1. TRUMP SAYS HE'S COMING — BUT WHEN?
GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump has qualified for the March 5 Louisiana primary, and said in a statement, "I look forward to campaigning in Louisiana ... soon," though no visits have been announced.
Trump has had a stormy history in the state. He started with a six-year (and ultimately abandoned) plan to build a 70-story Trump International Hotel & Tower on Poydras Street. His Miss USA Pageant has been staged in Baton Rouge but was dropped by NBC this year after Trump's controversial comments about Hispanic immigrants.
Last week, Mayor Mitch Landrieu condemned Trump's recent statement that he would bar Muslims from entering the U.S., saying, "As Americans we must reject his poisonous rhetoric, which is reminiscent of David Duke's racism."
2. Quote of the week
"I'm real sensitive to that, the religion part. So, I knew it was time to go. I'm too old to have to put up with all that." — Burl Cain, warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola for 20 years, telling Baton Rouge's WAFB-TV he will step down Jan. 1, 2016. This follows an investigation into Cain's private real estate deals by The Advocate. Cain told WAFB he'd done nothing wrong, but when the paper questioned his Christian faith, he thought it was time to leave.
3. Edwards taps Dardenne
Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, last week tapped Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne — a Republican and one of Edwards' rivals during the recent gubernatorial primary — as his Commissioner of Administration. The commish is considered the most powerful person in state government next to the governor because he oversees the state budget. Edwards has announced he will convene two special sessions of the Legislature in February: one to fill urgent gaps in the current fiscal year's budget and another to address an expected $1 billion-plus shortfall in the 2016-17 budget.
4. Kip for Congress?
Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden, who ran a strong but unsuccessful race for lieutenant governor, is being courted by some to run for Congress next year against fellow Democrat Cedric Richmond, who has held the 2nd District seat since 2011. Holden told Gambit last week that he is buoyed by the encouragement but is concentrating — for now — on his last year in office as Red Stick's mayor. Richmond's black-majority district stretches from New Orleans to Baton Rouge — and it includes Holden's home.
5. Rancorous debate over Confederate monuments
A final public meeting on the removal of four Confederate monuments erupted in fiery debate at a special meeting of the New Orleans City Council. Over four hours, supporters and detractors of the monuments made their cases, with some speakers being removed by New Orleans police (artist and gallery owner George Schmidt flipped off the crowd). Council President Jason Williams — who had asked the crowd to respect one another's statements, despite disagreements — grew weary as the crowd remained unruly, exclaiming, "We are better than this!" It was the final chance for the public to have a say on what should happen to the monuments; the council will vote Dec. 17 on whether to remove them, and if so, how that should happen (see Commentary, p. 14).
6. Edwards vs. Vitter: the book
Journalists Jeremy Alford and Tyler Bridges are teaming up for a book about the 2015 Louisiana gubernatorial election. The yet-to-be-titled project is set for publication in late spring 2016, and Alford tells Gambit it's "the story of John Bel Edwards' improbable victory over a man [U.S. Sen. David Vitter] with universal name recognition." It's also the first book in years about Louisiana politics written from the campaign trail, Alford says.
7. Strip club age minimum
The New Orleans City Council will decide next month whether strip club employees must be at least 21 years old. The proposed age minimum comes in the wake of the murder of 19-year-old dancer Jasilas Wright, who worked at French Quarter club Stilettos Cabaret. The proposal would strengthen a law preventing topless dancers under age 21 at clubs that sell booze. Club owners, represented by attorney Ike Spears at the City Council's Governmental Affairs Committee on Dec. 7, were hesitant to support the change, citing a decline in business. The council agreed to defer action 'til Jan. 7.
Covenant House New Orleans Director Jim Kelly, who supports the measure, told Gambit in September that 70 to 80 percent of Covenant House residents have endured physical or sexual abuse. "Eighteen is too young to be dancing," Kelly said. "The younger a person is, the more vulnerable they are. We are not saying every young dancer is going to be involved in human trafficking, but it is an avenue to human trafficking — and to a lot of young women, it is exploitative."
The new measure would add teeth to a 25-year-old ordinance that prohibits strip club employees under age 21 from performing naked onstage. Club owners are able to hire people under 21 to perform onstage, but only topless. The proposed measure extends the law to all club employees, not just dancers.
8. Hungry like the wolf pack
1980s pop band Duran Duran will play the Smoothie King Center April 24 as part of a North American tour with disco- funk outfit Chic, featuring guitarist Nile Rodgers, who produced Duran Duran's most recent album Paper Gods. A number of major concerts are coming to SKC next year, including Barry Manilow (Jan. 29), Tool with Primus (Jan. 31), Rihanna (Mar. 8), 311 (Mar. 11-12), Fall Out Boy (Mar. 19), Selena Gomez (June 14), Maroon 5 (Sept. 5) and 5 Seconds of Summer (Sept. 16).
9. Lightsabers up!
Star Wars mania has hit New Orleans — again. The seventh installment of the sci-fi space opera (and toy industry's saving grace) opens in New Orleans Thursday, Dec. 17. The Prytania Theatre has sold out its opening-night 7 p.m. screening, and all showings at the Theatres at Canal Place on Dec. 17 are sold out. Castillo Blanco Studio (4321 St. Claude Ave., home of the Star Wars-inspired Krewe of Chewbacchus) throws an all-ages movie marathon and pajama party (Wookiee costumes, Jedi and sith robes and metal bikinis encouraged) beginning 5 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 16.
10. Get well soon, Hokie
Longtime New Orleans Saints radio analyst Hokie Gajan is taking a break from the mic to concentrate on fighting an unspecified form of cancer, WWL radio reported last week. Sitting alongside play-by-play announcer Jim Henderson will be substitute host Deuce McAllister, the former Saints running back. Gajan, 56, has been a familiar radio voice on WWL since 2000.