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.
The Lafayette superintendent insists the budget is illegal and vows to fight on.
"I am not a scientist," Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has said numerous times, a response that other members of his party have parroted.
Republicans are running strong races against endangered Democratic incumbents in states such as North Carolina, Colorado, Arkansas, Louisiana and Alaska. Republicans are also looking to replace retiring Democrats in Iowa and West Virginia with a GOP lawmaker.
Republican congressman Vance McAllister is trying to make up to Louisiana voters for getting too close to a married former employee.
You may not like all of “it,” but U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, unlike many of her colleagues, isn't sitting around twiddling her thumbs in Congress.
Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro says he "can't wait" to play against Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The heat keeps rising for Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal as a new slate of corruption allegations surfaced this week.
If opposing defenses sell out to stop the Packers' passing game, they risk being gashed by powerful running back Eddie Lacy, a New Orleans-area native.
At the horn the officiating crew trotted to the tunnel and left security personnel to clean up after them.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Sign "ninjas" cleaning up clutter; NYC doctor positive for Ebola; Ferguson grand jury decision nears; and more national and international news for Friday, October 24, 2014.
We can safely assume incumbent Chief K.P. Gibson isn’t too worried about this challenger.
Nationally, Republicans must gain six seats to win Senate control. The most competitive races, many in states where Obama lost in 2012, remain too close to call.
The Baton Rouge Republican has repeatedly battled a perception within his own party that he perhaps wasn't the best choice to carry the GOP banner.
Even if Jimmy Graham's production dips while the star tight end recovers from a shoulder injury, it looks like Drew Brees won't have much trouble finding other targets.
A former campaign manager for Senate candidate Rob Maness is striking at the Republican contender's tea party support, saying Maness only sought to appeal to conservative organizations because he needed money for his campaign.
Ninety-two percent of public school teachers were rated either effective or highly effective in a report the state issued marking the second year of a new statewide evaluation process.
School board members Mark Babineaux, Hunter Beasley and Tehmi Chassion can vote to fire Cooper — because we all know that’s exactly what they’ll do.
District 2 school board candidate Simon Mahan is hoping to unseat first-term incumbent and former Carencro Mayor Tommy Angelle in the Nov. 4 election.
District Attorney Mike Harson is showing his desperation by falsely attributing quotes to his opponent and blocking journalists from his social media.
The governor is traveling the country laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 presidential campaign, but his approval ratings at home hover well below 50 percent.
State District Judge Bob Downing extended the order and delayed a planned Wednesday hearing about a permanent injunction while negotiations continue between Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and the waste disposal site operator.
New Louisiana higher education commissioner Joseph Rallo will be paid more than his predecessor.
Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris each had four rushing touchdowns, and Louisiana-Lafayette rolled to 419 yards on the ground in a 55-40 victory over Arkansas State on Tuesday night.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are the validators-in-chief for Democrats struggling through a bleak campaign season in states where President Barack Obama is deeply unpopular.