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."
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, March 07, 2014:
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.
The NFL has formally designated New Orleans' Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is now set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal.
A federal appeals panel ruled Monday that businesses don't have to prove that they were directly harmed by BP's 2010 Gulf Of Mexico oil spill to collect settlement payments.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has closed Interstate 10 from I-49 in Lafayette to Seigen Lane in Baton Rouge.
Jim Bernhard, who engineered the sale of The Shaw Group for $3 billion, recently has told several people involved in Democratic politics that he intends to run for governor in 2015.
A New Orleans levee board wants to hold the oil and gas industry accountable for decades of damage to our state’s coastline, but the Legislature may be poised to put the kibosh on the suit.
New standards curb elective induction
CVS stops tobacco sales
If an Acadia Parish fiddler misses a note while swatting a fly, will a St. Martinville accordionist learn “Ma ‘Tite Fille”?
(It's good, it's bad and it's just crazy)