- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 28, 2006

No election delay

A federal judge yesterday refused to delay New Orleans’ April 22 mayoral election, telling both sides to solve any problems that might hinder displaced residents’ ability to vote.

“If you are a displaced citizen, like I am, we have a burning desire for completeness,” said U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle, whose New Orleans home flooded after Hurricane Katrina.

Civil rights groups had urged the judge to postpone what would be the city’s first municipal elections since the hurricane, arguing that too many black residents won’t be able to participate, the Associated Press reports.

The Aug. 29 storm flooded 80 percent of the city, destroying some polling places and scattering more than half the population. What was a mostly black city of nearly a half-million people was reduced to less than 200,000 inhabitants.

Some black leaders say the state’s plan to allow mail voting for residents in other states, with satellite polling places elsewhere in Louisiana, won’t do enough to give all displaced residents the opportunity to vote.

The city elections had been set for Feb. 4, but state officials said they could not hold balloting that soon after Katrina. The postponement led to a lawsuit by residents who wanted no delays, and the state then set the April 22 date. The state’s emergency plan includes polling stations in 10 Louisiana cities, a national advertising campaign and an easing of voting rules to allow displaced residents to cast ballots.

Mayor C. Ray Nagin, criticized in some quarters over his response to the hurricane, is running for re-election against nearly two dozen opponents, including Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu and L. Ronald Forman, chief executive officer of the Audubon Nature Institute Inc.

Executive ambition

Idaho first lady Patricia Kempthorne has asked Lt. Gov. James Risch to name her as his replacement, she told the Lewiston Tribune.

Mr. Risch will succeed her husband as governor if Dirk Kempthorne is confirmed as the U.S. interior secretary. Mr. Risch would choose his own replacement.

Mrs. Kempthorne said her request caught Mr. Risch by surprise.

“He said, ‘Oh, the idea had never crossed my mind,’” she said.

The position would last eight months, till a new governor and lieutenant governor are elected.

If tapped to succeed Mr. Risch, she would serve as president of the state Senate and as acting governor when Mr. Risch is out of the state.

Mr. Risch said it was too early to comment, the Associated Press reports.

Court love-in

Retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor returned to the Supreme Court yesterday to listen to a farewell letter, written by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist before he died, praising her tenure as the nation’s first female justice.

“When you came to the court 24 years ago, you faced the same challenges that new members of the institution have always faced. But in addition, you faced a challenge that none of them had faced — you were the first woman justice,” Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote in the July 18 letter, which was signed “affectionately” by all the justices.

“Your decision to retire brings a sense of loss to each of us,” Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote.

The letter was read by Justice John Paul Stevens, the court’s senior member.

As the letter was read, Mrs. O’Connor sat in a reserved section at the front of the courtroom. Several justices smiled in her direction as they took their seats at the beginning of Monday’s session.

Air game

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger does not face re-election for seven months, but yesterday the former Hollywood superstar began television advertising to bolster his public support.

Elected in 2003 in the first recall election in California’s history, Mr. Schwarzenegger does not face any significant opposition in the June Republican primary, Reuters news agency reports.

Mr. Schwarzenegger’s two leading Democratic opponents, state Treasurer Phil Angelides and state Controller Steve Westly, have begun flooding the airwaves in recent weeks as they prepare to face off in a June primary.

Mayor withdraws

Newark Mayor Sharpe James said yesterday that he will not seek a sixth term leading New Jersey’s largest city, opening the door to a young rival who lost by fewer than 4,000 votes four years ago.

Mr. James, 70, who was first elected to the job in 1986, sent a letter to the city clerk asking that his name be removed from the May 9 ballot. The ballots are to be printed today.

The withdrawal leaves the race open for Cory Booker. Mr. James beat Mr. Booker by 3,500 votes four years ago in a campaign so rough that federal election monitors were called in. A film made about the campaign was nominated for an Oscar.

The Associated Press said Mr. Booker, 36, did not return a call for comment yesterday.

Illinois health

Illinois is about to become the first state in the nation to offer health insurance to every child within its borders, Scripps Howard News Service reports.

By charging premiums on a sliding scale, Illinois plans to offer insurance starting in July to all children, even those of middle-class families whose children currently aren’t covered. The expanded program is called All Kids.

Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich said at a Washington press conference: “It’s frankly long overdue. Every single child ought to have health insurance. In America today, there are nearly 9 million children who don’t have health insurance, in this land of opportunity.”

Kathleen Strand, a spokeswoman for All Kids, said that in most counties in Illinois, 8 percent to 10 percent of the children are not insured.

Scripps Howard told of one family in which both the husband and wife work and would have had to pay more than $300 a month to insure their sons, ages 14 and 10, under either spouse’s health insurance. All Kids will insure them for $140 per month.

Illinois expects the program to cost about $45 million in the first year.

Try, try again

Democrat Jack Davis is poised for a repeat challenge against Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, New York Republican.

Mr. Davis, the millionaire owner of a heating-element manufacturer, said yesterday that he had done some polling and found he has a chance of defeating Mr. Reynolds, the Associated Press reports. In 2004, Mr. Davis took 44 percent of the vote against Mr. Reynolds’ 56 percent.

Mr. Davis plans to announce his candidacy on Thursday for the district that stretches from the suburbs of Buffalo to the suburbs of Rochester.

Mr. Davis spent $1.2 million of his own money trying to beat Mr. Reynolds in 2004.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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