In a six-minute speech at the annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner ' where the Democratic elite meet, eat and greet, for tickets ranging upwards to $5,000 '' Campbell manages to touch on education, corruption, consumer rights and environmental concerns while being interrupted by laughter and clapping 15 times. Maybe he stacked the crowd, or it could have been the pre-event cocktails, but Campbell brings the house down. He even addresses parts of his speech directly to former U.S. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, the presidential hopeful seated among an assortment of Louisiana's political superstars. "It's okay to be a trial lawyer here tonight," Campbell assuredly advises his fellow Democrat. "You got a lot of friends."
Mostly, Campbell puts on a show reminiscent of vintage Louisiana populism. "I took on the telephone companies when I passed the 'Do Not Call List,'" a red-faced Campbell says in his country drawl, arms waving wildly. "I took on the railroads when we needed railroad safety in Louisiana."
Even his campaign's central plank smacks of bygone days when state government stared down Standard Oil. The Campbell Plan would eliminate the state income tax on both individuals and businesses; return $3.1 billion back to those same groups; and raise future money through a 6 percent fee on all oil and gas processed in the state. "They owe it to the great state of Louisiana," Campbell tells the crowd. "If anybody is worried about the oil companies leaving the state, don't worry about it, because they are making $12,500 in net profit per minute."
Campbell leaves the stage to an ovation nearing half a minute. Someone from the crowd yelled out: "Now we got a leader!"
State Sen. Walter Boasso, of course, begs to differ, and was given the same amount of time allotted to Campbell at the fundraiser. Clearly sweating, the bulky Chalmette native and recent Republican convert did his best to cheer for the home team, but he was understandably uncomfortable after joining the fold when the state GOP shunned him in favor of the race's frontrunner, U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal of Kenner.
Boasso, a self-made businessman with one of the best stories to tell in the race (one Nightline report dubbed him a "hero" in the wake of Katrina), was once a registered Democrat. Still, he was unable to let his natural charm shine as his words stumbled out tentatively during his speech. "I really want to appreciate the warm welcome that the party has given to me in coming back home, and I appreciate that," Boasso says in his opening remarks.
As for issues, the speech was thin, not unlike his Web site, which features absolutely nothing under "On the Issues." An ill-advised portion of his time was also spent introducing his opponent. "We have two good Democrats in the race," he says. "Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell is a good man."
In return, Campbell pointed to the emperor's clothing. "I ain't never left ya,'" he reminded those gathered. "I'm a Democrat."
The only wild card on the Democratic side of the race is New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who has avoided answering questions about his aspirations. Julie Vezinot, communications director for the Louisiana Democratic Party, says there haven't been any formal meetings with party leadership, and it's noteworthy that Nagin is raising money outside of the state. (The congressional seat of William Jefferson, the New Orleans Democrat facing federal corruption charges, might go up for grabs.)
But since the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner on July 21, the insider buzz has been growing around Campbell, she says, adding that the party is not favoring either candidate. "Foster got overwhelming support from the [Jefferson-Jackson Dinner]," she says, "It appeared to be a great night for him."
Traditional factions of the party Democrats need to win on a statewide level are also inching over. "I've seen some of those stirrings moving in that direction too in recent months," Vezinot says.
State Rep. Juan A. LaFonta, chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus and a Democrat from New Orleans, reports that Campbell's grassroots campaign is well underway in the city, although starting off slow with signage only. Boasso's materials, meanwhile, still haven't hit the streets. "This is going to shape up to be an interesting race," says LaFonta, who has not endorsed a candidate.
In an interview following the dinner speech, Campbell embraces the perceived shift ' although surely wondering why it didn't start when he was the lone Democrat ' and predicts key endorsements from labor and teachers will eventually be secured. "I don't think there's any question who the real Democrat is," he says. "I have 32 years of helping people as a Democrat, and I have never thought about switching parties. I'm one of the strongest, white Democrats you'll find in Louisiana."
