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 Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, March 07, 2014:
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.
The NFL has formally designated New Orleans' Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is now set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal.
A federal appeals panel ruled Monday that businesses don't have to prove that they were directly harmed by BP's 2010 Gulf Of Mexico oil spill to collect settlement payments.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has closed Interstate 10 from I-49 in Lafayette to Seigen Lane in Baton Rouge.
Jim Bernhard, who engineered the sale of The Shaw Group for $3 billion, recently has told several people involved in Democratic politics that he intends to run for governor in 2015.
A New Orleans levee board wants to hold the oil and gas industry accountable for decades of damage to our state’s coastline, but the Legislature may be poised to put the kibosh on the suit.
New standards curb elective induction
CVS stops tobacco sales
If an Acadia Parish fiddler misses a note while swatting a fly, will a St. Martinville accordionist learn “Ma ‘Tite Fille”?
(It's good, it's bad and it's just crazy)