Saturday, December 1, 2007

Davis sets up panel with eye on D.C.

Parish President Kevin Davis, who was elected in October to a third term, has taken his first public step toward running for Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal's seat in the 1st Congressional District after dancing around the subject for months.

Davis, a Republican, has formed an exploratory committee to try to determine whether he would have the support should he decide to throw his hat into the ring. Suzanne Parsons-Stymiest, the parish's spokeswoman, said the committee is informal and noted that Davis has decided not to speak to the news media about his interest now.

"I can confirm that, yes, he is considering a run, and he has formed an exploratory committee to explore the options," she said.

Davis joins several other local politicians -- all Republicans -- who have shown interest in the seat.

Slidell Mayor Ben Morris was the first to announce a potential run, and since then, state Sen. Tom Schedler and state Rep. Tim Burns also have signaled their interest. Term limits prevented Schedler from running again in the 11th Senate District, while Burns was re-elected without opposition in the 89th House District.

On the south shore, state Sen.-elect Steve Scalise is toying with the idea, as are Jefferson Parish Councilmen-at-large John Young and Tom Capella.

Former Gov. Dave Treen announced his candidacy just after Jindal won the gubernatorial seat.

The Democratic field is less saturated, with just two people indicating an interest in the seat.

UNO psychology professor and political novice Gilda Reed began campaigning in January, well before Jindal announced his gubernatorial plans. David Gereighty, who ran against Jindal in 2006, has said that he hasn't ruled out a second run.

The special election to fill the seat, which Jindal will vacate Jan. 14, will begin March 8 with a party primary. Starting next year, elections for U.S. House and Senate seats in Louisiana will follow a three-stage process similar to what occurs in most other states, where the major parties will hold a first primary.

A party runoff is scheduled for April 5 and a general election for May 3. Qualifying takes place Jan. 29-31. Whoever is elected in the spring would have to run for re-election next fall to serve a full two-year House term.

The 1st Congressional District spans Lake Pontchartrain, enveloping St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Washington parishes, as well as sections of Jefferson, St. Charles and Orleans parishes. Its demographics make it stand out in Louisiana: More than one in every four people holds a college degree, and the median household income is more than $40,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.