Wednesday, October 11, 2006




Dardenne is new secretary of state
Heitmeier drops out, blames the hurricane
By Robert Travis Scott

BATON ROUGE -- Republican state Sen. Jay Dardenne will be the next secretary of state because his opponent, Democratic state Sen. Francis Heitmeier, withdrew from the runoff Tuesday.

In an announcement representing a stunning setback for the Louisiana Democratic Party, Heitmeier cited the poor prospects of raising money and getting his voters to the polls in post-Katrina Louisiana as his main reasons for dropping out. He had appealed for help from national Democratic Party organizations but did not get the assistance he needed, he said.

The news is a blow to Democrats, who fielded no candidate in the insurance commissioner race in the Sept. 30 primary. Republican incumbent Jim Donelon won that election.

Heitmeier's problems went beyond the low turnout. His support even among African-Americans who voted in New Orleans was relatively poor.

For example, the expansive 9th Ward with its large population of African-Americans often has been a make-or-break voting bloc for Democratic candidates. On Sept. 30, Heitmeier won a comparatively low 62 percent of 9th Ward votes.

Assistant secretary of state moves to position in archives
Appointee could have faced replacement
By Robert Travis Scott

BATON ROUGE -- The top political appointee in the secretary of state's office has been moved to a nonappointed full-time position at the agency to help overhaul record-keeping systems.

On Oct. 1, just five weeks before the election for a new secretary of state was to be held, Reneé Free moved from a $100,000 salaried position as first assistant secretary of state to the job of deputy undersecretary in the archives division, which pays $92,851.

No quick fix on insurance rates, governor warns
Premiums may never return to old levels
By Jan Moller

BATON ROUGE -- Insurance premiums in Louisiana are more likely to go up before they go down, Gov. Kathleen Blanco said Tuesday after meeting with industry executives.

"These are tough issues and what I have learned today is we are going to have to put up with high prices for awhile," Blanco said after meeting for two hours with a group of reinsurers, which are companies that insure insurance companies.

Jefferson, city suffer Nagin endorsement
James Gill

That has to be it for Congressman William Jefferson, D-New Orleans.

Perhaps Jefferson could have won re-election with the cloud of a criminal investigation hanging over him. But now Mayor Ray Nagin has announced he will campaign for him.

A Nagin endorsement is the political equivalent of a black mamba bite. The effect, on the Louisiana campaign trail or on the trails of the savanna, is fatal.

Everyone knows that the only certainty in Louisiana politics is that your next governor or DA, say, will not be the candidate Nagin is supporting. Surely, if he wanted Jefferson to win, he'd endorse one of his challengers.


Cravens’ son lone qualifier so far for La. Senate seat
Advocate Acadiana bureau

LAFAYETTE — The only candidate to qualify Tuesday to replace District 24 state Sen. Don Cravins Sr. was Don Cravins Jr., the Opelousas mayor-elect’s son.

The younger Cravins , an attorney who lives in Opelousas, is serving his first term in the House of Representatives.

Suit raises questions about election
Advocate staff writer

Election results in a tight Baker School Board race have been challenged, with a lawsuit claiming voters from outside the district cast ballots and some election machines malfunctioned.

Elaine Davis, a candidate and the incumbent for Baker School Board District 1, filed the lawsuit Tuesday against her opponent, Pamela Malveaux. Also named as defendants are Clerk of Court Doug Welborn, Registrar of Voters Elaine Lamb and Secretary of State Al Ater.

Our Views: Viewing voting as inconvenient
Advocate Opinion page staff

One of the frequent suggestions for increasing voter turnout is to make voting easier. That’s an easy goal, but we must wonder how far our elections system should go to accommodate mere convenience.

Voting is a great right in this country — a right that people have died to preserve.

We don’t think it is asking too much to expect people to take a little time and spend a little effort to get to the polls those few times each year when we’re asked to cast a ballot.


A model for government

When Franklin Parish Sheriff Steve Pylant announced that he would not collect the final year of a five-year property tax, we were both surprised and curious.

Surprised because an elected official was, in effect, telling his constituents that he didn't need any more of their money. Who ever heard of such?

Curiosity got the best of us. We made a trip to Winnsboro to see for ourselves how Pylant could run his department without the additional help from taxpayers. We learned the sheriff believes government should be run like a business and that serves as the foundation for his operations.

We like Pylant's attitude. "I've always felt that if you do a good job of being responsible for the people's money in the good times, they might tend to look on you a little bit more favorably during the more difficult times," he said.

The one-year savings to taxpayers will amount to just under a half-million dollars, small change in government terms. But good businessmen know that passing along savings builds consumer confidence.

Democrats go missing, GOP goes to mauling

Not too many voters went to the polls on Sept. 29 for the secretary of state and insurance commissioner primaries and consideration of 13 constitutional amendments. Yet the light impression left by these compulsive voters -- they are beyond chronic -- offers the first snapshot of statewide voting patterns post-Katrina. The picture is not a pretty one for Democrats.

While statewide turnout was an anemic 22 percent, it barely had a pulse in New Orleans, where only 10.5 percent of voters participated. State Sen. Francis Heitmeier of Algiers, just across the river from the main part of New Orleans, was the obvious victim of the no-show by Democrats.


Perhaps citizens are tired of pre-packaged candidates who tell them what the polls say they want to hear. They may be tired of candidates who choose to make ugly attacks on opponents rather than promote their own issues and qualifications. They seem weary of debates that are less exciting and informative than quilting bees.

They have heard too many times that there is a profound difference between two candidates who were actually shelled from the same political pea pod.

Many citizens are tired of money, not ability or commitment, being the key to success at the polls.

In a survey by the Council for a Better Louisiana, a nonprofit, good-government group, 76 percent of voters surveyed said the value of state services they receive for the taxes they pay is fair to poor. Nearly half said corruption is so entrenched in Louisiana politics that a vote for change makes no difference.

People have listened to promises of change in election after election, yet have seen Louisiana remain at the bottom of the heap in terms of education, health care, employment, infrastructure and other vital categories.

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