Wednesday, February, 9, 2011
Democrat Nathan Granger says a recent poll shows him with a sizable lead in the state Senate District 26 race, leaving us to ponder: Does a Democrat really have a realistic shot at getting elected in Louisiana anymore? By Walter Pierce
Vermilion Parish business owner and Police Juror Nathan Granger has been pressing the flesh feverishly since announcing in January that he would seek the open state Senate District 22 seat vacated in December by Nick Gautreaux, who accepted the post of commissioner of the Office of Motor Vehicles.
A conservative Democrat and UL alumnus who mortgaged his home almost 20 years ago to start a small oil services company that now employes hundreds — Quality Companies ranked 28th on ABiz’s most recent list of the top 50 privately held companies in Acadiana — the 42-year-old Granger is well-known within his police jury district. But Senate District 26 spans almost half of his native Vermilion Parish, plus a quarter of Acadia and Lafayette parishes and almost 10 percent of St. Landry. That’s a lot of ground to cover in a compressed election season.
Granger’s only competitor in the race is 38-year-old Republican state Rep. Jonathan Perry, also a Vermilion Parish native, and the election is Feb. 19.
“I kiss the family on the head at night while they’re sleeping and I kiss the family on the head when I leave in the morning,” Granger half jokes.
Since announcing in early January, Granger has been knocking on doors, meeting with civic groups and appearing on local radio and TV stations, and he’s pumped a considerable sum of his own money into a campaign that includes television commercials in heavy rotation. Now he’s waving a poll he had commissioned recently that shows him with an astounding 20-point lead with the election rapidly approaching.
Conducted among 400 likely voters Jan. 30-31 by Lauer Johnson Research, a Democratic firm, Granger’s poll shows him with a 49-29 percent lead over Perry. Although Democrat Granger is seeking a seat mostly recently held by his own party, release of the poll raised some eyebrows in Acadiana, which has swung solidly red since Gautreaux was first elected.
“I’m not surprised because in this district the people vote for the person in the race,” Granger counters. “The reception has been outstanding. I’ll tell you what people have been telling me: They’re concerned about guys who are career politicians, about lawyers who are making laws in Baton Rouge versus a business owner like myself who started a business from scratch. That’s what it is. It has nothing to do with the D or the R. I’m a conservative Democrat. I’m pro-life, pro-family, pro-gun and I’m pro-business. It’s not a political pledge; it’s what I do every day in my life — I live it.”
Perry bristles at Granger’s characterization of him as a “career politician.”
“I think that is very hypocritical because I’ve been a legislator for three years, and he’s been a police juror for three years,” Perry says. “So how one can be more of a career politician than the other is beside me.”
And Perry points to his own poll, conducted Feb. 4 among 300 likely voters by Teddlie Media, showing him with a nine-point lead over Granger — 40-31 percent.
Based on Democrats’ ebbing political fortunes in the state, Perry’s poll probably seems closer to reality for most political observers. A lawyer by vocation who is also a professional stand-up Cajun comic, Perry announced for the seat the week Gautreaux confirmed he was vacating it. He has tea party support and is quick to tick off his conservative bona fides.
“I voted against all fees. I voted against all taxes. I voted against the legislative pay raise,” Perry says. “And I actually voted against last year’s budget, which the governor voted for, the speaker of the House voted for, the president of the Senate voted for. There were only, I think, 34 of us that voted against it, and the reason being it was a bad budget.”
The first-term rep also sponsored the type of red-meat legislation that sells with social conservatives, including a bill that would allow Louisiana birth certificates to only bear the names of married parents. The bill, widely seen as targeting gay and lesbian couples, didn’t make it into law. But the effort burnished Perry’s conservative credentials.
“To be honest, I just thought Perry was going to win in a walkover,” admits UL political science professor Pearson Cross. “And then I started seeing all those ads for Nathan Granger, just on and on and on. And he does have a base as a police juror. And I’ve been told that the district is more shaped down his way than Perry’s way in terms of where Perry’s district is. So, man, at this point it looks like what I once thought was a walkover for Perry is quite possibly a close race and could prevent an outright Republican majority in the state Senate.”
