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."
The Louisiana Supreme Court has punted on its first chance to decide whether a new state constitutional provision declaring gun possession a fundamental right could void a long list of criminal statutes that regulate firearms.
New Orleans' offense, which ranks sixth in the NFL, isn't helping many of its skill players pile up Pro Bowl-type stats. Rather, the approach of coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees has enabled a wide range of play-makers to emerge periodically with high-production outings.
An ordinance phasing out a rebate businesses receive for collecting and remitting sales taxes is tabled, but it doesn’t solve the vexing issue of government revenue.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday, December 12, 2013:
As part of a national undertaking known by industry insiders as the “Butterfly Project,” a rebranded version of The Daily Advertiser is set to launch with Sunday’s edition of the Gannett-owned paper.
Louisiana moved up a slot to 48th in the ranking of healthy states — once again, thank God for Mississippi! — so all this frettin’ about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s refusal to expand Medicaid per Obamacare ... fuggidaboutit! We don’t need Medicaid no more!
The Denham Springs woman who placed Christmas lights in the shape of a butter finger on her roof in a display of anger directed at neighbors has doubled the trouble for the 2013 holiday season.
The 30-second commercial, to run around the state, is the Democratic senator's first TV spot in her bid for re-election to a fourth term.
It's a number that has edged up but falls far short of the thousands who are eligible for subsidized coverage.
A group of mostly higher education leaders will make recommendations to state lawmakers about how to tweak the policies governing tuition rates charged at the state's public colleges.
That would be Congressman John Fleming talking about Sen. David Vitter.
The alleged mastermind behind the bribery scheme that went on for four years under DA Mike Harson’s nose isn’t just schizophrenic, bipolar and recovering from mini strokes; he now says he has cancer.
Louisiana's higher education leaders are trying to work out a financing deal to keep the state's public colleges from running low on state cash to operate their campuses.
With their latest triumph, the Saints left little doubt about how tough they are to beat in the Superdome. Unfortunately, two of their remaining three games are on the road.
For the first time in at least five years, retired teachers, state workers and school system employees could see an increase in their pension checks.
Lawmakers and Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration shared a collective sigh of relief with the news that Louisiana's tax amnesty program brought in the $200 million that they used to help balance this year's budget.
Drew Brees often makes the extraordinary look routine, particularly during night games in the Superdome.
The teams were extended invitations Sunday for the New Year's Day matchup played at Raymond James Stadium, home of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
If all 44 projects are approved, about $300 million would remain in the fund set up as a down payment to help the Gulf.
Last week, the Saints gave up 429 yards to Seattle, second most in a game this season.
Since Anthony Jennings and Brooks Haack were not expected to contribute until next year at the earliest, it seemed like a sneak peek at hidden Christmas gifts.
Louisiana National Guard personnel seeking benefits for same-sex spouses will have an easier time filing the requests, despite a state refusal to let its workers process the paperwork.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera sees one potential flaw with his team's stellar defensive play so far this season. "Apparently we like to bite on the double moves," Rivera said.
Computer hackers may have gained access to the personal information of thousands of Louisiana residents who use debit cards issued by JPMorgan Chase for three state agencies, authorities said Wednesday.
Jim Purcell, who has been in the job since February 2011, notified the Board of Regents about his decision at its monthly meeting.