The background music fades out, and a reporter asks if it's a swipe at Gov. Kathleen Blanco. Squinting from the sun and smiling at a question he probably knew was coming, Boasso, a Republican businessman from Chalmette, rejects the assertion and contends his GetItDoneLa.org Web site is the real reason for the dog-and-pony show. He just wants to provide a forum for people to get involved in Louisiana's recovery.
"I'm sorry to disappoint you all, but I'm not announcing that I'm running for governor today," Boasso says. The final word of the sentence ' today ' is enough to keep the political game moving. With qualifying less than a year away, Boasso refuses to say he is not running for governor, and this new nonprofit group could serve as a barometer.
Julie Vezinot, spokeswoman for the Louisiana Democratic Party, walks back to her car somewhat flustered. "How can he honestly say this is not a precursor to him running for governor?" she asks. "This is ridiculous."
Three days earlier, another Republican, Rep. Bobby Jindal of Kenner, gave a speech to the Lafayette Rotary Club. Lafayette isn't in his district, but Jindal doesn't mind stumping here, or in Houma or Gonzales or Thibodaux. When a Rotarian placed a "Jindal-for-governor" placard on the podium before his Rotary Club speech, Jindal didn't take the bait.
"We get that all the time, and we are flattered by it," Jindal says during a phone interview a few days later. "People ask quite a bit, and I know some people are doing polling. I think it's natural. People know I'm interested in that office."
Meanwhile, Blanco, a Democrat, is the only announced candidate for governor. She has been criticized for her handling of the hurricanes last year and demonized by members of her own party. The governor's poll numbers have slowly ticked upward since the storms ' they had no place else to go ' and she is determinedly running for re-election next year.
Lafayette-based fundraising consultant Cynthia Dupree is working exclusively for the governor and says Blanco has roughly $3 million and change in her campaign war chest. About $2.4 million is detailed in the campaign financial forms on record with the state, while the rest has been raised in the "five or six" events held since Aug. 1, she says.
Each event had a goal of $100,000, Dupree says, and even if the target isn't reached during one function, it's usually picked up in another. The grand total would have been significantly higher if not for Katrina and Rita, because Dupree says Blanco shut down all fundraising in the face of the storms. "It had been a year and four months since we did any active fundraising. We left about $1 million on the table last year. At this point, we're just trying to play catch up."
From within her own party, Blanco's most significant challenge appears to be coming from Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, a Shreveport native and former member of the state Senate. "I have not officially announced I'm running yet, but I have every intention to run," Campbell says. "I even have a plan already. Blanco doesn't have a plan. Jindal doesn't have a plan."
Campbell's plan involves a concept he has been pushing for years with no success. He wants to tax all the foreign oil that moves through Louisiana, which would generate billions for the state's coffers. As for his own war chest, Campbell says he has raised about $400,000 to date and that tally will top $1 million by the end of the year when campaign finance reports are due. But it likely won't be enough to sway Democratic loyalists.
Other Democratic names that have cropped up include those of state Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Crescent City Democrat and leader of the Legislative Black Caucus. Additionally, former Congressman Chris John, a Lafayette Democrat, says he's in the race if Blanco should drop out.
Vezinot says the state party is putting all its resources behind Blanco, and the fact that Louisiana is holding one of the nation's three gubernatorial elections in 2007 may force national interests to get involved as well. As for the status of Blanco's traditional base that pushed her over the edge during the first election ' African-American voters in New Orleans proper ' that's still to be determined.
"That's the piece of the puzzle that everyone is focused on ' the turnout in New Orleans," says Wayne Parent, chair of the political science department at Louisiana State University. "That's where everyone suspects the difference will be. If it's a high turnout, where it was pre-Katrina, then things haven't changed much. But if it's off, Democrats are going to have a hard time."
Although there have already been a round of New Orleans municipal races and statewide elections, Parent says the Nov. 7 ballot will be the ultimate litmus because the storied political machine of embattled U.S. Democratic Rep. William Jefferson will force voters out of every nook and cranny, the way Blanco's gubernatorial bid would.
"We're about to learn a whole lot," Parent says. "I think the gubernatorial election will be full steam ahead after these elections, and we'll begin to see the lay of the land, and donors and major players will start making their moves."
Although Parent says a rematch of Blanco and Jindal's 2003 runoff "isn't a sure thing," he admits it's the safest money in the game right now. When pushed, Jindal doesn't dispute the assertion either and says his decision will be officially announced early next year. Even the Louisiana Republican Party thinks it's a sure bet, as it continues branding everything from bumper stickers to Web sites with the early elephant mantra of 2007: "Don't Blame Me, I Voted For Jindal." It seems everyone is ready for the race except Jindal.
