News Briefs

Blanco's battering continues, Republicans stacking tickets and more


Her special session was a legislative and public relations disaster, and now Gov. Kathleen Blanco's getting her feet held to the fire on the Road Home program. New Orleans Rep. Charmaine Marchand is so fed up with the slow pace of recovery checks that she briefly protested by camping out in a tent on the Capitol grounds. That led to a closed-door meeting between Blanco, representatives from embattled Road Home contractor ICF, Louisiana Recovery Authority leaders and ballistic legislators who are tired of hearing excuses about ICF's slow response time and questionable methods for awarding rebuilding grants. Rep. Tim Burns, a Mandeville Republican, described the meeting as "tense" and "soul-baring," and the clock is ticking for Blanco to either fire ICF or get the multiple problems with the Road Home program fixed ' quickly. ' Scott Jordan


After targeting three health care professionals for allegedly administering lethal drugs during Katrina and battling the resulting controversy, the state GOP thinks Attorney General Charles Foti may be ripe for the picking in 2007. Chairman Roger Villere says the party is still in talks with two district attorneys: Doug Moreau of Baton Rouge and Buddy Caldwell, a veteran DA representing East Carroll, Madison and Tensas parishes. "There are also a couple of other big names, but we're not ready to put them out there," Villere says. Other statewide races are being approached in the same manner ' the more the merrier, until one contender is chosen. As for the legislative races, Villere says parish chairmen and members of the GOP's state central committee are shaking the bushes to recruit candidates. "This will be 10 times the effort that we saw four years ago," Villere says. "We plan on having someone in every race, which is something we haven't done in the past. We're going to be active up and down the ballot." ' Jeremy Alford


Wayne Carter, a Republican member of Baton Rouge's Metro Council, may be throwing his hat in the ring against mega-politico Bob Odom, Louisiana's agriculture commissioner. "There are some people urging me to do that," he says. "We'll make a decision in January." Carter, who also goes by "Spider," is president of Advanced Services, which buys and sells offshore drilling equipment. He's one of those rare south Louisiana Baptists, politically speaking, and he's a card-carrying member of the National Rifle Association. Odom, who has suffered recent sugar-related defeats at the hands of Gov. Kathleen Blanco, still has as much sway ' and money ' as ever, but his public bribery charges could find him back in a courtroom in the near future. ' JA


It's all about the media buy, and all the major players in the 2007 gubernatorial contest are taking heed. The shifting model of modern Louisiana campaigns has television replacing exploratory committees, and Sen. Walter Boasso, a Republican from Arabi, went on the airwaves last week with ads for his "Get It Done Louisiana," a nonprofit group that addresses the needs of recovery. "We need an organization where people's voices can be heard, and this is just the place to do it," Boasso says. Rep. Bobby Jindal, a Metairie Republican, bought airtime all over the state during his election this fall ' not just in his district ' and even New Orleans businessman John Georges got a piece of the action in September when he personally appeared in television ads supporting the consolidated levee board initiative. ' JA


During the final hours of the recent congressional session, lawmakers managed to squeeze out a short waiver extending the life of a popular guaranteed loan program for Louisiana farmers that was set to expire at the end of the year. The federal government had offered no forewarning that the terms were in jeopardy, leaving many farms scrambling for 2007 capital. Congress came through, however, pushing the expiration date to Sept. 30, 2007. The date itself wasn't controversial; it was the fact that it was stuck in the Farm Bill, which has proven difficult to pass through both chambers with agreement. The Farm Service Agency loan program provides operating money to "several hundred" farms in Louisiana, according to Republican Rep. Charles Boustany. "This was a tremendous victory for farmers and ranchers in Louisiana," he says, although the bill is still awaiting President Bush's signature. The FSA helps farmers who cannot qualify for conventional loans because they have insufficient financial resources. It also helps established farmers who have suffered financial setbacks from natural disasters. ' JA