In an election year where gubernatorial politics have trumped all else thus far, contests further down the ballot have received less scrutiny as lawmakers shoulder the burden of spending surplus billions during the ongoing session. But the intensity is picking up for the statewide incumbents, most of which are Democrats. The field building against Attorney General Charles Foti, for instance, is building, and prosecutors keep reminding voters about the corruption charges swirling around embattled Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom.
Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, coming off his defeat in the New Orleans mayoral race, will be facing off against the Christian-right vote in the form of state Rep. Gary Beard, a Baton Rouge Republican who has built a legislative record on all the right GOP issues. Even Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon, the other statewide GOP officeholder alongside Dardenne, could be ripe for the picking, especially since he was elected on a low-turnout special ballot last year. Any way you cut it, most of these officials will likely have to put up a fight to maintain ground.
Then there are Dardenne and Kennedy, who have managed to ascend above the fray ' for now.
For his part, Dardenne cultivated an image of torch-bearer on ethics reform during his time in the state Senate, having come to the secretary of state post through last year's special election. He has placed a newfound emphasis on the cultural side of the office, eliminating museum fees and adding new exhibits, which could open up a new base of Democrats for the Baton Rouge conservative. From a practical standpoint, he is also making friends with election commissioners and other vote-bosses through policy platforms on the election side of the office.
The formula is a cozy one for the state GOP, which is beginning to recognize the value of Dardenne's stock. In fact, he has even caught the glare of national Republicans looking to next year's Senate race. "I think Jay's seat is a safe seat for us," says James Quinn, executive director of the Louisiana Republican Party. "And part of that is the great job he has already done with the office. He's a good fund raiser. He's in touch with the party, and he is very alert to what is going on. I would be surprised if anyone even tries to run against him."
On the surface, Democrats don't buy the line, but they can't offer up the political kryptonite either. Danny Ford, executive director of the state Democratic Party, says it's too early in the race to call a winner, and a big name could oppose Dardenne in the fall. "We're still talking to a variety of individuals, but we're not prepared to release any names. It's a whole different ball game from the last election. The dynamics of the race will be different, and turnout will be higher."
Kennedy is running for re-election as well, but he's presenting voters with a different candidate than they saw four years ago. During his most recent term, Kennedy has become the state's unofficial watchdog, taking his own party's governor to task on a regular basis over fiscal matters. He was heavily recruited to run for governor this year, but opted out. The pundits predict and Kennedy doesn't deny a potential run for the U.S. Senate next year against incumbent Mary Landrieu, a New Orleans Democrat. As all of this has bubbled to the surface, Kennedy has also publicly flirted with switching parties, but remains a Democrat thus far for the upcoming ballot.
Ford says there haven't been any efforts to appease Kennedy's ideology concerns, and the party plans to back him "100 percent" for re-election. While there's very little face-to-face, the party does keep in contact with staff. "Kennedy is running again, and we are behind him," Ford says. "The treasurer is a Democrat and a member of our party. He's an advocate of good government, and we're proud to have him as part of the team."
Quinn hasn't had any direct conversations with Kennedy about party affiliations, either, but admits a switch could be on the horizon. Maybe that's why he couldn't offer up a single name of a Republican willing to step in the ring against Kennedy in coming months. "We've all heard the same rumors and read the same stories," Quinn says. "I think John will ultimately do what is right for him. I think he has considered it, and he is keeping his options open."
If Kennedy has indeed considered changing his D to R, then it has to give him pause that national Republicans are eyeing Dardenne to run against Landrieu next year. So, while they may be safe this year, the two fiscal conservatives could be eye-to-eye in 2008. "Mary Landrieu is the top targeted Democrat next year, and there is going to be a lot of interest in that race," Ford says. "They all know Jay by reputation and, naturally, he has been included in those discussions. But we still have a year to go, and anything could happen."
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.