Louisiana is in an unprecedented position to woo presidential candidates and demand real promises from them. Katrina and Rita thrust the state onto a national platform and voters ' as well as displaced citizens ' are keeping tabs. A promise from the executive branch to south Louisiana today is also a promise to Texas, Georgia, Illinois and all the states that have taken in evacuees and are being asked to help fund the rebuilding of Louisiana.
Dr. Pearson Cross, a professor of political science at UL Lafayette, says the upcoming national campaign season will be somewhat predictable outside state lines. Candidates will make the same speech in every town, and only certain issues will be pushed. But when they make a stop in the Bayou State, the status quo will likely be forsaken.
"I think you would be making a major mistake to avoid tailoring a special message to and about Louisiana," Cross says. "There will be voters everywhere waiting to hear about the federal response, and that will continue through a myriad of campaign stops."
And a good share of those stops will likely be in Louisiana. During the spring regular session, lawmakers voted to move the state's presidential primary up on the calendar, a switch that is expected to lead to more attention from the candidates and increased revenues from political business. The decision also comes at an opportune moment ' for the first time in more than 50 years, there is no heir apparent running for the office, as both President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney will be stepping down. The contest for the 44th presidency is wide open.
That's one of the many reasons Mike Bayham, a former St. Bernard Parish councilman and current member of the Republican State Central Committee, felt it was time to take Louisiana from 32nd to 16th on the national caucus-primary calendar. He was behind an effort that will change the primary, beginning in 2008, from the second Tuesday in March to the second or third Saturday in February, depending on the date of Mardi Gras.
The chairmen from the state Republican and Democratic parties also lobbied for the bill during the spring session, touting it as an economic benefit for everyone from consultants to newspapers. But the real beauty of the changeover is it gives Louisiana more prominence in the national primary system, placing it ahead of voter-rich states like California, New York, Texas and Florida in picking the next president.
By the time Louisiana cast its votes under the old system, the primary contest was already decided and there was no reason for White House hopefuls to stop in the state and stump for votes. It was also a rarity to hear a presidential candidate address specific Louisiana issues in New Hampshire, which is among the states that traditionally hold a January primary. "At best, Louisiana could expect a brief airport hangar rally from a candidate who needed to stop off to refuel his plane between Tampa and Dallas," Bayham says.
With the continued rebuilding of south Louisiana, the early primary will also motivate presidential candidates to visit the devastated areas that will be asking for money for years to come, he says. The trips could also open up new lines of communication and help demonstrate the needs of the state.
How much Louisiana's influence in this process is bolstered due to the decision remains largely unknown. Alabama recently moved into the February fray as well and other states are pondering the switch, which could lead to a watering-down of the strategy. But McCain's early and continued interest in an area of the country where President Bush did so well is an indication that Louisiana should receive serious face time with the major players in 2008.
Cross says the circumstances are unprecedented for the state and that candidates will be expected to address the insurance crisis, trailer parks, levee systems, "Rita amnesia," coastal restoration and all the crucial issues of the historic rebuilding process. Continued national media interest in this process will only heighten the drama, and the earlier primary will serve as a catalyst. Combined, they will give Louisiana a presidential campaign season like never before.
"This will be an odd election," Cross says. "No one is beholden to Bush or the Bush administration, so they will have free will to say whatever they want about the hurricanes and the response. They will also be in a position to make big promises to a state that needs them right now."
State Rep. Lenar Whitney — one of a handful of Republican candidates vying for Louisiana’s 6th Congressional district — has been described by Cook Political Report analyst David Wasserman as one of the most “frightening or fact-averse candidate[s]” he’s ever met following her reaction to an interview last week.
Mid-August hearing dates have been set for dueling lawsuits over Louisiana's use of the Common Core education standards in public schools.
An investigation into the last-minute passage of a pension hike for the state police superintendent continues, despite Col. Mike Edmonson's decision not to accept the increase.
Safety Jairus Byrd practiced with the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday for the first time since his signing in March.
Sentencing has been delayed for a businessman who provided key testimony in the corruption case that resulted in the conviction of former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.
The spectre of priest sex abuse has returned to haunt the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette following the recent release of an investigative report by Minnesota Public Radio, revealing new allegations of another child predator hiding behind the clerical collar.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Times Square impersonator crackdown; Israel shells Gaza school; Russia hit with sanctions and more national and international news for Wednesday, July 30, 2014.
The sponsor of a Louisiana law that requires doctors that perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges doesn't believe the provision is in jeopardy after a federal appeals court struck down a similar Mississippi law.
Louisiana's state school board has jumped into a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal that accuses the governor of illegally meddling in education policy through his efforts to block Common Core education standards.
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A bipartisan congressional deal to help improve veterans' health care access includes approval for new veterans clinics in Lafayette and Lake Charles.
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The Democratic incumbent, seeking her fourth term in office, is a strong supporter of the Export-Import Bank, which helps finance exports of U.S. companies.
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As New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis spoke about the opening of training camp, steep, tree-covered mountains were in full view behind them.
The family of fallen cyclist Lon Lomas is speaking out after the release this week of the man charged with his death.
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The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is considering whether to get involved in a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal for his attempts to undermine use of the Common Core education standards in Louisiana's public schools.