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Friday, December 29, 2006

He's official, too

Calvin Lester announced his candidacy for the state House District 4 seat in a press conference today, bringing the contender count to four.

Yes, four.

Reginald Johnson, who previously told me he was praying about a run, has made his decision to seek the seat public – although he didn’t publicly make a big deal about it.

Most candidates alert us to their intentions so that we’ll write a news article. Johnson opted to make his announcement at Morningstar Missionary Baptist Church a couple Sundays ago without any media attention.

I had been trying to reach him and finally caught up with him today.

His platform is built on improving education, economic development and quality of life – everything from better housing to transportation.

“Everything is built off those three platforms,” the Democrat said. “But education is the key. … The time has passed us as far as fixing problems with Band-Aids. We have to be able to look at the five, 10-, 20-year forecast.”

Johnson, an accountant by trade and current president of the Shreveport Zoning Board of Appeals, points to his experience as a benefit.

“My background is I’m able to come in and hit the ground running. I don’t have to go through the learning curve.”

That was a huge turnout – at least for Gibsland

The new Gibsland mayor Pat White and the board of aldermen were sworn into office this morning. The guest of honor: U.S. Rep. Jim McCrery.

Around 100 people – or about 10 percent of the Bienville Parish town’s population – crowded Main Street’s Gibsland Grill.

Richard Wright, the congressman’s assistant chief of staff, arranged the appearance after he met the newly elected White.

“He said he wanted to get involved and put Gibsland on the map,” Wright said.

It probably didn’t hurt that White was a fellow Republican who beat out a Democratic incumbent. White got 63 percent of the vote, or 265 ballots compared to Odis Key's 159.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Keeping count in House District 1

For those of you keeping count, there are now three announced candidates for state House District 1, the seat left empty by the death of Roy “Hoppy” Hopkins last month. (Click here for a map.)

Mooringsport resident Richie Hollier added his name this week, joining fellow Democrat and Oil City Justice of the Peace Ruth Johnston and Republican Caddo Parish Commissioner Jim Morris. The special election is Feb. 24.

Each announced their candidacy in a different way.

Morris was the first, gathering at Government Plaza with at least two dozen supporters that included Hopkins’ son Todd, state Rep. Billy Montgomery, Caddo Sheriff Steve Prator and his wife Carolyn, and Caddo District Attorney Paul Carmouche. Christmas cards from the Morris family to district residents followed a few weeks later.

Johnston came next, blanketing newsroom editors with an e-mailed announcement.

Hollier showed up unannounced at The Times – press release, pushcard and photograph in hand.

So is a Democratic candidate a shoo-in to replace the late Democratic representative?

Voter registration statistics show the district has fewer Democrats than it did just five years ago.

The district’s makeup then: 54 percent Democrat, 26 percent Republican and 20 percent other party.

The district’s makeup now: 46 percent Democrat, 30 percent Republican and 24 percent other party.

For you number gurus, here are a few more specifics as of Dec. 15:

Total registered voters: 27,259
White voters: 20,702
Black voters: 5,726
Other race voters: 831
Democrats: 12,543
Republicans: 8,202
Other party: 6,514

There's something to be said for optimism

Every few days, Artis Cash calls to check if we’ve heard anything new in Patti Cox’s lawsuit against U.S. Rep. Jim McCrery.

You’ll recall Cash, Cox and Chester T. Kelley ran against the congressman last month and lost. Cox filed suit in district and federal court challenging McCrery’s residency. Cash jumped in at the very end, after the magistrate judge had issued his recommendations, and asked that the court declare him the winner.

In any case, Cash called me last night for the latest status report. Nothing yet, I said.

He was a bit exasperated since he was going out of town.

“You’ll have your cell phone with you. I’ll call you if I hear anything,” I said.

But that wasn’t the problem.

“I’m getting sworn in Jan. 3,” Cash said.

He needed to know if he should make his own airline reservations or if a plane would be sent for him.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by his optimism. This is the same person who answered his phone “Rep. Cash” throughout the campaign and had his candidacy photo taken in the style of sitting congressmen, with the U.S. flag behind him.

Friday, December 22, 2006

And then he said ....

