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."
Local and state agents Thursday night raided The Keg, the popular college bar located in the area known as The Strip, leading to the (at least) temporary closure of the venue.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, April 18, 2014:
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to use $210 million in surplus and one-time money to help balance next year's budget received the backing Thursday of the State Bond Commission, support that was needed for the maneuver to work.
State wildlife and fisheries agents have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of stealing crawfish.
An East Feliciana Parish lawmaker has jettisoned his proposal to make it harder for a condemned prisoner to appeal a death sentence.
Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday will vote on a resolution that if approved would clear the way for a December ballot proposition asking voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax parishwide to help fund the construction of a new terminal at Lafayette Regional Airport.
Just days before the fourth anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill, the Coast Guard has moved cleanup of Louisiana's coast to a new phase, allowing BP to end its "active" efforts in the area.
Legislators still must leave their guns at the door of the Louisiana Capitol.
Sen. Fred Mills may have an "R" behind his name, but his actions in the Louisiana Legislature transcend the established boundaries of his party.
The Louisiana House overwhelmingly rejected a repeal of the state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law Tuesday.
The Louisiana Senate sided with Gov. Bobby Jindal and the oil industry Tuesday, agreeing to void a lawsuit that a south Louisiana flood board filed against more than 90 oil and gas companies for coastal damage.
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.