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Hurricane Fallout Uncertain
The delayed Democratic congressional primary in Louisiana's Second District is now less than two weeks away, but pundits are still pondering the effects of the four-week postponement triggered by Hurricane Gustav. Everyone agrees that holding the primary on Oct. 4 rather than Sept. 6 means voter turnout will be significantly higher. There was nothing else on the ballot in September, whereas a host of state and local elections will be up for grabs on Oct. 4. The larger turnout should dilute the significance of "chronic" voters, but the ripple effects of the delay don't end there.

Incumbent Congressman Bill Jefferson is a favorite among African-American chronic voters, who tend to be older, so the larger turnout could reduce his overall percentage of the vote as younger voters, who tend not to support him, turn out in larger numbers. On the other hand, the later election date also means that his challengers will have to stretch their campaign funds another four weeks — or find new, untapped donors. Federal campaign finance laws limit how much individual donors can give candidates during each election period, and Jefferson's challengers all designed their campaigns to peak on Sept. 6. Having spent most if not all of their budgets, most of the congressman's challengers have been scrambling desperately to raise enough money to get back on TV and radio.

One of those challengers, former newscaster Helena Moreno, hasn't had that problem, however. Most of Moreno's campaign cash has come from her own and her family's wealth, the use of which is not governed by the federal campaign finance regulations. Moreno also has been running well in polls, even before the hurricane-induced delay.

As for Jefferson, he had very little money anyway and was already known throughout the district, so the delay hasn't really affected his strategy in any noticeable way. The incumbent's main strategy has been to hit the churches, ask his base to keep the faith, and then try to regroup in the runoff. The key for Jefferson right now is to hope — and perhaps pray — that enough of his base holds for him to make the runoff. Beyond that, he no doubt is hoping that Moreno, the only white candidate, also makes the cut. Voter registration in the district is roughly three-quarters African-American, and the runoff will be Nov. 4 — the same day that Barack Obama tops the ballot as the Democratic nominee for president. — DuBos

Energy Issues Still Hot
Energy issues continue to fuel the fires of Louisiana's U.S. Senate race, which pits GOP state Treasurer John Kennedy against incumbent Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu. Earlier in the campaign, the two candidates fought over who loved drilling more as experts weighed in with a reality check: any senator elected from Louisiana will be pro-oil. The focus on drilling is a national Republican strategy against Democrats, and Kennedy appears to be following that cookie-cutter template — something Landrieu's previous opponents also did, to no avail. The Iowa-based American Future Fund is airing radio spots statewide that call on Landrieu to abandon the Senate's so-called "Gang of 10" plan that "puts in place burdensome new taxes and fails to open America's massive energy reserves." AFF Communications Director Tim Albrecht says the plan "does not advance our energy security and is harmful to our economy." Landrieu and other members of the coalition refute the claims, but it's the politics behind the media buy that are more interesting. The Washington Post reported recently that AFF is "widely rumored to be the most likely conduit for soft-money donations to be spent on some of the most hotly contested Senate races this fall." — Alford

New Blueprint Chair
Billboard exec Sean Reilly, a former state representative from Baton Rouge, was elected earlier this month as the new chairman of Blueprint Louisiana, an ethics-minded advocacy group backed by business interests from across the state. Established in 2006, Blueprint has endorsed candidates based on their promises of ethics reform — and then held them to account by following up on legislation and keeping in touch with voters. Reilly replaces Matt Stuller of Lafayette, one of Blueprint's founders. "[Stuller's] vision helped pave the way for our success during the 2007 election season and this year's three legislative sessions," Reilly says. It's a sure sign that the group is proceeding with its long-term plans and an indication that it wants to continue being a player on the statewide scene. Reilly is president of the outdoor division of Lamar Advertising Company in Baton Rouge, Louisiana's only NASDAQ 100 company. — Alford

Investigative News Lives
As newsrooms shift their focus to gathering pictures and reports from random readers and viewers — known as the i-reporter trend — it's becoming more difficult than ever to find investigative journalists on the beat. Tight budgets don't allow for a month or more of digging with no actual reporting. Sam Zell, the real estate mogul who recently purchased the Tribune Company (Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune), is even considering "auditing" reporters based on how much copy they produce. That's why it's heartening to see the Shreveport Times investing money in what it calls its Public Service Team. Three reporters will focus on First Amendment journalism, producing investigative and enterprise stories and online databases. "This team is responsible for helping move forward, harder and faster, on investigatory journalism that is inspired through the reader and reporter ideas constantly flowing in our Information Center," says Alan English, Shreveport Times executive editor. "We believe a vigorous pursuit of the First Amendment is our main call." Still, this is a venture of the Gannett Company, which is often criticized for its chain-newspaper mentality. In the end, the reports produced by the project and its team of reporters will be the litmus test. Godspeed, Shreveport Times. — Alford


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