U.S. Rep. Jim McCrery’s attorney’s have filed their response to Artis Cash’s motion to intervene in the Patti Cox case to unseat the congressman on charges he doesn’t live in Louisiana. They argue Cash’s motion should be denied because it is not timely.

“Cash admits that he was aware of the lawsuit from the time it was initially filed by plaintiff, Patti M. Cox, and yet he did not file a motion to intervene at that time,” McCrery’s attorneys wrote. “If Cash had so much concern as to the outcome of this case, as he alleges in his motion to intervene, he could have easily intervened in this case as soon as he knew that the lawsuit had been filed.”

Online readers have had a lot to say on the topic, posting more than 100 comments since Cox first filed her suit last month. The most recent back-and-forth debate online had to do with Cash’s motivations and his background.

There are several sides to the debate being waged online by readers. Here’s a glimpse:

From saveourstate: “What actually should have been done if you wanted to question the qualifications of a candidate is to do that BEFORE you lose the election. You can contest the residency of a candidate during qualifying not after the election. Now it just looks like you both are sore losers.”

From BossierGuy: “It doesn’t matter to 57 percent of the voters of this district if he lives in Shreveport or not. I think he REALLY doesn't although he rents a house here just to say he does. He is not my favorite politician, but among the four that ran, he definitely stands head and shoulders above. (LOL). Anyway, considering the four choices, I'd take Jim living in DC over any of the other three living here. Maybe since he got less votes this time, the repubs will look at a more viable candidate for next time.”

From Shreveporter: “On one hand you got a guy that is doing a pretty good job, that publicly made his residence in the DC area to allow him to have his family near him more, but on the other hand you are suppose to live in the area you represent. I mean think about it.... we could have guys living in Texas or anywhere representing us if the McCrery's situation is OK.”

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Sound familiar?

Seems there’s a bit of controversy surrounding Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr. (R-Va.) over comments he made about the first Muslim member of Congress using the Koran during a swearing-in ceremony.

The Washington Post reports that Goode wrote a letter to constituents saying, “The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration, there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran. … I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America.”

It was just a couple months ago we heard similar rhetoric from one of our congressional candidates, Chester T. Kelley, who ultimately lost to Jim McCrery.

On his pet topic of illegal immigration, Kelley said, “I honestly believe with all my heart, that the American way of life, the culture as we know it is in serious jeopardy of being totally and completely obliterated. … There’s no doubt that moving away from the Anglo-European background that we move in a totally different direction from the way we think and the way we intend to educate and raise our families.”

Thank you, Goode, for taking the flack for us.

What's the story on this guy?

The Louisiana Democratic State Central Committee’s largest contribution this year came from an Oil City company.

Wooldridge Production gave $50,000 – its first contribution ever to the party, according to party chairman Chris Whittington.

Whittington said the company’s owner, Joe Lanza, is a big contributor to national Republican candidates including George Bush but I couldn’t find any evidence of that. Check for yourself here and let me know if I’m wrong.

What I was able to find out is who Lanza and his companies aren’t big contributors to: There are at least eight lawsuits in Caddo District Court from the last three years alleging unpaid taxes and purchases.

Oh, and one more thing

Artis Cash has filed an addendum to his motion to intervene in Patti Cox’s lawsuit to have U.S. Rep. Jim McCrery disqualified on the grounds he doesn’t live in Louisiana.

Cash quoted an article in The Times where McCrery explained why his Louisiana license was expired.

Cash’s addendum says, “Virginia DMV laws require proof of residency as one requirement and that all information supplied be true under penalty of perjury (refer to exhibit Furthermore, if true, attempting to hold multiple voting residencies egregiously violates the intent of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, Cention (C), (1), et al.”

Monday, December 18, 2006

PRopaganda machines, Volume 2

As promised, here’s more from the world of spinmeisters:

From Change America Now (CAN), a national grassroots effort to make college affordable, lower the cost of prescription drugs, repeal oil tax breaks and raise the minimum wage: “For Rep. Rodney Alexander to complain about being asked to support popular middle class initiatives in Congress next year simply because of his margin of victory in the November election, says a lot about the disappointing brand of politics the people of Quitman may be in for from their Congressman in the next two years,” said Jeremy Funk, press secretary for Americans United and a spokesman for the Change America Now (CAN) campaign (

Funk’s comments were made in reference to an item in the Baton Rouge Advocate about the group’s efforts to build support for Democratic proposals by targeting 84 members of Congress. Alexander, a Republican, was the only Louisiana legislator chosen.

