Blanco stumbled badly in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but she has a shot at redemption in the current session. In baseball parlance, she's swinging for the fence ' which means she could hit a home run â?¦ or strike out.
"This is a very difficult position to be in," says Dr. Kirby Goidel, director of the Public Policy Research Lab at Louisiana State University. "The task of rebuilding and everything else in this session is such a difficult job to accomplish, and her political capital, as far as approval ratings, is so low."
The latest poll by SurveyUSA, which is funded by a media consortium, has Blanco's approval at 36 percent, down sharply from the 55 percent approval rating she enjoyed a year ago.
Add to that the recent low voter turnout in New Orleans and Blanco's political prospects become even more tenuous. Roughly 27,000 fewer votes were cast in New Orleans' April 22 primary than in the 2003 governor's race. That could force Blanco to look elsewhere to shore up her base. Signing important bills into law and steering the Legislature her way would be a good place to start.
When the session convened, Blanco came on strong, vowing to veto any effort to expand gambling. She sent her chief attorney, Terry Ryder, to echo that message in committee meetings. One after another, lawmakers folded ' save Rep. Warren Triche, a Lafourche Parish Democrat who continued pushing his Texas Hold'em bill until it was defeated on the House floor.
The governor also promised to quell any move to resurrect the Urban and Rural Development Funds, which have been tagged "slush funds" because they were doled out by previous administrations to favored lawmakers for pet projects back home. Some lawmakers on key budget committees had pledged to restore the funds, but it now appears that move is dead, according to House Speaker Joe Salter, a Florien Democrat. "They don't exist," Salter told a north Louisiana newspaper, adding there will still be money available in places like the Parish Road Fund and Community Development Block Grants for lawmakers currying favor with the Fourth Floor.
From a political perspective, Blanco solidified one of her strongest bases of support ' oil and gas interests ' by backing a measure to allow the Department of Natural Resources, rather than the courts, to decide how to handle so-called legacy suits, which involve polluted land, property owners and oil companies.
The legislation, authored by Sen. Robert Adley, a Benton Democrat, made it out of committee and was pending action in the Senate last week. Supporting Adley's bill is a slick move for Blanco, who could use fundraising help from Big Oil before next year's elections.
Meanwhile, Blanco has issues with other political factions, such as the Legislative Black Caucus. While most lawmakers like Blanco's recent staffing changes (replacing her legislative director and chief of staff), the healing process is slow after the caucus felt snubbed by Blanco during previous legislative sessions.
"For myself, personally, there has been more of a concerted effort to communicate," says Rep. Michael L. Jackson, a Baton Rouge Democrat. "It doesn't mean that everything is fine and dandy at the Capitol, but there are new opportunities for us to adequately discuss issues."
On the policy front, Blanco saw a House committee ignore her wishes and approve a voucher program for underperforming New Orleans schools. She managed to swat the initiative down by just one vote on the House floor and by a tie vote in a Senate committee.
For their part, Republicans remain a thorn in the administration's side. They recently forced the governor to amend a section of her post-Katrina housing program that was going to be based partly on income levels. The GOP also is expected to oppose her health care priorities.
As the second half of the session approaches, the state's operating budget is still in committee and the governor's crown jewel ' her proposed teacher pay raise ' has yet to be fully aired. That will be the real test of her new staff.
"We feel confident and comfortable that the pay raise will be successful in passing," says Hunt Downer, Blanco's legislative director. "And there are many more initiatives from her package that have already passed or are coming up."
Goidel says some measures, such as strengthening the homeland security office and consolidating New Orleans government, could expedite the rebuilding process and give Blanco a boost ' if she can take credit for them. But what she needs most is the means to keep lawmakers from spinning out of control on other issues.
"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.
State education officials are preparing to release performance scores for public schools and public school districts.
Saints coach Sean Payton is starting a new week by emphasizing, repeatedly, the many good things he noticed during New Orleans' latest loss.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Oscar de la Renta dies; Pistorius sentenced; World Series begins and more national and international news for Tuesday, October 21, 2014.
We will be offering our recommendations on the constitutional amendments tomorrow.
The justices did not comment in leaving in place lower court rulings that dismissed the lawsuits against BP and other companies involved in the worst U.S. offshore oil spill.
White registration is down by 7,700 voters while black registration has shot up by 7,100 voters.
Even though it had been rumored for months, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu finally pulled the trigger recently on a major campaign shakeup that moved control over to a few Big Easy insiders.
Louisiana's health department says it will seek law changes to stop billing sexual assault victims for exams and tests.
It wasn’t the historic slashes to higher ed funding or the ensuing tuition spikes that recently had LSU’s student body and faculty riled up in collective outrage.
Will $400 be enough for the re-election campaign of LPSB's Hunter Beasley to overcome two years of holding our school system hostage and hurting the education of our children all because of a personal dislike of the superintendent?
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said Friday he expects his playing status in Detroit to be decided by coach Sean Payton on Sunday, shortly before the game.
Lawmakers have sidestepped a decision on whether they accept claims from Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration that the state closed last year's books with a nearly $179 million surplus.
Coming off the high of a fourth quarter comeback against Tampa Bay and a helpful bye week, linebacker Junior Galette sees a real turnaround coming for New Orleans' struggling defense.
Former President Bill Clinton, the Democratic Party's most popular surrogate this fall, is heading to Louisiana early next week for a campaign rally with U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.
Time and again you hear people say DA Mike Harson is unbeatable because he's doled out political favors over the past 20 years. But a new lawsuit could end that speculation.
After the season's signature win (so far), here are some helpful tips for Cajun Nation during the conference stretch.
Did the state close last year's books with a surplus or a deficit?
Practicing without limitations on Wednesday, running back Mark Ingram looked ready to return to a New Orleans offense that once again ranks among the NFL's best when the Saints play at Detroit on Sunday.
It’s been decided: Superintendents of Louisiana’s public school system will retain the controversial powers granted by Act 1 of the 2012 session.
Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy has a bone to pick with the Jindal administration, which recently — surprise! — announced that the state ended the most recent budget year with a $178.5 million dollar surplus.
The messaging battle, however, isn't tied to individual campaign accounts. Third-party groups have poured millions of dollars into advertising.