Democrats look to Cravins to run against Boustany, a Legislative pay increase and more

DEMOCRATS RECRUITING CRAVINS JR. TO RUN AGAINST BOUSTANY The national Democratic Party is putting the full court press on state Sen. Don Cravins Jr. to challenge incumbent Republican Charles Boustany in the 7th Congressional District. Cravins, who recently expressed interest in possibly switching parties to run against Boustany as an independent, says the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has been in close contact with him and offered substantial financial support were he to run as a Democrat. Cravins, along with Democratic African-American state legislators Lydia Jackson of Shreveport and Michael Jackson of Baton Rouge, have considered Congressional runs as independents, partly because of the Democratic Party’s poor track record of supporting black candidates in major state elections and majority white districts. Cravins saw his father receive little party backing for his Congressional run in 2004.

“I’d like to run as a Democrat,” Cravins says. “But right now, I’m more concerned over the decision of whether I’m going to run or not. [The Democratic Party] has been talking to me about things I really wanted to hear the party talk to me about. I’m going to be traveling to D.C. in the next two weeks and I’ll make up my mind very shortly.” Cravins says he has been contacted directly by both DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen and House Majority Whip James Clyburn. While in D.C., Cravins also plans to meet with former Louisiana Senator and 7th District Congressman John Breaux, who also has reached out to him.  

The national Democratic Party is currently riding high after three consecutive victories this year in Congressional districts formerly held by Republicans — including Louisiana’s 6th District. “I think they’re just excited about the South,” Cravins says, adding that recent elections seem to show discontent with the current leadership in Washington. “It’s encouraged me that people want change,” he says. “$4 gas is hitting everybody. The war’s having an effect on everybody.”

Among other things, Cravins says he will be talking with Democratic Party leaders about his more conservative positions on social issues. Noting that Boustany signed on early to the presidential campaign of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is pro-choice and pro-gun control, Cravins says, “I think I can out-conservative Boustany.”

LEGISLATORS’ PAY TO TRIPLE?

With an estimated $820 million surplus flowing into state coffers thanks to higher oil prices, Louisiana legislators think it’s an appropriate time for them to get raises. Senate Bill 672 , which would triple the pay of legislators from $16,800 to $50,700, passed through the Senate Finance Committee unopposed. The bill would also double the current annual expense allowance from $6,000 to $12,000. (Lawmakers’ daily per diem of $143 during legislative sessions would stay at its current level.)

The bill now moves to the Senate, where it should spark intense debate — especially since the House Appropriations Committee just stripped $120 million in education and health care spending from the budget.

Besides lawmakers, there’s at least one vocal supporter of the bill. The Advocate reported that Lafayette resident and Baton Rouge uberlobbyist Randy Haynie spoke out on behalf of the pay raises. “I do not believe the public is aware of the hours you put in as public servants,” Haynie told the committee members.

Ah, what altruism and concern from Haynie — the man dubbed “Louisana’s super-lobbyist,” the legislative point man for corporations including AT&T, GE, Pfizer and Philip Morris USA. “Organizations like these understand what’s at stake when their interests come before the Louisiana Legislature,” says Haynie’s Web site. “Time and again, they choose Haynie & Associates to make sure their goals are met.”

Haynie would be a perfect lobbyist for a dairy and bakery company — he knows the importance of buttering both sides of his bread.

WHO GETS CREDIT FOR THE NUCOR MILL MOVE?

The first taker out of the gate last Thursday morning was the Democratic duo of Sen. Mary Landrieu of New Orleans and Congressman Charlie Melancon of Napoleonville. They fired off a media advisory shortly before 9 a.m. announcing that steel-maker Nucor Corporation had applied for a permit in St. James Parish. Their missive touted legislation shepherded by the pair that allows Gulf Coast businesses to take advantage of construction perks.

Roughly an hour later, Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal sent out his own “Heads Up” email containing a Nucor press release that quoted the GOP chief as attracting a “facility that can become a national model for responsible manufacturing and economic growth.”

Finally, barely 30 minutes later, a ghost from politics past entered the fray. “In September of 2007, I made a visit to Nucor’s Charleston plant, assuring company officials that I was confident the next administration would continue our commitment to landing a major steel manufacturer,” said Democratic former Gov. Kathleen Blanco in her own release. “This was a major part of our transition negotiations. I am so pleased that the Jindal administration followed through with this goal and that our efforts are moving forward.”

So who deserves credit? The joint release by Landrieu and Melancon may have put it best: “Nucor worked with former Gov. Kathleen Blanco and Gov. Bobby Jindal…” But with the mill is expected to generate 500 permanent jobs paying an average of $75,000 annually, it isn’t surprising to see a bevy of Louisiana politicians wanting a piece of the publicity.

Contributors: Nathan Stubbs, Scott Jordan and Jeremy Alford

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