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 fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
US cities bidding on Olympics; Guard prevents more Ferguson riots; storm threatens travel and more national and international news for Wednesday, November 26, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
By now, the story of how longtime LSU coach Dale Brown discovered Shaquille O'Neal has been told many times: Brown happened upon a massive 13-year-old at an army base in Germany, stayed in touch with him and eventually became like a second father.
Fate simply wasn't ready to give the New Orleans Saints a break from longtime nemesis Steve Smith.
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.