Allan Katz and Danae Columbus: Bobby Jindal reaches out to true believers in the crowd in Kenner

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Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

Conservative religious-freedom advocates still exist in America, and Gov. Bobby Jindal must connect with every single one of them if he is going to break out from the bottom of the pack to become a real player in the Republican presidential nomination race.

The ballroom at the Pontchartrain Center was packed to the gills yesterday with mostly white, flag-waving believers as Jindal made his highly structured announcement for President of the United States. The event started out with recorded messages from Archie Manning and former Gov. Mike Foster, Jindal’s mentor and former employer. His logo is a sparkling red and blue “J” that almost looks like a Christmas decoration.

Tickets (pre-registration that is) were required for the event. When we arrived without them, we were first told the announcement was “sold out” and there was not even enough space in the standing-room-only ballroom for us to squeeze in. After checking out our names probably in the voter file, officials relented and permitted us to finally enter the already crowded inner sanctum. Having surrendered our email address, we can expect unending months of Jindal fundraising pitches and unwanted newsletters. Oh, what we do sometimes to get a good story…

A video that highlighted Jindal’s accomplishments after Hurricane Katrina and the work Jindal prides himself in since he became governor also preceded Jindal’s personal remarks. Actually, the video made it appear that Jindal was governor during the storm, though the announcer did not directly say so. With the national media capturing every moment, who outside Louisiana would care if Jindal was merely a member of Congress at that time? Audience members applauded Jindal’s alleged accomplishments — which many Louisiana citizens don’t consider accomplishments at all, based on Jindal’s current polling numbers.

Presidential candidate Jindal, the youngest in the race, is an All-American guy – “tan, rested and ready for this fight,” he told this very enthusiastic crowd, which included State Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere standing on the dais with Jindal, his wife, Supriya – the youngest first lady in the nation who also introduced him – and a small smattering of African-Americans. In the spirit of diversity, an African-American war veteran led the pledge of allegiance and a second African-American female sang the national anthem. The crowd joined in, obviously moved by the moment. We did not see Jindal’s parents on the stage, nor did he introduce them or his children by name.

“I’m with Bobby all the way,” said Villere. “I’m very excited. It isn’t every day that someone we know announces his candidacy for President. It should be a great race,” he continued.

Jindal did a good job of playing to his conservative base with patriotic country-western music, a teary-eyed story about his parents struggles as immigrants, and what the American dream means to him – getting ahead because of the content of one’s character and willingness to work hard. We are all Americans, he said. Not African-Americans, not Asian-Americans, just Americans. That’s just what Bobby Jindal wants to be — just an ordinary American — as he introduces himself to America’s conservative middle-class voters in Iowa and New Hampshire. Like David Vitter, Jindal will run a tightly-scripted campaign and will be a strong debater whenever he gets the chance.

The latest national polls peg Jindal at 1 percent, quite a long way behind Jeb Bush, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker – the four leading Republican candidates this week. Of course Hillary Clinton still leads the Democratic field, with Bernie Sanders the second choice of many Democratic voters.


As the national momentum builds to remove statues that could be racially offensive or change the names of parks, schools, and public buildings, Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s apparent decision to move statues like Robert E Lee’s to more appropriate locations like museums leads us to wonder if Lee Circle will return to its historic original name – Tivoli Circle – or will take on another more politically correct name. Mayor Landrieu could hold a contest to rename the circle as part of his racial reunification outreach. Will City Park follow suit and remove the Beauregard statue? Will Palmer Park get a new name? The Lee Circle change will certainly cause lots of tourist maps to be redrawn.


Councilmember Stacy Head held a very successful fundraiser earlier this week in the private banquet rooms of Ralph Brennan’s newest restaurant, The Napoleon House, which included luscious cuisine, great French Quarter views, and a host of happy contributors. Among those in attendance were Mayor Landrieu, Councilmembers Latoya Cantrell, Susan Guidry, and Nadine Ramsey, as well as Rep. Walt Leger, Tommy Coleman, Pres Kabacoff, Jamie Neville, Howell Crosby, David Kerstein, Joe Jaeger, Blake Jones, Ted LeClerq, Susan Hess, Valerie Besthoff and many others.

Though Head has not indicated she has any interest in running for mayor in two plus years, some supporters are quietly asking what they could say or do to make Head change her mind. “Stacy would set City Hall straight if she were mayor,” one supporter said. At the moment Head seems happy for more personal time to spend with her family.

Allan Katz spent 25 years as a political reporter and columnist at The Times-Picayune, and is now editor of the Kenner Star and host of several television programs, including the Louisiana Newsmaker on Cox Cable. Danae Columbus is executive producer of Louisiana Newsmaker, and has had a 30-year career in public relations, including stints at City Hall and the Dock Board. They both currently work for the Orleans Parish School Board. Among the recent candidates who have been represented by their public relations firm are City council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.

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