Alexander called the group “liberal” and told the Advocate he did not know why he was being singled out. “I won with 68 percent of the vote,” Alexander said. “I thought that was pretty good.”

“This isn’t a popularity contest – this is about meaningful change for real folks in Louisiana,” Funk said in the press release. “Unfortunately, Congressman Alexander seems perfectly content with the direction our nation has headed and more content to rest on his laurels.”

From Louisiana Family Forum and the Alliance Defense Fund: “It’s OK to say Merry Christmas.”

On the first day of the Louisiana special legislative session, the two organizations provided each legislator a Christmas pin and a copy of the pamphlet, "The Truth About Religious Expression at Christmastime."

"Christmas is one of the most celebrated holidays of the American people and surveys show that 95% of Americans celebrate Christmas. Yet, due to misinformation, and even the threat of lawsuits from the ACLU and its allies, religious expression at Christmastime is increasingly absent from the public square," said Gene Mills, executive director of Louisiana Family Forum.

"Sadly, this holy day is being deliberately turned into a secular 'solstice season,'” said Mike Johnson, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund. “It's ridiculous that Americans have to think twice about whether it's okay to celebrate Christmas in public, but misconceptions about the law in recent years have led to the improper censorship of Christmas in public places such as schools, parks, libraries, and government offices."

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A little focus, please

Give Patti Cox a pat on the back for taking on an 18-year congressional veteran and the political power structure.

But in her quest to unseat U.S. Rep. Jim McCrery over his residency, she should have hired an attorney rather than file suit herself. She’s too emotionally invested in the case, and it shows.

Her latest filings – a response to McCrery’s request to dismiss the case – begin well enough with an outline of the qualifications for Congress, a previous case that supports her point (albeit from 1824) and Louisiana law concerning domicile.

But she derails many of her arguments with unsubstantiated comments and irrelevant references, reminiscent of a college term paper written the night before its due and still 10 pages too short:

“McCrery had plans to cash in on his connections and become a highly paid Washington lobbyist …”

“United States District Judge S. Maurice Hicks Jr. recuses himself from the case, probably because he knows what we will find out in discovery, that McCrery has lied about his residency.”

“Adding insult to injury, Louisiana historically ranks in the top three most corrupt states. This state consistently elects lawbreakers to office and laughs about (it). Louisiana gets the government that it deserves.”

Is she taking on the system, or trying to prove that McCrery didn’t live here?

In any case, read it for yourself by clicking here.

Eight CAO candidates and counting

Boy, three more resumes and the race for the Shreveport CAO job will look like the mayor’s race: 11 candidates.

Stephone Taylor, administrator for the Texas Gulf Coast city of Anahuac, and Jeron Rogers, former Caddo Parish public works director, have joined six other contenders for the city’s top appointed position.

Rogers – who had sued the parish in 2005 claiming he was wrongfully terminated – also unsuccessfully applied in October for the Caddo Parish administrator job after Bill Hanna retired.

Former mayoral candidate Ed Bradley – who accused now-Mayor Cedric Glover and former contender Jerry Jones of “cutting a deal” – is said to have applied for the CAO job.

But Dee Peterson, co-chair of the transition team that is screening applicants, said he hasn’t seen a resume from Bradley. I called Bradley’s cell but got his voicemail. No word back yet.

The transition team will collect resumes for CAO through tomorrow. Glover has said he would like to make a decision by Christmas.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

PRopaganda machines, Volume 1

My inbox gets swarmed with a lot of political press releases. Interesting reading, yes. Worthy of a story, probably not. But now they have a home.

Every week, I’ll plop a few of them here so you can experience the fun yourself. Don’t read too much into the selections I place here; some party/candidate PR teams just happen to be more prolific than others.

Here’s the first installation of highlights:

From the Louisiana Democratic Party on William Jefferson’s re-election Saturday to the U.S. House of Representatives: “Congressman Jefferson has served the state of Louisiana well in his prior eight terms in the House and I know he will continue to strive for the rebuilding of this great state,” said Louisiana Democratic Party Chairman Chris Whittington. “Congressman Jefferson has been a tireless champion of the people of the 2nd District and for all citizens of this state and I feel certain his heart and his actions will remain focused on continuing these efforts. His role in the now-Democratic majority Congress will only help make Louisiana stronger.”

