U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon of Napoleonville might be the top Louisiana Democrat in the House, but back home in the 3rd Congressional District his politics are on somewhat shaky ground. Earlier this month, the National Republican Campaign Committee spent money on radio ads attacking Melancon’s claims of being a fiscal conservative as a member of the all-Democratic Blue Dog Coalition. The spot contends Melancon doesn’t vote like a Blue Dog, but rather “like a lap dog — a lap dog for [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi and President [Barack] Obama.”
Additionally, special interest groups are predicting that the 3rd Congressional District, which is anchored by Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes as well as portions of Acadiana, could be merged with New Orleans’ 2nd Congressional District after redistricting goes into effect in 2011. Redistricting takes place after each U.S. Census, and next year’s survey could leave Melancon living in a dramatically different district.
When asked to comment on the situation in a recent interview, Melancon said he wasn’t giving it much thought. That was probably an understatement.
On paper, however, Melancon’s situation looks better. He was elected unopposed to a third term last year and is presently sitting on more than $1 million in his campaign kitty. Moreover, the Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election tracker, is forecasting that the 3rd Congressional District will remain under Democratic control following the 2010 fall elections.
But not every piece of paper shows a rosy outlook for the congressman. For instance, The Daily Iberian reported on a contentious meeting where Melancon took considerable heat from his constituents in that area. Reporter Heather Miller’s first sentence offered a snapshot: “U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon ‘took a beating’ from a crowd of fiery residents Thursday night as he defended his recent voting record on several bills in Congress including the economic stimulus package, corporate bailouts and the federal budget.”
That kind of press has Melancon’s political enemies digging around for a candidate. In Ascension Parish recently, business owners have lobbied Sheriff Jeff Wiley, a Democrat, to run against Melancon. Wiley, however, says it isn’t in the cards, although he admitted that anything can happen over the next few months. “I’m flattered by the notion, but I enjoy being sheriff and I don’t have intentions to be anything but sheriff,” Wiley says. “I don’t see me running.”
Meanwhile, the NRCC has been courting state Rep. Nickie Monica, R-LaPlace. For his part, Monica says the 3rd Congressional District is much more conservative than many people think and U.S. Sen. John McCain carried the region with 61 percent as last year’s Republican presidential candidate. “What gets me is the congressman comes back in the district and says he’s a Blue Dog Democrat, but he doesn’t have the record to back it up,” Monica says. “I want to challenge that.”
Political journalist John Maginnis noted in his Louisiana Political Fax Weekly last month that national Democrats could use the growing competition to lure Melancon back into running against GOP Sen. David Vitter of Metairie next year, rather than making another bid for his House seat.
Melancon pondered the changeup in 2008, but announced in March of this year that he had decided against it — albeit in a style that left the proverbial door open a bit. “Never say never,” Melancon said at the time, “but I’m not contemplating a run at this time.”
Robin Winchell, Melancon’s communications director, was contacted for this story but declined to comment since it was campaign-related (federal election laws seek to separate district work from campaign work). She also added by e-mail that the congressman was likewise passing on campaign-related interviews “at this point.”
Scott Jordan, communications director for the Louisiana Democratic Party, says Melancon is focused “on the issues that are most important to Louisiana and his constituents” and not politics. “From health care and education to coastal erosion and business development, Congressman Melancon is committed to working toward solutions and legislation that benefit our state, our families and our economy,” Jordan says.
That may be the company line for now, but those close to Melancon predict he’ll soon be focusing on something else — Vitter’s seat. And he won’t be alone. A number of Democrats are sniffing around the post, most notably Shaw CEO Jim Bernhard, who made his money match his mouth last month when he returned $13.5 million in economic development funds to the state to help patch holes in higher education’s budget. State Sen. Eric LaFleur of Ville Platte and former Congressman Chris John of Crowley have also been mentioned.
Then there’s political tenderfoot Stormy Daniels, who, thanks to an illustrious career in adult cinema, already has a following. She also has experience on a key issue already — child protection issues, for which Daniel has long been an advocate. Recruited by Democratic operatives, Daniel announced last month that she was forming an exploratory committee but had not yet decided to run. That may be so, but Daniels sure looks like a seasoned pol. “Too many in government ignore the voices of those whom they claim to represent,” she said in a recent press release. “I promise you that I will not.”