With Gautreaux’s seat open and newly minted Republican Fred Mills taking over in District 22, the state Senate is currently knotted at 19-19. A Granger win would keep the chamber Democrat, something that has seemed increasingly unlikely in Louisiana.
|Founder and president of Quality Companies, an ABiz Top 50 privately held business,
Nathan Granger (center) is banking on voters in state Senate District 26 choosing the
person over the party. Granger is a lifelong Democrat who has refused to switch parties,
as many notable Dems have done in recent months. Currently in his first term on the
Vermilion Parish Police Jury, Granger faces first-term Republican state
Rep. Jonathan Perry in the Feb. 19 election to replace Nick Gautreaux.
Granger, unlike Mills and other prominent Democrats such as Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and Natural Resources Secretary Scott Angelle who defected to the GOP, says this race isn’t about party affiliation; it’s about the person. He chose to stick with the Dems.
“It’s a cycle, man,” Granger insists. “Republicans in the state must not be real confident in their candidate because I got a ton of calls to switch. You know what, I’m not one of those to switch right before an election. My opponent switched before his last race four years ago. He did that to get Republican money to run his race. That’s pretty shallow in my book — switching just for political gain to get money.”
Cross agrees that party affiliation is less of a factor the closer you get to the local level: “In a race like this I tend to think it’s less ideological, less R and D, and more your base,” he says. “Louisiana’s gotten partisan to the point where partisanship matters very much at the [U.S.] Senate and the congressional level. But when you get down to a kind of rural area race like this, political party matters less than previous office holding and who you are and how you’re viewed in that general area — what your name recognition is.”
Increasing the slope that Granger must climb as a Democrat, his close friend and fellow Dem Gautreaux is in a tough position and has to hedge his bets: He won’t be confirmed as OMV commissioner until the session begins in April, and a state office head’s confirmation can be blocked by the senator who represents him. If Gautreaux openly endorses Granger and Perry wins the election, things could get dicey.
|State Rep. Jonathan Perry|
Several members of Lafayette’s legislative delegation, some of them Republicans, are being publicly diplomatic.
“It’s always a tough position to be in,” admits state Sen. Mike Michot. “I’ve served with Jonathan Perry in the Legislature and know his record, and I think he’d make a good senator. From what I know about Granger, he’s a self-made businessman and he’d also make a good senator.”
Michot and state Reps. Page Cortez and Joel Robideaux, the independent among them, attended a fundraiser for Perry recently at Schilling Distributors and at least two of them — Robideaux and Michot — opened their checkbooks for Perry. The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, a conservative pro-business lobby, gave Perry a 100 percent on its recent legislative scorecard. But LABI gave the same donation — $2,500, according to a source — to each candidate.
Granger, meanwhile, is unfazed by the demographics that are mounting against Democrats in Louisiana.
“I can’t worry about that,” he says. “I think the party definitely needs to get in shape, get on board with what’s going on. But I’m not an advocate for any party. I’m Nathan Granger, and I’m running for the Senate seat.”
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to use $210 million in surplus and one-time money to help balance next year's budget received the backing Thursday of the State Bond Commission, support that was needed for the maneuver to work.
State wildlife and fisheries agents have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of stealing crawfish.
An East Feliciana Parish lawmaker has jettisoned his proposal to make it harder for a condemned prisoner to appeal a death sentence.
Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday, April 17, 2014:
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday will vote on a resolution that if approved would clear the way for a December ballot proposition asking voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax parishwide to help fund the construction of a new terminal at Lafayette Regional Airport.
Just days before the fourth anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill, the Coast Guard has moved cleanup of Louisiana's coast to a new phase, allowing BP to end its "active" efforts in the area.
Legislators still must leave their guns at the door of the Louisiana Capitol.
Sen. Fred Mills may have an "R" behind his name, but his actions in the Louisiana Legislature transcend the established boundaries of his party.
The Louisiana House overwhelmingly rejected a repeal of the state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law Tuesday.
The Louisiana Senate sided with Gov. Bobby Jindal and the oil industry Tuesday, agreeing to void a lawsuit that a south Louisiana flood board filed against more than 90 oil and gas companies for coastal damage.
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.
Now that lawmakers have shot down efforts to cap annual interest rates for payday loans, supporters for stricter regulations of the storefront lenders are rallying behind another strategy.