Mayor Mitch Landrieu, taking little for granted before the Feb. 1 primary, spent another few weeks in December and January pulling further away from his best-financed challenger in the money race.
He raised another $257,000 in cash between Christmas Eve and Jan. 12, according to the latest campaign finance reports. Michael Bagneris, the longtime Civil District Court judge who is hoping to unseat Landrieu, brought in just shy of $77,000, and loaned his campaign another $50,000.
Landrieu ended the period with about $883,000 on hand, compared with about $202,000 for Bagneris. The mayor has already far outspent his rivals, with a couple of ads airing in heavy rotation during prime TV events.
Danatus King, the local NAACP president, hadn’t posted a filing as of early Wednesday evening, but he hasn’t had much success raising money to date.
In the race for Orleans Parish sheriff, perhaps the most hotly contested race on the ballot, the primary candidates reported little activity in the most recent period. Incumbent Marlin Gusman, who has raised by far the most money to date, brought in less than $10,000, while his best-financed challenger, former sheriff and attorney general Charles Foti, reported raising $77,200, though about half of it came from business partners. Orleans Parish School Board member Ira Thomas, who has raised about $53,000 to date, did not report any new donations.
Landrieu corrals more endorsements
Landrieu scored a whole slew of endorsements on Wednesday, rounding up a good swath of the city’s elected officials for a morning news conference. They joined President Barack Obama in backing the incumbent, while most of the city’s old-guard black political organizations — COUP, SOUL, BOLD, LIFE — are pulling for Bagneris.
From the City Council, there were Jackie Clarkson, Susan Guidry, Kristin Gisleson Palmer, Cynthia Hedge-Morrell and James Gray. From the New Orleans statehouse delegation: Sen. J.P. Morrell, Sen. David Heitmeier, Rep. Walt Leger, Rep. Helena Moreno, Rep. Wesley Bishop and Rep. Neil Abramson.
From the education world, there were Kira Orange Jones, a member of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and Sarah Usdin, of the Orleans Parish School Board.
And among former office holders, there was Diana Bajoie, who has served in the Legislature and on the council; Troy Carter, another veteran of both the council and the Legislature; and James Carter, a former district councilman who worked in the Landrieu administration as criminal justice commissioner before leaving for private law practice in late 2012.
Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro is backing the mayor as well.
Former Rep. Jefferson back in La., still in prison
Former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, serving federal time on public corruption charges, spent the holidays back in Louisiana. And he’s probably back in the Pelican State for good.
Jefferson, who began his 13-year prison sentence at a Texas federal prison in May 2012, was transferred to the Oakdale minimum-security camp on Nov. 20, a Bureau of Prisons spokesman said this week. He won’t be eligible for release until August 2023.
The Oakdale camp in the southwest corner of the state is a preferred facility for Louisiana politicians doing federal time, rivaled only by the camp in Pensacola, Fla. While the 175-inmate Oakdale facility is arguably in a less scenic locale than Pensacola, it too is a relatively short drive for family and friends.
Oakdale has housed several other former Louisiana pols, from Gov. Edwin Edwards to New Orleans Councilman Oliver Thomas and Insurance Commissioner Jim Brown. Like other camps, it has no fences or cells. Still, inmates work jobs and regularly report for roll calls.
In a 2004 interview with The Times-Picayune, Brown described the setting as desirable for a federal prison. At 66, Jefferson is likely much older than most of the other inmates, all deemed nonviolent by federal authorities.
Even if Oakdale is relatively nice, Brown said in that interview that a prison camp shouldn’t be thought of as a “Club Fed.”
“Freedom is taken away in the remaining years of your life,” he said.
Scripture at the council?
The Covington City Council has a Bible question and is appealing to a higher power.
The council voted this week to ask Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell if it is appropriate for a councilman to read Scripture at the meeting and to have those verses printed in the meeting minutes.
Councilman Jerry Coner often chooses to read a biblical verse during the part of the meeting devoted to council members’ comments. Coner also has requested that the verses be printed in the minutes of the meeting, which are run in a local newspaper, the St. Tammany Farmer.
But Council Chairman Lee Alexius balked, saying he was worried about church-state issues and public funding of religion. Printing the verses in the minutes would lengthen what goes in the paper and could cost the city an extra $8-$10 per occurrence, he said.
Alexius was quick to point out that he did not object to the Bible verses. “In fact, we enjoyed them,” he said.
Alexius had already sent a letter to Caldwell, but on Tuesday, he said the Attorney General’s Office had told him it couldn’t respond unless the request came from the council.
So, Tuesday, without objection, the council approved a resolution to seek an opinion from Caldwell.
Compiled by Andrew Vanacore, Gordon Russell and Sara Pagones