Boasso shrugs off the assessment, still touting one of his own polls that shows a 10-percentage-point drop for Jindal and a Boasso boost from 6 percent to 21 percent ' this after spending $1.3 million for television ads to increase his name recognition. And therein resides the most noticeable difference between Campbell and Boasso: Money. Boasso spent more on media than Campbell has in his account right now, which is roughly $1.2 million. Presently, Boasso has only $232,000 on hand, but he has already loaned his campaign $1.4 million and can dig deeper if needed. Campbell, meanwhile, is challenged in his fundraising.
In the end, Boasso says his opponent is Jindal, the frontrunner who held at more than 50 percent in Boasso's own poll. He's meeting with black mayors around the state ' Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden introduced him for his announcement speech ' and staffers warn not to underestimate the burgeoning organization. Boasso says he has the time, resources and energy to weather any momentum shifts.
"The Democratic support I am getting comes from those who are ready for someone to take the fight to Bobby Jindal," Boasso says. "They are looking for someone who is willing to challenge Bobby Jindal on his record of following the incompetence of President Bush in Iraq and in New Orleans. And ultimately, they are looking for someone who can beat Bobby Jindal. They know I am that Democrat."
Struggling to preserve their Senate majority, Democrats are attacking Republicans over Medicare and Social Security in Louisiana, spending cuts in Arkansas, off-shore jobs in New Hampshire and women's issues in Colorado.
Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro says he "can't wait" to play against Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The heat keeps rising for Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal as a new slate of corruption allegations surfaced this week.
If opposing defenses sell out to stop the Packers' passing game, they risk being gashed by powerful running back Eddie Lacy, a New Orleans-area native.
At the horn the officiating crew trotted to the tunnel and left security personnel to clean up after them.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Sign "ninjas" cleaning up clutter; NYC doctor positive for Ebola; Ferguson grand jury decision nears; and more national and international news for Friday, October 24, 2014.
We can safely assume incumbent Chief K.P. Gibson isn’t too worried about this challenger.
Nationally, Republicans must gain six seats to win Senate control. The most competitive races, many in states where Obama lost in 2012, remain too close to call.
The Baton Rouge Republican has repeatedly battled a perception within his own party that he perhaps wasn't the best choice to carry the GOP banner.
Even if Jimmy Graham's production dips while the star tight end recovers from a shoulder injury, it looks like Drew Brees won't have much trouble finding other targets.
A former campaign manager for Senate candidate Rob Maness is striking at the Republican contender's tea party support, saying Maness only sought to appeal to conservative organizations because he needed money for his campaign.
Ninety-two percent of public school teachers were rated either effective or highly effective in a report the state issued marking the second year of a new statewide evaluation process.
School board members Mark Babineaux, Hunter Beasley and Tehmi Chassion can vote to fire Cooper — because we all know that’s exactly what they’ll do.
District 2 school board candidate Simon Mahan is hoping to unseat first-term incumbent and former Carencro Mayor Tommy Angelle in the Nov. 4 election.
District Attorney Mike Harson is showing his desperation by falsely attributing quotes to his opponent and blocking journalists from his social media.
The governor is traveling the country laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 presidential campaign, but his approval ratings at home hover well below 50 percent.
State District Judge Bob Downing extended the order and delayed a planned Wednesday hearing about a permanent injunction while negotiations continue between Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and the waste disposal site operator.
New Louisiana higher education commissioner Joseph Rallo will be paid more than his predecessor.
Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris each had four rushing touchdowns, and Louisiana-Lafayette rolled to 419 yards on the ground in a 55-40 victory over Arkansas State on Tuesday night.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are the validators-in-chief for Democrats struggling through a bleak campaign season in states where President Barack Obama is deeply unpopular.
President Barack Obama is turning to black radio listeners to plead for midterm votes, a targeted approach to drum up Democratic support at a time when many candidates don't want him around in person.
"I am extremely disheartened by the political machines that are attempting to hijack my efforts along with others that advocate for children."
Landrieu, who is fighting to keep her seat for a fourth term, said that Ebola is serious and precautions should be taken, but she accused Republicans of using the virus outbreak in West Africa to "create fear" here at home.
Law enforcement agencies are participating in a "Louisiana Heroin Summit," designed to address the recent rise in heroin use and drug-related deaths around the state.