With a short memo banning booster clubs at the city's parks from purchasing Nike products, Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn catapulted the New Orleans suburb into the national spotlight.
Here are five things to know about Zahn, who is serving his first full term as Kenner mayor.
• He's a Republican, a practicing Catholic, and a decorator. He graduated from John Curtis Christian Academy and the University of New Orleans and owns Ben Zahn's Decorating.
• He occupies the job once held by current Parish President Mike Yenni. Zahn beat back a crowded field of challengers for the role in a special election in 2016, and then cruised to an easy re-election in the spring, winning 80 percent of the vote. In the 2016 race, Zahn earned an endorsement from the lone black Jefferson Parish Council member, Mark Spears. Spears spoke at Monday's rally protesting Zahn's Nike products policy.
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• His anti-Nike broadside isn't the first time he's fired a salvo in the culture wars. In 2015, as a parish councilman, he pushed to have the annual holiday celebration in Lafreniere Park renamed "Christmas in the Park." He allowed that it would be open to other religions "within reason," but said that groups like Islamic State would not be allowed. His letter drew a sharp rebuke from the ACLU, which noted that the Islamic State is not a religion but claims to be a state.
• He feuded publicly with former Kenner Councilman Keith Reynaud and Reynaud's wife Dona, the latter of whom was especially critical of Zahn on social media and at Kenner City Council meetings. The feud included allegations of an assault by Dona Reynaud on Zahn's son and Reynaud's eventual challenge to Zahn in the mayor's race in March. She earned 11 percent of the vote.
• He has both pleased and angered the city's large Hispanic population. In 2017, he named civic activist Rafael Saddy as the city's Hispanic liaison, fulfilling a campaign promise. Later that year, though, he angered others by moving nearly $400,000 previously set aside to build a new Hispanic Resource Center to the city's police and fire departments, saying the money was needed for public safety.
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