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Huckabee Coming to La.

As Gov. Bobby Jindal pressed the flesh up in Iowa, speaking to an influential Christian group, another politico who has been mentioned as a contender for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012 was getting ready to swing through Louisiana. Mike Huckabee, who won the Iowa caucuses this year in his bid for president and was the last man standing against Sen. John McCain, is visiting Shreveport this week to promote his new book, Do the Right Thing. Huckabee also will be hitting 17 other states, including Florida, Iowa, Ohio, South Carolina and Virginia. The book captures Huckabee's experience of winning eight states with an underestimated, underfinanced, underdog presidential campaign. He shares stories about making commercials at Chuck Norris' house, meeting a woman who insisted on donating her wedding ring, and other tales from the campaign. Do the Right Thing also "explains Huckabee's vision for helping millions of hardworking, middle-class Americans with common-sense policies." As for whether Jindal will face Huckabee in 2012, that decision seems up to Jindal. Huckabee waxes poetic about running again in his new book and leaves little to the imagination. "I believe it's time to hit the reset button on our nation," writes the former Arkansas governor and current Fox News host. "It starts with me, and it starts with you." — Jeremy Alford

Whither Cazayoux?

As staffers in the office of Congressman Don Cazayoux pack up their belongings and prepare their resumés, the chatter often turns to their boss's future prospects. An incumbent Democrat who lost a tough re-election bid on Nov. 4, Cazayoux, a former state representative and assistant district attorney in Pointe Coupee Parish, won the seat in a May 2008 special election.

Turns out he could have a soft landing already in place. National and state Democrats are jockeying to have him named U.S. attorney for Louisiana's Middle District, which is based in Baton Rouge. Some believe he was cheated out of a full term by state Rep. Michael Jackson, a Democrat who ran as a nonparty candidate in the Sixth Congressional District and chased the same black votes Cazayoux needed for re-election. Cazayoux says he plans to conclude his term and spend time with his family, friends and supporters. "These are my sole concerns in the immediate future, and any further speculation is premature," he says. Any decision is months away as President-elect Barack Obama will have to assume office first. Meanwhile, a key Cazayoux ally, Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, is said to have Obama's ear regarding the position.

Others reportedly eyeing the job include Tony Clayton, the assistant district attorney who rose to fame by prosecuting serial killer Derrick Todd Lee, and former U.S. Attorney Brian Jackson, now a criminal defense lawyer. David Dugas, the Middle District's current U.S. attorney, was in line for a federal judgeship, but Landrieu held up that nomination in 2007. In that battle, Landrieu faced off against the state's junior senator, David Vitter, who supports Dugas. In a letter to Vitter last year, Landrieu wrote that she finds Dugas "decent and honorable" but questions his "judgment ... with regard to his role as U.S. attorney in a suit against insurance companies for hurricanes Katrina and Rita fraud." If that particular judicial nomination is any indication as to how Cazayoux's potential nomination for U.S. attorney might proceed, things could get ugly. — Alford

Mineral Leasing Slows

The Louisiana Mineral Board's November lease sale was less than spectacular, indicating that the hype surrounding the Haynesville Shale natural gas area may be quieting as the rest of the state battles to hold its ground. Mineral Board Secretary Marjorie McKeithen says there's a reasonable explanation. Statewide, 38 of 100 tracts received bids at the monthly meeting, which equates to inaction on 62 percent of the available leases. While that seems low, McKeithen says it's on par with what the state was experiencing prior to the boom in north Louisiana, where the Haynesville Shale has turned many landowners into millionaires.

"It's common practice in the oil-and-gas industry for exploration companies to nominate more tracts than they actually intend to bid on in order to camouflage their prospects in a competitive environment," McKeithen says. In all, the state Mineral Board collected roughly $3.5 million at the November sale, of which very little came from offshore lease activity. There was only one successful offshore tract — a 1,120-acre lease in Lafourche Parish that went to Maritech Timbalier Bay for $308,000. There also were 91 onshore leases awarded for a total of $2.7 million. Department of Natural Resources Secretary Scott Angelle says interest in leasing Louisiana mineral rights for energy production is still strong, though spending on leases in the Haynesville Shale natural gas area has slowed as companies prepare to develop what they've already leased. The major Haynesville Shale buys occurred between June and October of this year, with each month accounting for all-time state highs ranging from about $35 million to $93 million. For the three years prior to that spike, the average individual lease sale was roughly $3 million. Only 14 monthly lease sale collections between June 2005 and May 2008 exceeded that amount. That means the November lease sale is still noteworthy, ranking in the top third of sales from the past three years.

"Even with the economic concerns facing the country and prices for oil and gas coming down from the highs we saw earlier this year, the energy industry is still showing a strong commitment to developing the natural resources of the state of Louisiana," Angelle says. — Alford


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