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Boasso's 'Big Challenge'
State Sen. Walter Boasso, the newly re-minted Democrat from Arabi, has launched his first post-party switch TV ad -- and it takes a swipe at GOP front-runner Bobby Jindal. The commercial also speaks to what Boasso hopes will be his new base among Democratic voters, with the message that he is not afraid of "big challenges." Standing in a park-like setting in front of a life-sized, cardboard cut-out of Jindal, Boasso begins, "Some people think beating Bobby Jindal is a mighty big challenge. But big challenges are nothing new to me. ... I grew up on food stamps, but my parents always told me there was nothing I couldn't accomplish." The scene then shifts to sequences of Boasso in various settings as he continues, "I graduated college and with a box of Tide and a garden hose, I started my business cleaning shipping containers. Big challenges? Sure! But I'm proud today that my business employs over 500 people. Now I'm running for governor to fight for the little guy -- because for too long the rich and powerful have gotten their way in Louisiana." Boasso goes on with pledges to lower the cost of homeowners insurance, make health care more affordable and give teachers raises. The ad concludes with Boasso again in front of the Jindal cut-out, saying, "Big challenges? You bet! But someone has to stand up for the little guy." He then turns toward the two-dimensional Jindal and says, "I know I will!" Boasso then picks up the cardboard figure and playfully tucks it under his arm as he strides off-camera. Thus far, it's the only political ad that combines high-end production values and a swipe at Jindal as a tool of the rich. State GOP executive director James Quinn was not impressed with the ads, however. "It's the same ole same ole," Quinn told Gambit Weekly, parroting one of Boasso's old TV lines. "There's going to be a lot of commercials from a lot of candidates between now and qualifying. It is the same message that he has been trying to convey for almost a year now, with utter failure."-- DuBos

 

Fourth Circuit Shuffle?
Among the hot topics at the annual Louisiana State Bar Association summer school and meeting in Destin, Fla., was the potential shuffle of judgeships on the state Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal in the next 18 months. The court hears appeals from Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes, and judges are elected either from individual parishes or at-large from all three. Among the local judges who are eyeing potential seats on the court of appeal are Traffic Court Judge Ron Sholes, Civil Court Judge Rose Ledet and Municipal Court Judge Paul Sens. As for openings, current Fourth Circuit Judge Roland Belsome says he plans to run for the state Supreme Court when Chief Justice Pascal Calogero retires. Calogero's current term ends at the end of 2008. Another vacancy could occur if Fourth Circuit Judge Leon Cannizzaro, a former prosecutor and one-time Criminal Court judge, decides to challenge Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan in the fall of 2008. Cannizzaro has been widely encouraged to make that race, but under Louisiana law, he would have to resign his judgeship to seek a non-judicial post. It is unlikely that Cannizzaro would wait until qualifying to announce and resign, because that would not leave much time to raise campaign money -- something he cannot do directly as a judge. Speculation has it that he may leave the bench to launch a campaign against Jordan in the first quarter of 2008. -- DuBos

 

From Behind the Badge
If you haven't seen the direct mail pieces or television spots, Bobby Jindal has the early support of the Louisiana Sheriff's Association in his race for governor. But LSA executive director Hal Turner isn't letting loose the tally sheet on the endorsement vote. "It's not a public record thing," he says. It is known, however, that the vote wasn't unanimous for Jindal, the GOP congressman from Kenner. "But it was a large majority," Turner adds. "I can tell you that." Nonetheless, Jindal may have set a precedent, as the sheriff's association doesn't traditionally get involved in a governor's race until after the primary. More endorsements down the ballot and in legislative races could come sooner than usual as well. "It wouldn't surprise me," Turner says. For example, when the current legislative session adjourns, Turner says LSA will rank lawmakers' votes based on the group's legislative agenda. Turner says the LSA hopes to raise "a few hundred thousand dollars" to spread around the election cycle through direct contributions, in-kind donations and placement in the LSA magazine. "We're going to be looking very diligently at who supports law enforcement," Turner says. -- Alford

 

Gov Race -- Or Not
Louisiana's relatively low-key governor's race may be taking an unexpected toll on polls. Republican Congressman Bobby Jindal has been so far ahead that surveys "may be a waste of time," recently retired University of New Orleans pollster Susan E. Howell says. "I don't know when in history we have had a race for an open seat for governor that was this lopsided." Howell, 58, added that during a recent transition meeting with her successor, UNO Professor Robert Sims, they pondered a seemingly imponderable question: "We were discussing whether there was any point in doing a voter survey about the governor's race. ... It may be a waste of time." In a separate interview last month, Loyola University pollster Ed Renwick, told us, "We don't have a governor's race. Jindal is way, way ahead. The question is -- will it ever turn into a governor's race?" Qualifying for the October primary begins in less than three months. -- Johnson

