Blanco stumbled badly in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but she has a shot at redemption in the current session. In baseball parlance, she's swinging for the fence ' which means she could hit a home run â?¦ or strike out.
"This is a very difficult position to be in," says Dr. Kirby Goidel, director of the Public Policy Research Lab at Louisiana State University. "The task of rebuilding and everything else in this session is such a difficult job to accomplish, and her political capital, as far as approval ratings, is so low."
The latest poll by SurveyUSA, which is funded by a media consortium, has Blanco's approval at 36 percent, down sharply from the 55 percent approval rating she enjoyed a year ago.
Add to that the recent low voter turnout in New Orleans and Blanco's political prospects become even more tenuous. Roughly 27,000 fewer votes were cast in New Orleans' April 22 primary than in the 2003 governor's race. That could force Blanco to look elsewhere to shore up her base. Signing important bills into law and steering the Legislature her way would be a good place to start.
When the session convened, Blanco came on strong, vowing to veto any effort to expand gambling. She sent her chief attorney, Terry Ryder, to echo that message in committee meetings. One after another, lawmakers folded ' save Rep. Warren Triche, a Lafourche Parish Democrat who continued pushing his Texas Hold'em bill until it was defeated on the House floor.
The governor also promised to quell any move to resurrect the Urban and Rural Development Funds, which have been tagged "slush funds" because they were doled out by previous administrations to favored lawmakers for pet projects back home. Some lawmakers on key budget committees had pledged to restore the funds, but it now appears that move is dead, according to House Speaker Joe Salter, a Florien Democrat. "They don't exist," Salter told a north Louisiana newspaper, adding there will still be money available in places like the Parish Road Fund and Community Development Block Grants for lawmakers currying favor with the Fourth Floor.
From a political perspective, Blanco solidified one of her strongest bases of support ' oil and gas interests ' by backing a measure to allow the Department of Natural Resources, rather than the courts, to decide how to handle so-called legacy suits, which involve polluted land, property owners and oil companies.
The legislation, authored by Sen. Robert Adley, a Benton Democrat, made it out of committee and was pending action in the Senate last week. Supporting Adley's bill is a slick move for Blanco, who could use fundraising help from Big Oil before next year's elections.
Meanwhile, Blanco has issues with other political factions, such as the Legislative Black Caucus. While most lawmakers like Blanco's recent staffing changes (replacing her legislative director and chief of staff), the healing process is slow after the caucus felt snubbed by Blanco during previous legislative sessions.
"For myself, personally, there has been more of a concerted effort to communicate," says Rep. Michael L. Jackson, a Baton Rouge Democrat. "It doesn't mean that everything is fine and dandy at the Capitol, but there are new opportunities for us to adequately discuss issues."
On the policy front, Blanco saw a House committee ignore her wishes and approve a voucher program for underperforming New Orleans schools. She managed to swat the initiative down by just one vote on the House floor and by a tie vote in a Senate committee.
For their part, Republicans remain a thorn in the administration's side. They recently forced the governor to amend a section of her post-Katrina housing program that was going to be based partly on income levels. The GOP also is expected to oppose her health care priorities.
As the second half of the session approaches, the state's operating budget is still in committee and the governor's crown jewel ' her proposed teacher pay raise ' has yet to be fully aired. That will be the real test of her new staff.
"We feel confident and comfortable that the pay raise will be successful in passing," says Hunt Downer, Blanco's legislative director. "And there are many more initiatives from her package that have already passed or are coming up."
Goidel says some measures, such as strengthening the homeland security office and consolidating New Orleans government, could expedite the rebuilding process and give Blanco a boost ' if she can take credit for them. But what she needs most is the means to keep lawmakers from spinning out of control on other issues.
State Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, surprised few in the Hub City Wednesday afternoon when he made (semi) official what most of us have known for months: He is running to replace Joey Durel as city-parish president.
Louisiana's first black Republican state senator since Reconstruction — who was a Republican before he was a Democrat before he was a Republican again — is accusing Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu of using the black community for votes and providing nothing in return.
LSU's governing board has backed new hospital privatization contracts that give hospital managers greater ease to leave the deal and fewer restrictions about must-have services.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is courting young voters in several appearances across Louisiana this week, talking about her support for legislation that could lower students' college costs.
Coton de tulear joins Westminster; Paypal splitting from Ebay; first US Ebola diagnosis and more national and international news for Wednesday, October 1, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Stage 4 vet takes on cancer and reminds us all what it really means to get involved.
Is Mary fading as Vitter solidifies his lock on the fourth floor?
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration has renegotiated contracts for six LSU hospital privatization deals, hoping to reach a compromise with federal health officials that will keep Medicaid dollars flowing to the privatized patient services.
Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu is defending her record on gun rights, seeking to rebut sharp criticism from the NRA in a state where the right to bear arms is given special constitutional protection.
Citizens, you have less than a week to register to vote in the Nov. 4 election. Remember, if you don’t vote you can’t complain about the outcome. Well, you can but it’s kind of hypocritical.
After being forced out by its former landlords last year, the community garden has a new location and a 10-year lease.
The party says it has hit a milestone, reaching 10,000 registered voters in the state.
Defensive captain Junior Galette is disgusted by the Saints' sluggish start.
The use of $60 million in Louisiana's public school financing formula to pay for nearly three dozen charter schools violates the state constitution, a statewide teachers' union claimed Monday in a lawsuit.
February trial date indicates parties were unable to negotiate a settlement.
There was a time when United Ballot had a political stranglehold so tight on Lafayette’s black community it was nearly unbreakable, but that grip might be loosening.
The race for Lafayette city marshal may not be the most exciting of this year’s local political contests, but it could prove the most historic.
With the DA’s race too close to call and negative media coverage of Mike Harson on the ebb, will challenger Keith Stutes take the gloves off?
Gov. Bobby Jindal has been viewed as a health care policy wonk, and he's tried to build on that image ahead of a likely 2016 presidential campaign, positioning himself as the candidate with substantive ideas.
Jerry Jones watched what he called the best effort he's seen in 25 years as owner of the Dallas Cowboys in the first half, and that was before Tony Romo had the longest scramble of his career and DeMarco Murray finished off yet another 100-yard game.
Two of the most recognizable women in Republican politics, Sarah Palin and Mary Matalin, have been heavily involved in Louisiana’s current election cycle.
Even though the Louisiana Democratic Party has thrown its support behind former Gov. Edwin Edwards’ congressional bid, national Democrats are not expected to follow suit.
“[Mike] is no longer the energetic ADA that his recent ad is trying to portray. I just think Mike needs to get the hell out.” — Kermit Harson, DA Mike Harson’s brother
The New Orleans Saints have listed Jonathan Goodwin as questionable for Sunday night's game in Dallas, raising the prospect that second-year pro Tim Lelito will start at center for the first time.