she wrote eye-catching questions for Donelon and other commissioners to answer, such as: "Could somebody take a life insurance policy out on me and have me killed to collect the money?" Clark and her husband recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. -- Johnson

 

City Park Fish Return
It wasn't long ago that a rod, a chair and a bucket could carry you all day in City Park's lagoons -- and before long, the park could once again be a hotspot for landlocked anglers. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has been restocking the lagoons as part of its Operation Jumpstart program. The program targets areas affected by the 2005 hurricanes, which created massive fish kills in coastal areas by raising salinity levels and churning up decaying vegetation that deprived many water bodies of oxygen. The City Park lagoons received Florida largemouth bass as well as bluegill and redear sunfish from the state's fish hatcheries. Inland Fisheries Biologist Program Manager Joey Shepard says the move represents a good sign for the area. "We don't want to stock fish in an area where they have little to no chance of survival at this time when we have other areas that are ready and in need," he says. -- Alford

 

Springtime for SUNO
Fifteen months after Hurricane Katrina, Southern University at New Orleans is the only one of the city's eight colleges and universities still operating entirely out of FEMA trailers. SUNO hopes to begin a phased-in return to its main campus in the spring, says Hal Clark, spokesperson for SUNO Chancellor Victor Ukpolo. "Dr. Ukpolo has been working with federal and state officials and private donors to get us back onto our main campus as expeditiously as possible," Clark says. SUNO reopened Feb. 14 at a temporary campus on the lakefront next to the New Orleans headquarters of the FBI. The temporary campus has 400 residential trailers and 100 modular trailers for classrooms. Like many New Orleanians post-Katrina, SUNO students and faculty have tried to make the best of their new environs. "As a social worker, I find it fascinating," says Juliana Padgett, a SUNO professor of social work. SUNO students, meanwhile, have been known to wave toward the mounted FBI cameras next door. -- Johnson

 

'Tony Soprano' as Bacchus; -- Will Feds Be Watching?
Whenever actor James Gandolfini plays New Jersey mobster Tony Soprano on HBO's The Sopranos, he often derides the FBI with an expletive or two. (Soprano and his "crew" of thugs are usually under surveillance.) So, when the Krewe of Bacchus announced last week that Gandolfini would reign as celebrity monarch of the popular Carnival parade, we called the local FBI. Would the bureau be "watching" the TV mobster on the parade route? Through a spokesperson, FBI Special Agent-in-Charge James Bernazzani declined comment. Local U.S. Attorney Jim Letten also could not be reached at press time. In other words, fuhgetaboutit! The parade rolls Feb. 18. -- Johnson

 

Waiver Helps Farmers
During the final hours of the recent congressional session, lawmakers managed to squeeze out a short waiver extending the life of a popular guaranteed loan program for Louisiana farmers that was set to expire at the end of the year. The federal government had offered no hope that the loans might be extended, leaving many farms scrambling for 2007 capital. Congress came through, however, pushing the expiration date to Sept. 30, 2007. The date itself wasn't controversial; it was the fact that it was stuck in the Farm Bill, which has proven difficult to pass through both chambers. The Farm Service Agency loan program provides operating money to "several hundred" farms in Louisiana, according to Rep. Charles Boustany, a Lafayette Republican. "This was a tremendous victory for farmers and ranchers in Louisiana," he says, although the bill is still awaiting President George Bush's signature. The FSA helps farmers who cannot qualify for conventional loans because they have insufficient financial resources. It also helps established farmers who have suffered financial setbacks from natural disasters. -- Alford

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