THE ADVOCATE: 'JINDAL DOES DISSERVICE' In a recent editorial, The Advocate took gubernatorial candidate Bobby Jindal to task for "embarrassing himself and doing voters a disservice by repeatedly ducking candidate forums." The newspaper adds, "A man who would be governor should be willing to test himself and his ideas in the arena of public debate and discussion." In August, Independent Weekly Editor Scott Jordan made this same point in his Leadoff column: "Instead of participating in the health care forum, Jindal spent Monday campaigning from Slidell to Hammond on his 'Fresh Start' bus tour. ... Louisiana voters deserve more. The race for governor so far has consisted largely of platform soundbites and predictable partisan sniping between the candidates and state party leaders." The Advocate concluded: "Avoiding forums is something campaign front-runners often do, hoping to avoid making mental and verbal blunders, and to keep from elevating opponents in the public eye, If that is smart politics, it also is political cowardice." ... GEORGES LEAVES GOP New Orleans businessman John Georges is running for governor without a party affiliation, marking the first time in modern Louisiana history that a major candidate has chosen to run without a party label. Georges changed his party affiliation from Republican to independent before qualifying for the governor's race. Because independent is not recognized as a party in Louisiana, Georges will run with "no party" after his name on the ballot. He decided to leave his life-long party after the Republicans threw all their weight behind U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal, who ran a tight race last round with Democrat Kathleen Blanco.

"I am the same man and the same candidate I was yesterday," Georges said in a statement released after he switched parties. "I simply choose not to participate in a system that puts party labels over good public policy. Partisan politics have become too divisive in Louisiana. I'm not running to be governor of a political party." Georges is joined by 12 other candidates including Jindal, the only Republican running. Other hopefuls include Democrats Foster Campbell, Walter Boasso, M.V. "Vinny" Mendoza, Hardy Parkerson, and Mary Volentine Smith; Libertarian T. Lee Horne III; and Anthony "Tony G" Gentile and B. Alexandrenko, who registered as "other." "No party" candidates include Vincent Mark Castillo, Arthur D. "Jim" Nichols and Sheldon Forest. ... SPEAKING OF SHELDON FOREST A 50-year-old independent water well driller from Maurice is the only gubernatorial candidate from Acadiana this election cycle. Sheldon Forest says he has been thinking about running for a decade. Since Sept. 5, when he threw his name into the hat, he's been saving his money. "I'm not accepting any campaign contributions; I don't belong to any party. I'm running for the people of Louisiana," he says. "I represent the common man."

He says what solidified his resolve to run was the political attack ads running on TV. "Look how these guys are treating each other. That's how they are going to treat us," he says. "They need somebody like me in there, who's going to keep all the state employees in place so we don't have a year of turmoil while new people learn their jobs, and who will take care of the people. I don't owe political favors to anybody."

Forest has some unusual ideas he's promoting, including raising money for hurricane recovery by taxing water usage. "There are so many people on a water meter that a little small tax, you won't even feel it. It will be like a mosquito bite, will add up to billions in no time ' forcing water to pay for the damage water caused. I'm an expert on water. It's a new tax base; nobody's ever thought of it." To help out the rice farmers of southwest Louisiana, Sheldon says he will institute a state program to promote ethanol made of rice. Defending Louisiana's coastline from attack is another point on Forest's agenda. "I plan to put lookout towers and forts along the coast, like it used to be in the old days. Actually, it should be pretty fun to do this." Forest says his heritage and work ethic has given him a natural ability to lead. "Being governor will be easier than digging water wells, that's for sure." ... BOUSTANY'S POSITIVE ASSESSMENT OF IRAQ Charles Boustany was one of two Congressmen who appeared on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer to discuss their assessment of Iraq just a week before Congress was to hear key progress reports from U.S. military leaders. Both Boustany and the program's other guest, Democratic U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek of Florida, recently traveled to Iraq during Congress' August recess. While Meek favors a troop withdrawal due to the high cost of the war, Boustany echoed many of President Bush's recent statements that the current surge in troop levels appears to be working. "The plan that's been implemented since January is showing significant success," Boustany said. He noted Fallujah has seen a "major improvement" and that he and three other members of Congress were able to walk the streets there with only one marine platoon's worth of security. "Two months ago, that couldn't have happened," he said. Asked about recent reports that the President will be seeking an additional $50 billion or more from Congress for Iraq, Boustany said he would need to see a breakdown of the costs and that Congress should base its policy on the report from Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S.'s top military commander in Iraq.