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Inside Jeff Parish 

Hainkel for Governor?
Last week, at the De La Salle Alumni Association roast in his honor, State Sen. John Hainkel made the rather startling announcement that he would most probably be a candidate for governor next year. Hainkel has been a member of the Louisiana Legislature since 1967 and is the first person ever to serve as both speaker of the house and Senate president, a position he now holds.

Hainkel was initially elected as a Democrat, but switched to the Republican Party in 1985. His Senate district is a huge one, encompassing parts of the populated parishes of Orleans, Jefferson and St. Tammany, as well as the city of Hammond. He is a practicing attorney who is senior partner in a law firm that has offices in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Covington and Thibodaux. Hainkel is a conservative and is considered to be an expert on the state budget. He considers his most important legislative legacy to be the creation of the TOPS scholarship program.

At the De La Salle roast, some were surprised that the long-serving legislator would be running for governor, especially former Gov. Dave Treen who was there to witness his old friend being roasted. Hainkel served as Speaker of the House during Treen's term as governor. Now, with Treen also indicating he will run for governor again, they may be running against each other next year.

One staunch supporter of Hainkel remarked, "If he is ever going to run for governor, this is his last opportunity, so he is going to take it."

Leading Ladies
In the race for one of Louisiana's two seats in the U.S. Senate, the two finalists were women, incumbent Mary Landrieu and challenger Suzie Terrell. Now, with the gubernatorial campaign beginning -- an even bigger prize -- the leading candidate is also a woman, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Blanco.

Blanco was recently introduced to some New Orleans community activists at an event held at the Magnolia Mansion in the Garden District, hosted by Pat Denechaud and Mary Ann Valentino. Blanco is a conservative Democrat who is both pro-gun rights and pro-life, a potent combination in Louisiana. She has served in the Louisiana Legislature, the Public Service Commission and for two terms as lieutenant governor.

Since April 2000, seven polls have been conducted on the 2003 governor's race. In all of them, Blanco has been in first place. In one of the most recent polls, conducted in July 2002 by Market Research Institute, Blanco placed first with 26 percent and former Gov. Dave Treen was second with 18 percent.

Although there has been some speculation that the lieutenant governor would not make the race, Blanco has laid to rest any doubts about her candidacy by firmly declaring that she will definitely be a candidate. With women composing 55 percent of the registered voters in the state, a strong female candidate like Blanco is well positioned to make the run-off as long as she can raise the necessary funds. Raising funds was the main purpose of the event at Magnolia Mansion, which included dignitaries like Public Service Commissioner Irma Muse Dixon, former Congresswoman and Ambassador to the Vatican Lindy Boggs, and former Lt. Gov. and current State Rep. Melinda Schwegmann and her husband, John, who served with Blanco on the Public Service Commission.

At the event, Schwegmann confirmed that she will be a candidate for her old job of lieutenant governor. In that race, she will be facing Baton Rouge nonprofit executive Kirt Bennett, an African-American Republican. Other potential candidates include Baton Rouge State Rep. and former U.S. Senate candidate Tony Perkins and St. Tammany State Rep. Diane Winston.

Hollis and Terrell
For the fifth year in a row, State Sen. Ken Hollis and his wife, Diane, hosted the members of the East Jefferson Republican Party at their Metairie home for the group's annual Christmas party. At the event, the main topic of discussion was the U.S. Senate race and the tough loss suffered by candidate Suzie Terrell. As the attendees were engrossed in Senate race conversation, the recently defeated candidate walked in the door. Terrell was greeted by sustained applause and given congratulations for her strong effort in the Senate race. She thanked the crowd and stated that the race was educational. "We learned a lot in this race," she said, "and next time we will be better prepared."

What will be Terrell's next race? With millions of dollars in name recognition being earned, most observers believe that Terrell will be a candidate for statewide office next year, either running for governor or attorney general. If she is a candidate for governor, she will face Hollis, who was heading to Alexandria the next night for a fundraiser in his honor given by the Democrat mayor of Alexandria, Ned Randolph. Hollis has been raising money for months and was very visible during Terrell's campaign for Senate. It will now be interesting to see if they will be running against each other for governor.


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