The seat being left vacant by Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal will in all likelihood stay in Republican hands, but the competitors are stacking up in what promises to be a classic south Louisiana race.
The wild card on the ballot could very well be Rep. Charlie Melancon, a Democrat from Napoleonville whose recent vote on a right-to-work bill has angered his labor support. For Dems, labor money can account for up to 30 percent of their campaign kitty, so the tiff, although quiet up to now, is being taken seriously. Additionally, with the number of voters the district lost to the 2005 hurricanes and redistricting right around the corner, Melancon's camp is already preoccupied and nervous enough.
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita are at the core of the two most organized challenges facing members of the Louisiana delegation. The National Republican Senatorial Committee is hoping the Democratic base of Sen. Mary Landrieu of New Orleans has been wiped out to the point of benefitting a GOP candidate. The NRSC has handpicked Treasurer John Kennedy as its conservative banner-holder, but Secretary of State Jay Dardenne has not yet ruled out an entrance.
Landrieu's vulnerability is not being taken lightly on the Hill. In a recent report published by Congressional Quarterly, a non-partisan publication, Landrieu's name was mentioned as a possible appointee to the Department of Homeland Security should a Democrat take the White House. The report suggested that Landrieu would "land softly" if taken out by Kennedy, Dardenne or another headhunter.
For now, the NRSC is sticking to good old oppo research, attacking Landrieu on her votes and quotes. Most recently, the group lashed out at Landrieu for standing with Democrats in the Senate to insist upon adding troop withdrawal timetables to emergency spending legislation for the military. President Bush has promised he would veto any legislation with such language.
According to a senior Army officer quoted in a story on Military.com, an online news hub connected closely with the Armed Forces, "quality of life programs for soldiers and their families would be affected worldwide if the Army doesn't receive additional funding from Congress soon." It goes on to claim that roughly "200,000 Army civilians and contractors worldwide could be furloughed or temporarily laid off if the funding isn't provided."
NRSC Communications Director Rebecca Fisher is milking it for as much as she can, although it's a gentle salvo compared to what's coming next year. "The necessary additional funding is being held up by Mary Landrieu and Democrats in Congress who continue to insist upon adding troop withdrawal timetables to the emergency spending legislation for the military," Fisher says. "How does Mary Landrieu plan on explaining to voters in Louisiana that since Democrats have put thousands of Americans out of work, they might not be having Christmas?"
Landrieu says she didn't want to see the funding "interrupted by a partisan political fight," but a stand had to be made on the issue. "We need to establish specific objectives for our presence [in Iraq], clear benchmarks for our success, and a commitment to bringing our troops home once these goals are achieved," Landrieu says. "But unrealistic timetables or irresponsible cuts to troop funding are not acceptable substitutes for a coherent strategy."
Louisiana's senior senator will surely be taken to task on every questionable vote, but she has also been proactive, filing legislation on immigration and terrorism that move her closer to center on the political spectrum.
On the flip side of the GOP strategy, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is aiming at Rep. Richard Baker of Baton Rouge because there could be a new bulk of Democratic voters in the 6th District that were displaced by the hurricanes. "Richard Baker is definitely one of our targets this session," says Kyra Jennings, a DCCC spokeswoman. "We believe he is vulnerable, but it will take the right kind of Democrat to run in that district, someone who is moderate-to-conservative, and we have been recruiting that caliber of candidate." (State Rep. Don Cazayoux of New Roads, who seems to have been edged out of the ongoing race for House speaker, is on the top of the lonely list.)
The tough talk is nothing new for Baker; he's faced stiff opposition in the past. "My district has a long history of being targeted like this, and I'm expecting more of the same next year," Baker says. "Democrats are going to be spending a lot of money in the Senate race and presidential race, so they figure they may as well drop some money in this one, too."
More than anything else, party loyalty is a major theme among state GOP die hards these days when addressing Baker's future. During this year's elections, he endorsed Democrats for statewide and local office. The decision has infuriated a few "big money" Republicans, one veteran strategist says, and they won't soon forget. When asked why he would go out on a limb, Baker says he was simply paying out for chips being cashed in by people he respects. "In politics, you have friends and you don't ask your friends whether they're Republican or Democrat," Baker says. "In past campaigns I have had Democrats support me to their detriment, and I was merely returning political favors."
Favors are indeed good to have, but it appears both Baker and Landrieu will need much more than markers to make it through the 2008 election season ' and they won't be alone in struggling to maintain their seats.
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A Baton Rouge judge is reconsidering his decision to throw out Gov. Bobby Jindal's revamp of teacher tenure and salary laws.
Ambassador François Delattre will also receive an honorary doctorate of francophone studies at the commencement at the Cajundome.
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Choice cuts from Acadiana’s news media for Friday, Dec. 20, 2013:
For many fans, it was their third consecutive year participating in French Quarter parade.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, December 20, 2013:
Lafayette Parish School Board member Greg Awbrey deserves an attaboy for his unexpected vote during Wednesday’s meeting approving a mediation session between the board and Superintendent Pat Cooper.
The cable television network's suspension of Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson from the hit reality show has drawn criticism from the governor of Robertson's home state.
The State Bond Commission gave preliminary approval to the borrowing plan Thursday without objection.
The Pediatric Clinic is housed in the same location previously closed by state budget cuts in June 2012.
Three-term Louisiana senator facing tough re-election battle is next in line for Energy Committee chairmanship.
In a letter distributed during Wednesday night's meeting, Lafayette Parish School Board member Shelton Cobb, in his final meeting as board president, called on his fellow board members to start focusing on the children and stop battling Superintendent Pat Cooper.
Joshua Dore of Breaux Bridge was sentenced Tuesday to 1.5 years in prison for counterfeiting, according to a press release issued by U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley’s office on Wednesday.
School super Pat Cooper alleges Lafayette Parish School Board member Mark Allen Babineaux, an attorney, publicly disclosed the details of a closed-door executive session.
Sun Belt commissioner presents title and practice gets under way in preparation for Saturday
Kerry Bertrand’s charge was upgraded Tuesday by an Acadia Parish grand jury from manslaughter to second-degree murder for his alleged role in the drowning death of his stepdaughter, Skylar Credeur.
Sean Payton announced Wednesday that veteran Shayne Graham was New Orleans' new kicker, and that rookie Terron Armstead would get his first start at left tackle.
Should new parents be required by law to attend special classes before being permitted to raise their child? It’s an idea state Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, is seriously considering.
The agenda for Wednesday’s meeting of the Lafayette Parish School Board tells it all: The board has lost sight of its elected purpose.
A public Mass will be held Thursday in New Orleans for artist George Rodrigue, who died Saturday of cancer at age 69.
Eight former employees of The Times-Picayune have sued the newspaper and parent Advance Publications Inc., alleging their layoffs violated a longstanding "job security pledge" and age discrimination laws.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration hasn't done an independent performance review of its $363 million privatization contract for mental health and addictive disorder treatment services.