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The Next Election: State Senate Due to his recent guilty plea on federal corruption charges, state Senate leaders have scheduled a Dec. 6 special election to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Marrero Democrat Derrick Shepherd. In that contest, state Rep. J.P. Morrell of New Orleans faces repeat candidate Shawn Barney. Both are Democrats. There's also an open seat in Senate District 16 in Baton Rouge, now that Congressman-elect Bill Cassidy became one of only four Republicans in the nation last week to unseat an incumbent Democrat.

Cassidy's victory over five-month freshman Don Cazayoux has already set off a chain reaction of politicos jockeying to replace him in the state Senate. Cassidy beat Cazayoux by 24,510 votes in a plurality win. State Rep. Michael Jackson of Baton Rouge, who switched from the Democratic Party to no party for the race, racked up 36,133 votes, most of which likely would have gone to Cazayoux had Jackson not run. But that's yesterday's news. Today, it's all about what Cassidy is leaving behind. James M. Riley, a black Republican best known for his community work and consulting position with former Mayor-President Bobby Simpson, announced his candidacy for Cassidy's Senate seat before Cassidy was even gone. Riley already has formed a fundraising committee. He plans to run on family values and government reform — a continuation of recent themes in state government Riley says drew him to the race.

Many Baton Rouge lawmakers whose districts overlap the open Senate district also could make the run, including Jackson. However, Jackson says he's still recovering from the congressional race, and the demographics of the district may not suit him. Rep. Erich Ponti, meanwhile, is already ordering signs and making phone calls. "I'm in," Ponti says. "I've already pulled the trigger." Some GOP honchos are courting Rep. Steve Carter, head of the Capital Region Legislative Delegation, although he hasn't committed to run. Rep. Franklin Foil, a Republican rookie in the House like Ponti, says he's "happy with the job I have." Inquiries were likewise placed with Rep. Hunter Greene, chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, as well as former Metro Councilmen Pat Culbertson and David Boneno. None of the men, all Republicans, were able to return calls by press time.

As for the rumor mill, Lee Domingue, a local businessman and founder of AppOne, is supposedly putting out feelers for the coming contest in Senate District 16. A date for the special election has not yet been set, but state officials expect a decision soon. How Popular is Jindal? To answer the question directly, GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal might as well be Louisiana's official high school quarterback. But when you're at the top, as they say, there's nowhere to go but down. Just ask Jindal, whose superstar poll numbers are finally beginning to reveal that he's human after all and not some unstoppable political robot. In a poll released late last month by WAFB-TV in Baton Rouge, 66 percent of voters surveyed had a favorable opinion of the governor. That's down from an August poll conducted by OnMessage and commissioned by the Louisiana Republican Party that showed Jindal's favorable rating at 76 percent. Ed Renwick of Loyola University, a New Orleans pollster who conducted the WAFB survey, says Jindal's on-again/off-again support for a legislative pay raise earlier this year is one of the likely culprits for the slight drop in his numbers. Renwick adds that Jindal is still enjoying a "strangely unusual" popularity for a sitting governor, despite the recent dip. For now, Jindal is safe and likely to remain the state's top Republican. "Nobody ever lost an election with 66 percent," Renwick says. Tee Party State officials and the PGA Tour announced last week that the Zurich Classic of New Orleans will have a continued presence in Louisiana through at least 2014. "We believe we have an outstanding situation in New Orleans," says Rick George, chief of operations for the PGA Tour. The local tournament not only generates more than $1 million annually for local children's charities but also means more than $25 million for the NOLA economy each year. Gov. Bobby Jindal is credited with negotiating the extension. Under the new arrangement, the PGA Tour will continue to operate and manage the course for the state through at least 2016 — but the state no longer will provide annual financial guarantees to the tour. It also allows the state to share in future net operating revenues. The current lease will terminate early and the state will have 100 percent ownership of all of the assets comprising the facility (clubhouse, offices, cart barns and other improvements). The state's Division of Administration will pass oversight responsibility to the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, which plays a similar role with the Louisiana Superdome, the New Orleans Arena, the John A. Alario Sr. Center and Zephyr Field.

'This arrangement allows us to preserve our business relationship with the PGA Tour, ensure operation of a first-class facility to serve as a venue for the tournament, provide a quality amenity to our community and to visitors to the New Orleans area, and it eliminates the necessity for a "rounds guarantee,'" says Commissioner of Administration Angele Davis. In addition to the economic and charitable impact, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans provides national and international exposure for the area through media coverage of the tourney, and it attracts out-of-town fans and customers during tournament week. In 2008, the event received 18.5 hours of television coverage on the Golf Channel and NBC. Additionally, it had an international distribution of more than 500 million households in 221 countries through live, delayed and repeat telecasts, as well as one-hour highlights, and was broadcast in 35 languages.

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