News Briefs

Williams to leave The Times, Jindal's still spending and more


Gene Williams' stint at The Times of Acadiana will tally all of eight months when he leaves in late October to join the Cape Cod Times as managing editor. Williams joined The Times earlier this year as managing editor, having relocated here from Hattiesburg, Miss., where he operated -30- and Beyond, an online writing and editing service that lists Williams as its founder.

Owned by Dow Jones subsidiary Ottaway Newspaper Co. chain of Campbell Hill, N.Y., the Cape Cod Times is a daily newspaper in Hyannis, Mass., with a circulation of 50,000 ' comparable to The Daily Advertiser's 46,449 circulation, 55,730 on Sunday. The Advertiser and The Times, a weekly, are sister papers published by the Gannett Co. chain.

"I love it here; I love Lafayette, and I love The Times," says Williams, explaining that the opportunity to be managing editor of a "decent size" daily was too good to pass up. Williams also previously worked for the New York Daily News and says he's happy to return to the East Coast area.

Williams isn't sure who'll replace him as managing editor of the Lafayette weekly. "There are several people in house who would be good candidates, but I don't know if they'll be interested," he says. ' Leslie Turk


Like a ransom note, it made firm demands: "DEADLINE: $39,319.14 by midnight Saturday!!!" But no one had been kidnapped; it was the subject line from a fund-raising e-mail sent out last week by GOP Congressman Bobby Jindal.

The Metairie freshman blanketed supporters with the digital appeal just four days before quarterly finance reports were due to the Federal Elections Commission on Oct. 1. Aside from pushing to meet his goal, Jindal also wrote to his "friends" that the campaign would spend another $700,000 over the next few weeks ' and that's on top of the $1 million Jindal already spent during the second quarter, largely on a massive media buy.

Still, Jindal, who has roughly $1.8 million in the bank as of the latest count, faces no real competition. In fact, his closest opponent has cobbled together just over $16,000 to mount an offensive. "We are not taking anything for granted," Jindal writes. "With three opponents working to defeat me, we need your help." Obviously, the Louisiana Republican Party isn't taking anything for granted, either, as they continue branding everything from bumper stickers to Web sites with the elephant mantra of 2007: "Don't Blame Me, I Voted For Jindal." ' Jeremy Alford


While longtime St. Landry Parish state Sen. Don Cravins isn't expected to officially step down from the post until the end of the year, the race to elect his successor is already under way. Cravins was elected mayor of Opelousas Sept. 30 and says he will officially retire from the state Senate at the end of the year. Meanwhile, the Legislature wasted no time in making preparations for choosing his successor. Louisiana Senate President Don Hines issued a proclamation last week calling for a special Dec. 9 election to fill the pending vacancy.

Two popular local state representatives, Wilfred Pierre of Lafayette and Don Cravins, Jr. of Opelousas, have already announced their intentions to vie for the seat. Lafayette City-Parish Councilman Chris Williams has also been rumored as a potential contender but could not be reached for comment before press time. The short time span before the election may deter Williams from jumping in and also give Cravins Jr. a slight edge, given his father's popularity in the district and recent landslide victory as mayor of Opelousas.

District 24 covers both St. Landry Parish and the northern end of Lafayette Parish, with a majority (55 percent) of the district located in St. Landry. The District 24 state Senate election will be the only item on the Dec. 9 ballot, leading Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court Louis Perret to predict a very low turnout. "We would expect an abysmal turnout," he says. "So, it's going to come down to whoever can turn out their vote." ' Nathan Stubbs


It appears the state's flagship university will proceed with its ongoing push to raise tuition and/or fees, and it will do so with the support of regional business leaders. Stephen Moret, president of the Greater Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce, says a funding increase for LSU will be among the top legislative priorities next year for his membership and others. Ideally, though, he says he would like to "see more support in general for LSU." At least indirectly, Moret is echoing the sentiment of various officials and alumni that LSU has taken a back seat under the current administration.

Support, however, does reach high places. House Speaker Joe Salter, a Florien Democrat, pushed a $150-per-semester increase for LSU during the regular session earlier this year. The proposal would have generated $15.6 million for the entire LSU system, including Eunice, New Orleans and Shreveport, but it failed to get out of committee. About 10 years ago, voters approved a constitutional amendment giving the Legislature the sole discretion to increase tuition and fees, thus sending academics to the capitol every year groveling for money. The growing support from public and private sectors for colleges and universities to have dependable plans for regular increases, though, may peak with the LSU debate during next year's regular session, giving way to what could be more change in the process. ' JA


With only a few days to go before the primary election for secretary of state, the Louisiana Republican Party dropped dirt on state Sen. Francis Heitmeier, a New Orleans Democrat. But it was largely ignored for a variety of reasons, ranging from timeliness to the fact it was overshadowed by news that Mike Francis, a Lafayette Republican, wasn't reporting expenses related to his private jet. Nonetheless, it offers an early look at the mud that will be slung during the final days of the runoff campaign between Heitmeier and state Sen. Jay Dardenne, a Republican from Baton Rouge.

GOP Chairman Roger F. Villere Jr., is circulating a laundry list of curious deeds involving the infamous Orleans Parish Levee Board, Heitmeier and his friends and family. For instance, he points to a Los Angeles Times story linking Heitmeier's brother to an alleged multi-million dollar no-bid contract to purchase eyeglasses for the levee district. "Talk about defrauding the people of Louisiana," Villere says. There's little doubt the Republican Party will try to fracture Heitmeier's base in southeast Louisiana with related information, which ' not at all coincidentally ' is the same region that voted overwhelmingly last month to squash the old levee board system due to its crooked, fabled past. ' JA**