 

Cash for Convictions
The Louisiana Innocence Compensation Fund, which lawmakers established in 2005, allows a wrongfully convicted person to receive up to $15,000 for each year spent in prison, up to 10 years. While still relatively new, the process has slowed in recent months because of too many requests and confusion over procedure. Senate Bill 172 by Sen. Joel Chaisson, a Destrehan Democrat, would speed up the time required to successfully complete the process and put in place further safeguards to ensure the right people are being compensated. If approved, the bill would require that all cases be heard in the district court where the original conviction occurred, rather than the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge. The present law provides for compensation "for the loss of life opportunities resulting from the time spent incarcerated," but Chaisson's proposal would limit payments to $25,000 in an effort to spread the funding around. Pete Adams, a spokesperson for the Louisiana District Attorneys Association, said the changes add order to an otherwise confusing process. "It basically cleans up the entire statute so it makes sense," he says. The legislation also identifies the Attorney General's Office as the party to defend such compensation cases, and district attorneys would be invited but not required to participate. Finally, the proposal would require applicants to come up with a "factual basis" for their claims. "Hopefully, we'll pass this new law so the courts won't be plagued with frivolous claims for compensation," Adams says. "The truly wrongly convicted shouldn't have to wait in line." The proposed changes should shorten court time to about 45 days, compared to years. -- Alford

 

Exit Poll(ster)
New Orleans residents gave Mayor Ray Nagin a dismal 33 percent approval rating in the latest UNO "Quality of Life" poll. But Susan Howell, the political scientist who recently retired from UNO, as founder of the survey, departed with a surprising confession. The professor counts herself among the 15 percent of whites who approve of Nagin's performance (compared to 51 percent of blacks). "I'm not as hard on Nagin as my respondents or some of my colleagues," she says. "He certainly could have been more visible after the storm, giving people more information and more inspiration." But she said the mayor's recent "State of the City" address provided the kind of "reasons for hope" that first got him elected in 2002. "I think he's honest. I think he's very intelligent. ... He has a very active mind," Howell says. She adds: "There's no other mayor that has ever been tested the way this mayor has been tested. (Katrina) is worse than 9/11 -- long-term. Even Rudy Giuliani said that." Howell admits, however, that Nagin's notorious "Chocolate City" speech was "screwball." Last week, Howell and her husband, John Vinturella, moved back to Cincinnati, her hometown. She retired May 18 after 31 years at UNO. She'll teach part-time in the fall at the University of Cincinnati. Asked what's hardest about leaving New Orleans, she said, "Leaving friends." -- Johnson

 

Counseling Cops, Post-Katrina
With a new hurricane season underway, the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police is offering free "peer" counseling to NOPD cops and their families. Anthony Radosti, vice president of the private Metropolitan Crime Commission and a retired NOPD detective, says every officer on the force -- "from the chief on down" -- should be required to get at least one hour of mental health counseling. "There shouldn't be any stigma attached to it," Radosti says. "You have a lot of guys who have tensions built up from losing their homes, being separated from families, and living and working in the same conditions, day after day." But FOP spokesperson Jimmy Gallagher, a retired NOPD sergeant, expressed strong reservations about that idea. "On the face of it, when you do mandated counseling through the department, you would have to question the confidentiality level," Gallagher says. FOP and the nonprofit Southern Law Enforcement Foundation are offering confidential counseling from fellow peace officers around the clock. "If any of our members are having difficulty dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, on either a personal or professional level, we beg of you, seek assistance," an FOP memo states. An NOPD spokesperson declined comment but said the department has two counselors available for voluntary, confidential counseling. A mental health expert who is affiliated with NOPD told us he is not worried as much about police suicides this hurricane season as about agitated police interacting with citizens. Post-Katrina studies by the federal Centers for Disease Control reported that 170 NOPD officers exhibited symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and 227 officers evinced "major depressive symptoms." -- Johnson

 

Progress on the Half Shell
While people wait on Congress to ante up more housing money, everyone's favorite raw Louisiana seafood is receiving federal money to rebuild its coastal habitats, which are still feeling the impact of Hurricane Katrina. Roughly $2.3 million in federal funds recently were sunk into public oyster reef construction in Black Bay, off the eastern coast of Plaquemines Parish, and in Mississippi Sound in St. Bernard Parish. Bryant Hammett, secretary of the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, says the long-awaited money will help "stimulate productive reef growth, and both commercial and recreational fishing interests will see the benefit." In all, some 200 acres of oyster reefs are being rehabilitated. The recent work represents the public side of commercial harvesting, which is open to everyone, as opposed to paid leases that are restricted to lessees. Recreational anglers flock to the sites because they draw many species of game fish. Restaurant lovers, meanwhile, just want the much-loved mollusks to keep coming. -- Alford

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