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."
OK, so they’re bentgrass, the type used on golf course greens. But grass is grass.
The Senate Finance Committee approved the bill Wednesday, despite opponents who argued it would shut down the storefront lenders.
A measure to allow the state to implement its own, less stringent plan for limiting carbon dioxide emissions unanimously passed the Senate.
FDA to regulate e-cigarettes, Jodie Foster gets married, Vermont to require labels on genetically-modified food, and more news for today, April 24, 2014.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
A push to expand Louisiana's Medicaid program as allowed under the federal health care has been overwhelmingly rejected by the Senate health committee.
Louisiana welfare recipients would be prohibited in state law from spending the federal assistance at lingerie shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons and jewelry stores, under a bill that received the support Wednesday of a House committee.
Senators will consider whether to prohibit private businesses in Louisiana from paying unequal wages to employees of different genders for the same job.
Rep. Joel Robideaux has delayed bill hearings and said unless a compromise can be reached, he won't bring up the legislation this session.
Once again, Lafayette Parish School Board President Hunter Beasley is focused on an issue that has nothing to do with the educational well-being of our public school children.
After exhausting his appeals all the way to the state Supreme Court, the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete has no legal remedy left save one: do an end run around the high court via a bill that would grandfather his “right” to keep a 550-pound tiger enclosed in a pin at his roadside business.
Louisiana poet Darrell Bourque has won the 2014 Louisiana Writer Award, given annually to recognize outstanding contributions to Louisiana's literary and intellectual life.
Drivers would have to secure dogs riding in truck beds while on interstate highways, if the Senate agrees to a bill backed by the House.
An effort to prohibit employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity was shelved Tuesday for the legislative session.
Louisiana won't lessen its penalties for marijuana possession, keeping laws on the books that allow people to be jailed up to 20 years for repeat offenses of having the drug in hand.
“This is one of the oldest divides that exists, and that divide is about the haves and the have-nots.”
It took a few weeks for the pitfalls to emerge in the governor’s $25 billion budget, but the time of judgment has finally arrived.
With pressure continuing to build for him to resign, Congressman Vance McAllister announced plans recently to remain secluded during the Easter break, but the Swartz Republican has said he’ll be back on the Hill casting votes and attending committee meetings when the congressional recess ends April 28.
A bid to limit the use of unmanned aircraft on private property in Louisiana stalled Monday in the Louisiana Senate.
A Shreveport lawmaker said Monday he's scrapping his proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana's official state book.
Attorney hopes fellow lawyers will join him in urging the D.A. to step aside and allow a competent, ethical challenger to take over the scandal-ridden office.
An official with the Louisiana Department of Education was arrested on a range of charges Friday after allegedly breaking into a home and brandishing a knife.
State Rep. Stuart Bishop says he’s concerned with the quality of Capitol Lake, but when it comes to Louisiana’s coastline, this Lafayette Republican doesn't seem to give a damn.
Democrats sweating this year's elections may be hoping that the Obama administration's latest delay to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline takes a politically fraught issue off the table for the midterms.
Louisiana lawmakers are entering the second half of their three-month regular legislative session, which must end by June 2. Where some of the major issues stand: