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Blueprint, Part Deux
Blueprint Louisiana, a group of civic-minded individuals seeking to influence the fall elections and subsequent policy-making process, took some heat from the media last week. The group, which is proposing a good-government contract for legislative and statewide candidates to sign, was asked if it can still have an impact if an overwhelming majority of political contenders do not sign Blueprint's contract. As of last Thursday (Sept. 13), 115 candidates for the House of Representatives had signed on, as had 52 running for the state Senate and nine running statewide. In the governor's race, the only major candidate who had signed on as of last week was John Georges, although all the leading candidates publicly embrace some form of "ethics reform." Brad A. Lambert of Harris, DeVille and Associates in Baton Rouge, Blueprint's communications consultant, says the numbers will grow in the coming weeks. "Candidates, of course, can continue to return their signed contract to us," he said last Wednesday. "Also recognize there were 110 late-qualifying candidates that were not included in our initial candidate mailing in mid-August. We mailed Blueprint packages to those 110 candidates over the last couple of days." -- Alford

 

On the Air
Attacks on gubernatorial frontrunner Bobby Jindal for his alleged religious intolerance clearly backfired on the Louisiana Democratic Party. If Jindal's strong poll numbers are going to drop much in the coming weeks, Democrats will have to hit him hard and fast -- and on target. But, after its initial misfire, the Democratic Party seems to be getting gun shy. When asked if other spots are going up anytime soon, Democratic officials balked, saying they plan to take advantage of free media opportunities, pointing out possible discrepancies in Jindal's platform through press releases and the like, but that's all for now. "We don't have anything planned for the immediate future," says Julie Vezinot, party spokesperson. That leaves the two leading Democrats to do the heavy lifting. Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell of Bossier Parish went on TV again late last week with an ad that pushes the tax relief part of his proposed foreign and offshore oil-and-gas processing fee. The spot, produced by George Kennedy of Baton Rouge and titled "Courage," depicts Campbell preaching to a group of common folk, who cheer, "Amen!" and "Yup" during his dialogue. "That's what people want," Campbell says in the ad. "Get rid of the taxes." It ends with a Reaganesque image of Campbell riding his horse. As for state Sen. Walter Boasso of Chalmette, the media strategy isn't changing. He'll stay on the air for as long as possible, mixing issue spots with attacks. "We'll do whatever it takes," Boasso says. -- Alford

 

Voter Deadlines Sept. 19
Those who want to register to vote -- or change voting precincts to reflect a new address -- in time for the Oct. 20 statewide primary must visit their parish registrar of voters by 4:30 p.m. this Wednesday (Sept. 19), officials say. Linda Walker, voter services chair for the local League of Women Voters, says the nonpartisan civic group's recent voter registration drives turned up fewer new voters, but a growing number of New Orleanians are seeking to change where they vote because they have new addresses. "It's about 70 percent (for changing polling places) and 30 percent (for new voter registration)," Walker says. "More people have come back to the city and are relocating to other sections of the city." (To find your current polling place, visit the Secretary of State's Web site at www.sos.louisiana.gov/tabid/173/Default.aspx.) Orleans Parish Registrar of Voters Sandra L. Wilson told Gambit Weekly her staff will change voters' home precincts and register new voters at two locations -- in City Hall, Room 1W23 (1300 Perdido St.) and at the Algiers Courthouse, 225 Morgan St. For more information, call 658-8300. The office of Jefferson Parish Registrar of Voters Dennis DiMarco also reports high voter registration "from other parishes" and will also register new voters at two locations -- at 1221 Elmwood Park Blvd., Suite 502, (736-6191) and 5001 West Bank Expressway, C-2, in Marrero (349-5690). Both registrars and the League (www.lwvno.org) will continue to register voters and change home precincts through Oct. 17 for the Nov. 17 runoff. To host a League voter registration effort, call league headquarters at 581-9106. -- Johnson

 

Early Voting Oct. 8-13
Attention candidates: the Oct. 20 primary may be closer than you think. Early voting begins at parish voter registrars' offices statewide at 8:30 a.m. Monday, Oct. 8 and ends at 4:30 p.m. Saturday Oct. 13. In fact, many voters are expected to cast ballots before some candidate forums even happen. More voters are taking the early-voting option, says Linda Walker, voter services chair for the New Orleans League of Women Voters. Reasons for voting early at local registrars' offices vary, she says. Some voters plan to be out of town on Election Day. Others dislike their post-Katrina polling site. Still other voters are just ready to vote. "[Early voting] puts a lot of pressure on the candidates," Walker says. "It shortens their campaign season. Candidates who decide to run at the last minute are at a great disadvantage." Early voters in Jefferson Parish should go to the parish registrar's office at 1221 Elmwood Park Blvd., Suite 502, (736-6191) or 5001 West Bank Expressway, C-2, in Marrero (349-5690). Early voters in Orleans Parish should visit the registrar at City Hall, Room 1W23 (1300 Perdido St.) or at the Algiers Courthouse, 225 Morgan St. Both parishes require a Louisiana driver's license or other official photo ID, or proof of residency such as a utility bill. -- Johnson

 

Parting Shot
The resignation of discredited U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales takes effect Monday (Sept. 17) -- barely a year after his cameo appearance on a national television news investigation focusing on embattled Orleans Parish DA Eddie Jordan Jr. Viewers will recall Jordan stormed out of the Aug. 28, 2006, interview on ABC-TV's Nightline after investigative reporter Brian Ross asked Jordan to respond to remarks by Gonzales. "You need to have an effective police department, you need to have the courts operating effectively, you need to have a local prosecutor who is doing his job," Gonzales said. Jordan, then under fire for a Katrina-related backlog of more than 3,000 cases, bristled. He insisted his office was doing its job, and his press secretary stepped in front of the cameras. Jordan abruptly ended the interview after calling the reporter's questions "stupid." Gonzales recently announced his own resignation as President George Bush's attorney general after a gathering storm over warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens and the politically motivated ousters of local U.S. Attorneys. Jordan gave Gonzales a parting shot, telling Gambit Weekly: "Even as the attorney general is kicked out of the door, he is driven by politics rather than professionalism." -- Johnson

 

How's That Feel?
Political operatives at the National Republican Senatorial Committee are watching the Louisiana fall elections unfold with anticipation, mostly because it leads to the 2008 U.S. Senate races. To say the NRSC has targeted U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana would be an understatement. The group has issued one press release after another, and recently posted a vicious Web commercial about Social Security on YouTube and other sites. The commercial likely will prove to be a warm-up to the mud fest that is expected to begin soon after the statewide elections. "We're just watching how all the state elections unfold, and then we'll be moving on this," says committee communications director Rebecca Fisher. "It'll be before the end of the year for sure." Direct mail pieces have already been drafted, she adds, and television spots are planned. As for candidates to oppose Landrieu, Fisher could pass along nothing new. The leading candidate is expected to be state Treasurer John Kennedy, who switched to the GOP about a week before qualifying for re-election. He drew no opponents. -- Alford

 

Debates Can be Critical -- Just Ask Jindal
Congressman Bobby Jindal, the frontrunner in the race for governor, has finally agreed to three debates: statewide on LPB on Sept. 27, north Louisiana on KTBS on Oct. 4 and south Louisiana on WWL and WAFB on Oct. 17. Want to know why Jindal, a Kenner Republican, was dragging his feet? Look back four years to his last gubernatorial face-off with Gov. Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat who is not seeking a second term. Their final debate, just days before the election, proved to be pivotal for Blanco, even though Jindal had torn her apart during the exchange. The candidates were asked to name a defining moment in their lives, and Blanco, face distorted and full of tears, recounted how challenging it was to hold together her family and faith following the death of her 19-year-old son. It was touching and revealing and non-political. Experts today still credit that moment for helping Blanco catch Jindal in the final week. Bottom line: anything can happen in these debates, and Jindal knows it. -- Alford

 

Forum Surge
Get ready for a surge of political forums. The Alliance for Good Government has scheduled four consecutive nights of free debates covering 17 state and local races on the Oct. 20 ballot. "Most people never get to see a candidate in person -- much less two or three of them," says Robert K. Moffett, president of the Orleans chapter of the Alliance. The 30-minute forums are scheduled to start at 7 p.m. each night. On Monday (Sept. 17), the Hotel LeCirque at Lee Circle will be the setting for the following forums: House District 101 (eastern New Orleans); House District 102 (Algiers); Municipal Court (citywide) and Criminal Court (citywide). On Tuesday (Sept. 18), candidates in the following contests will square off at Loyola University's Roussel Hall in the Communications/Music Building: secretary of state; lieutenant governor; attorney general; and insurance commissioner. On Wednesday (Sept. 19), Loyola will again be the venue for the following contests: House District 100 (eastern New Orleans) Senate District 3 (Marrero-Bywater-Gentilly-UNO-Lakefront); Senate District 7 (Algiers and Gretna) and House District 82 (Old Jefferson and parts of Uptown). On Thursday (Sept. 20), the action returns to Hotel LeCirque for the following races: House District 99 (Ninth Ward), House District 93 (Central City, French Quarter, Treme and Warehouse District), Senate District 4 (Gentilly-Lakeview-French Quarter), House District 94 (Mid-City and Lakeview) and Senate District 5 (Central City, Garden District and much of Uptown). Last week, the Alliance endorsed Senate District 2 incumbent Ann Duplessis for re-election, former New Orleans City Council member Jackie Clarkson for the at-large council seat vacated by Oliver Thomas, District 6 state Sen. Julie Quinn for re-election, Mark Madary for state representative in House District 103, and BESE member Louella Givens for re-election. -- Johnson

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