State Sen. David Heitmeier has announced he will not seek a third term in the Oct. 24 election.

Heitmeier, a Democrat and chairman of the Senate’s Health and Welfare Committee, cited a need to focus on his health and devote more time to his optometry practice as the reasons for his decision.

“I’ve decided to not seek re-election so I can devote more time to my patients and eye care practice. Over the past eight years, I’ve maintained a full schedule of seeing patients, expanding my business and serving in the Senate. There was a lot on my plate, and I’ve been neglecting my health, and it’s just time to cut back some,” Heitmeier said in a news release.

Orleans Parish School Board member Leslie Ellison had already announced plans to challenge Heitmeier for the District 7 seat.

State Rep. Jeff Arnold also is expected to jump into the race. Both are Democrats.

Because Heitmeier announced his decision just a week before the qualifying period, it gives others who might want to succeed him little time to raise money and get organized. Senate President John Alario said that should give an advantage to Arnold, who was being forced to retire from the House because of term limits but didn’t want to challenge Heitmeier, a close political associate.

With Heitmeier’s decision, Alario said, “Jeff has a head start.”

Qualifying starts Tuesday and ends Thursday.

Lagasse: Endorsement ‘stacked against me’

Two days after participating in a Crimefighters of Louisiana Inc. debate, Jefferson Parish president candidate Elton Lagasse on Thursday told the victims advocacy group to go ahead and keep its endorsement.

Not that Crimefighters was going to give its endorsement to Lagasse, a Parish Council member, anyway.

Shortly after the debate, the group’s 50-member executive board voted to endorse Lagasse’s opponent in the Oct. 24 primary, Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni, though the endorsement wasn’t going to be announced until this week, Crimefighters President Irv Magri Jr. said.

Lagasse on Thursday sent a letter to Magri saying he was “respectfully withdrawing from consideration for the endorsement” from the group because its media consultant, Greg Buisson, is the campaign manager for Yenni, who also participated in the debate on Tuesday in Metairie.

Buisson sat in on the closed-door meeting when the executive board voted on whether to endorse Yenni or Lagasse. And Buisson was in charge of sending out a news release announcing the group’s choice, Lagasse said.

“I must point out that the cards were stacked against me,” Lagasse said in his letter.

Buisson denied that he influenced the endorsement vote.

He said he serves Crimefighters on a pro bono basis and didn’t speak during the executive board meeting. He said other clients of his have tried but failed to get Crimefighters’ endorsement, showing the group does not always favor candidates he represents.

Lagasse and Yenni are seeking to succeed Parish President John Young, a candidate for lieutenant governor.

Council sets session to discuss firefighters

The New Orleans City Council will hold a closed-door session Wednesday to discuss the $75 million judgment the city owes to firefighters for back pay in a case that could see Mayor Mitch Landrieu put under house arrest.

On Friday, Civil District Court Judge Kern Reese held the city in contempt of court for not reaching a resolution in the decades-old case and said he would put Landrieu under house arrest on weekends if a resolution is not reached by the end of this week.

While the city has come up with several plans to pay the firefighters, those proposals were rejected because they would pay only part of the money the city owes or stretch the payments out over 30 years. Firefighters also are seeking $67 million in interest, plus — in a separate case — tens of millions of dollars in payments to their pension system.

The special council meeting could be used to get the green light from the council if the Landrieu administration and firefighters manage to strike a deal by Wednesday.

Arrested man claimed to be N.O. mayor

If Landrieu ends up confined to his house on weekends, there apparently is someone ready to fill in for him.

Harrison County, Mississippi, deputies on Wednesday arrested a man who they said was driving a stolen Louisiana school bus and claiming to be the mayor of New Orleans. The Sun-Herald newspaper said Trabis Bailey, 32, of New Orleans, was arrested on a felony count of receiving stolen property.

A deputy said he saw the bus traveling in a reckless manner on U.S. 90 near the Pass Christian-Long Beach line. The deputy stopped the bus, but the driver refused to provide his name, saying he was New Orleans’ mayor. A check revealed the bus had been reported stolen that day. Bailey was being held on $50,000 bail.

Compiled by staff writers Jeff Adelson and Ramon Antonio Vargas