She also has a crafty team behind her. On her campaign Web site, TeamStormy.com, the first 100 contributors are offered an autographed copy of her memoir Stormblazer! that details her life up to this year’s listening tour, which Daniels conducted to gauge voter response. “Stormblazer! is a one of a kind piece of political history,” the Web site promises.
Somehow, somewhere, it’s quite possible that Melancon and Daniels will cross paths, which would simply thrill and tickle national Democrats. But they wouldn’t be thrilled that Louisiana’s top Dem is running in the same circles as one of the world’s most noticeable porn starlets. It would be because Melancon is parlaying his popularity as a three-term congressman into an aggressive bid against junior Sen. David Vitter, whose background will create just as much sex-chatter as Daniel’s next year when election-season foreplay finally gives way to the big show
JUNE 16 This story in the Advocate tells us that the state Department of Education is taking a look at the Course Choice program. They're doing that because the legislature (probably responding to reporting by Tom Aswell, who does not work for the Advocate) ordered them to make sure that these private companies aren't signing six-year-olds up for high school Latin classes without their parents' knowledge or consent.
JUNE 17 Columnist James Gill writes about the recent complaint of death row inmates at Angola: it's hot as you-know-what in their cells, with the heat index topping 120 for months. Since we're not executing people anymore (Gill opines) then we should probably officially end the practice of putting people on death row. The prisoners, by the way, are not asking for cool breezes: they only ask for clean water and a temp that doesn't top 88.
JUNE 17 Here's blogger Ian McGibboney's take on the Baton Rouge plan to give bus tickets to homeless people who have a home with family who live far away. Taken from one point of view, it could be a good solution for some people. But McGibboney raises some good points here, including this one: Why not improve opportunities for everybody in Baton Rouge so these people can find the jobs they came to BR for?
JUNE 17 Picayune columnist Jarvis DeBerry talks here about the Zimmerman trial, but the real topic is the concept of a black man being more dangerous, somehow, than a white man in a fight. It is an interesting discussion, and one that may enlighten people who think that racism doesn't exist because nobody's keeping black folks from eating at the Woolworth lunch counter.
JUNE 17 Here's an interesting column from Baton Rouge Business Report's publisher, Rolfe McCollister, about anger against the government. It's brewing because of recent revelations about the IRS and the GSA, he says. It's readable, not just for the subject, but because of McCollister's collection of sources: Huffington Post, National Review and Wikipedia. That's a combo you don't see every day.
JUNE 17 In this American Press post, Jim Beam talks about the high school diploma track that lets kids who aren't interested in university get what they want and need out of high school. The diplomas get kids ready for technical school, Beam explains, and then he goes on to give some of the numbers. Some of these numbers might really surprise people who think technical school is second best. And, Beam adds, a college diploma does not guarantee anybody a job.
JUNE 17 The Washington Post reports here that OSHA is going to investigate the explosion that occurred last week in Donaldsonville, shortly after the other fatal accident in Geismar. As soon as the site is safe, State Police will be pulling out of the Donaldsonville plant to make way for OSHA investigators, the story reports. (Hey, here's an idea: why don't they go a couple miles down the road and figure out what happened when that massive sinkhole started sucking up land.)
JUNE 17 Robert Mann writes about the LSU Board of Supervisors in this post, taking a look at the many ways board members have served Gov. Jindal and not their university or their students. The board members are esteemed members of their fields, but can't seem to do anything but say "yes" to Jindal, regardless of the cost to LSU, Mann opines.
Frank’s Casing Crew, now doing business as Frank’s International, will make its final appearance on ABiz’s list of the Top 50 Privately Held Companies in Acadiana this year, and once again, it will likely be at the top with more than $1 billion in annual revenues. The 75-year-old company specializing in tubular fabrication and installation services to the oil and gas industry plans to go public this year.
The defeat, or rather highjacking of House Bill 420 in the final days of this year's Legislative Session, say Reps. Vincent Pierre and Terry Landry, is the result of the propaganda spread by one unidentified local media outlet and an unnamed former state Representative, but nothing to do with the original legislation's lack of checks, balances or details.
He’s a singer. A songwriter. A piano man. A family man. He’s even got his own Wikipedia entry. He’s David Egan. And he knows ancient secrets about the monolithic stones of Stonehenge that he’s not willing to share.