"Yeah, despite what they say, I keep telling my family not to put those stickers on their cars," Jindal says.
At last count, Jindal had roughly $2.1 million in his congressional bank account, but he can't take it with him if he runs for governor due to campaign finance laws. That may explain his recent spending habit. Even though he has no real competition, Jindal says his campaign would spend $700,000 during the final weeks of his congressional race ' and that's on top of the $1 million Jindal already spent during the second quarter, largely on a massive media buy.
As for Boasso, he formed an official election committee in February and had only $19,000 cash-on-hand in the most recent report filed at the turn of year. Boasso, however, is independently wealthy, and he has tapped Jeff Crouere, a conservative political commentator from New Orleans and former executive director of the Louisiana Republican Party, as a point man for GetItDoneLa.org. Asked if he'll be doing consulting work for Boasso, Crouere gives what might be a slight tip of the hat.
"We'll be doing some things together really soon," he says.
James Quinn, who serves as executive director of the state GOP, admits Boasso and Jindal would be chasing after the same base if they both ran for the post, but there's an effort under way behind the scenes to have all Republican interests coalesce behind one candidate. That goal, though, is quite lofty, and it's doubtful that Jindal, Boasso and Blanco will be alone for long.
"When push comes to shove and all these people have to form a committee and select a treasurer and hire a manager and start looking at polls, it'll thin out," Quinn says. "But I think we'll be seeing a lot more people floating a run over the next few months."
A federal jury found attorney Daniel Stanford guilty Friday afternoon on eight of 13 counts for his role in the Curious Goods conspiracy.
Lafayette City-Court Judge Francie Bouillion has served on the bench for two decades since winning a special election to replace Judge Kaliste Saloom when he retired in 1994.
The magazine's senior football writer also predicts a break-out year for Saints fourth-year running back Mark Ingram.
Gulf Coast ceremonies marking the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina have begun.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says there is little known about the effects of tiger prawns on indigenous Louisiana shrimp. But, officials say the reports they're seeking will help state biologists monitor the distribution of the prawns and determine the possible presence of spawning populations.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh rested his regulars and watched with delight as Ray Rice's backups ground out 214 yards rushing in a 22-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Google vs. Amazon in drone race; more deaths in Syria; Russia escalates Ukraine conflict and more national and international news for Friday, August 29, 2014.
High-profile criminal defense attorney Daniel Stanford awaits his fate in the Curious Goods conspiracy trial.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is set to put the kibosh on the legal ownership of monkeys trained to help the disabled, and the agency wants to know what you think.
A federal judge on Thursday asked lawyers battling over Louisiana's new, restrictive abortion law for an agreement that apparently could let clinics stay open — at least for a while — after the law takes effect Sept. 1.
An abortion rights organization wants a federal judge to block enforcement of Louisiana's new abortion law while its lawsuit to overturn the law makes its way through court.
Republican presidential prospects Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal are planning to speak at an Iowa Christian conservative event in September.
The attention surrounding Victor White III has spiked with the release of last week’s autopsy report, which has raised a number of serious questions about the night of his death and has put the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office under an increased wave of scrutiny as more national media outlets are jumping on the story, most recently seen on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show.
A group supporting taxpayer-funded private school tuition vouchers is appealing a federal judge's order that Louisiana must provide regular reports to federal officials on the state's voucher program.
The Discovery Channel has canceled reality TV star Will Hayden's popular "Sons of Guns" show after his arrest on an aggravated rape charge.
The LPSB will finally hear from the attorney it hired to investigate the superintendent at a special meeting Thursday at 4 p.m.
Authorities are investigating a report that a student there warned the principal of impending violence similar to that depicted in the movie "The Purge."
Saints cornerback Champ Bailey has played for more than a handful of playoff teams during a career that has seen him selected to 12 Pro Bowls.
Police say a 56-year-old Lafayette man walking behind a dump truck died when the truck hit him as it was backing up.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is a proud papa of new baby girl.
The books on Louisiana's last budget year have been closed, but it took a bit of borrowing from this year to make the numbers work.
The Iberia Parish Coroner responded Monday to the attention surrounding the questionable shooting of Victor White III, a black man from New Iberia who died April 2 while in the custody of local law enforcement.
Two months after lawmakers agreed to create a $40 million higher education incentive fund, no decisions have been made about how to divide the money.
With Drew Brees back healthy, the New Orleans Saints are free to work on the little things that can make the difference between a Super Bowl run and something less.