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Primary Endorsements 

On Saturday, Sept. 6, Louisiana will hold separate party primaries in federal elections for the first time since 1977. Locally, only the Democratic primaries drew multiple candidates. Republican and other party candidates in the First and Second Congressional Districts are unchallenged for their parties' respective nominations and will face each other as well as the Democratic nominees in the Nov. 4 general election. While Gambit Weekly is making recommendations in the Democratic primaries this week, in the interest of fairness, we will consider all the candidates once the Democratic nominees have been selected.

Second District: Cedric Richmond

The voters of Louisiana's Second Congressional District are starved for effective representation and leadership. The 18-year incumbent, Congressman William Jefferson, has lost his once-coveted committee assignments and virtually all of his influence in the wake of his indictment on 16 federal felony charges. Those charges include bribery and racketeering, among others. Clearly, this district needs a new representative in Congress.

Fortunately, several good candidates have stepped forward to challenge Jefferson, whose re-election two years ago sent the worst possible signal to the rest of the world about New Orleans' willingness to change in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. After hearing from all of Jefferson's challengers, we were most impressed with two " former mayoral aide Kenya Smith and state Rep. Cedric Richmond. Their grasp of the issues, challenges and opportunities facing the district far exceeded those of the other candidates we interviewed. Upon closer examination, we give the nod to Rep. Cedric Richmond. In addition to understanding the issues, he also has a solid record of legislative experience and accomplishment that the next congressman will need from Day One " and that no other challenger offers.

A nine-year veteran of the Louisiana Legislature, Richmond is a leader not only in the New Orleans delegation but also on matters of regional and statewide import. As chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, he has been an effective spokesman for issues directly affecting New Orleans as well as working-class voters statewide. As chair of the House Judiciary Committee, he oversees the important work of enacting legal reforms. And as a member of the Legislative Audit Advisory Committee, he took the lead in holding officials at Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and the Orleans Parish School Board accountable for their sloppy financial records. Another measure of his fiscal restraint: he voted against the legislative pay raise earlier this year.

Even more important, Richmond understands that the best way to get legislation passed is by reaching across geographic, racial and party lines. Examples of this include his authorship of Louisiana's new markets tax credits law " one of the few areas in which our state beat Mississippi to federal hurricane relief funds " and his leadership in pushing for utility tax relief for businesses. In those instances and others, Richmond worked with Republican and conservative lawmakers as well as Democrats to pass laws that make a real difference to Louisiana businesses and families. These are the attributes that New Orleans desperately needs in its next congressman.

Like any public official, Richmond is not perfect. He readily admits that he should not have criticized the state Supreme Court for disqualifying him from a pre-Katrina City Council election. His comments triggered a court-imposed sanction; he has paid for his mistake. We also believe that a related complaint against him by the Louisiana State Bar Association's Office of Disciplinary Counsel constitutes overreaching. When Richmond qualified for that council race, Louisiana case law on 'domicile" was so ill defined and inconsistently applied that there was, in effect, no legal standard. In our view, the entire episode is history and in no way disqualifies him from serving in Congress. He has learned from his mistake and matured as a public servant. More important, his legislative skills and accomplishments set him apart from Jefferson's other challengers. We therefore recommend Cedric Richmond in the Democratic primary for the Second Congressional District.

First District: Jim Harlan

Businessman Jim Harlan is a rarity among Democratic congressional candidates: a successful businessman, a centrist and an experienced policy wonk all at once. A chemical engineer by training, he helped craft federal energy policy while working for Presidents Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. He then made his fortune in the private sector. He has since sold his businesses and now offers himself for public service again " this time as a candidate for Congress. His pro-life and pro-gun positions are not mainstream Democratic planks, but they do reflect the values of most voters in the First District. He supports the creation of an 8/29 Commission and a national catastrophic insurance program. We recommend Jim Harlan in the Democratic primary for the First Congressional District.


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