Another one from the Louisiana Democratic Party after the passage of the outer continental shelf bill for offshore oil and gas royalties : “Bobby Jindal’s arrogance seems to grow by the day. … It’s Jindal who is wrongly claiming victory, even though it was Sen. Mary Landrieu’s version and not his own which awaits President Bush’s signature. … Jindal operates with an air of self-importance and feels that he rightfully deserves any and all accolades for passage of this historic measure. It is this same attitude of entitlement that will hurt Louisiana and the voters of this great state need to pay attention,” said Louisiana Democratic Party Chairman Chris Whittington.

From U.S. Sen. David Vitter on the same legislation: “This bill is a historic piece of legislation for Louisiana. Work on this bill is the product of many hours of negotiating and hard work by all members of the Louisiana delegation and the Gulf coast states. I personally reached out to friends and former colleagues to ensure that nothing was taken for granted until the final outcome was secured. I thank my colleagues for voting with an overwhelming majority to support this critical need for the people of Louisiana.”

Thursday, December 07, 2006

He says it's about legalities

Gov. Kathleen Blanco used a lunchtime speech in Shreveport Tuesday to criticize Senate President Don Hines for using “personal politics.”

Last week Blanco blocked Hines’ efforts to get the state to pay for half of a sugarcane syrup mill planned for his hometown area. Hines vowed he would “get even.”

Some would say he did Tuesday when he was the sole dissenter in recognizing an $827 million surplus from the 2005-06 budget. A unanimous vote among the four-member Revenue Estimating Committee is required in order to spend the surplus.

Hines released a statement to the media the next day to clarify his vote:

"The process for establishing the prior year budget balance is detailed in R.S. 39.75. The state law is clear and not open to misinterpretation.

“Among other things, the law requires the Commissioner of Administration and the Legislative Auditor to submit a report reflecting the audited prior year budget balance to the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget after the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) is published. The CAFR has not been published. The report has not been submitted to the budget committee.

"The process for establishing the prior year budget surplus was first detailed in state law in 2001 and tightened further in 2002, at the urging of then State Representative and current Commissioner of Administration Jerry Luke LeBlanc. The move to the defined, detailed process was in response to repeated problems with the old system that often resulted in a prior year budget surplus that was inaccurate and misleading.

"The Revenue Estimating Conference does have the constitutional authority to certify state revenue as recurring or non-recurring. However, that constitutional authority does not include ignoring state law, a state law enacted at the urging of two current members of the conference.

"Now more than ever, it is imperative that our actions be prudent. Ignoring state law cannot be considered prudent action. My position on this matter is not about personalities. It is not about formalities. It is about legalities."

Family matters

The Washington Post had a story today about the “culture shock” taking place on Capitol Hill now that the U.S. House of Representatives is to start working five days a week next month.

“Keeping us up here eats away at families. Marriages suffer,” Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., who typically flies home on Thursdays and returns to Washington on Tuesdays, told the paper. “The Democrats could care less about families – that’s what this says.”

What families?

The ones back home waiting for solutions to affordable health care or a higher minimum wage or the outsourcing of jobs?

Or the ones that are overseas, fighting a war on terror, leaving behind spouses and children, moms and dads, some of them never to return?

Click here to read the article:

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Time to stop and smell the money

Gov. Kathleen Blanco was in Shreveport yesterday and today for a variety of public speaking engagements … and to raise a dollar or two.

Former Shreveport city councilman and ISA/Stewart Insurance Associates owner John David Stewart hosted a $2,000-per-couple fundraiser for the governor Monday night. The event – which was oil-industry top heavy – raised approximately $50,000, according to Leonard Kleinpeter, a special assistant to Blanco.

Spellcheck anyone?

“All schools need to keep reforming themselves and doing better, but some have a harder struggle than others,” Gov. Kathleen Blanco said at a breakfast meeting this morning in Bossier City.

Rest assured, Blanco's comment was in reference to New Orleans public schools and not a jab at the printer of the sign that hung behind her: Welcome “Govenor” Kathleen Babineaux Blanco.