Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu is far and away the frontrunner in this Saturday’s election for the next mayor of New Orleans, with some political pundits even predicting he might win in the primary. And with The Big Easy being the Queen City of the South, there is huge interest in the outcome — but even more so in this election. A Landrieu victory may be the key to picking the next Louisiana governor.
New Orleanians feel the election cannot come soon enough, whoever ends up winning. The current mayor will go down in the annals of the Crescent City as one of the most dysfunctional public officials in the city’s history. And for New Orleans, that’s really saying a lot. From his “Chocolate City” comments to his response of “keeping the brand out there” for the country’s highest murder rate, Ray Nagin has successfully proven the truth of the Peter Principal. Either by design or incompetence, C. Ray just doesn’t get it, and the city has suffered greatly.
Landrieu lost a close race to Nagin four years ago but seems primed and strongly favored to come back a victor this time around barring any unforeseen circumstances. So assuming he wins, Landrieu would resign as lieutenant governor in early May, and the process to replace him would kick in. The governor picks a replacement, with the Legislature’s concurrence, who serves for a matter of months until a special election takes place in the fall. So the Jindal pick would hold office for about five months. If Landrieu’s replacement wants to run for a full term, he or she would have a short jump start to keep the job.
Normally the state’s second spot doesn’t attract that much interest. The lieutenant governor’s duties center around important but perfunctory tasks: cutting lots of ribbons and encouraging tourism and the arts. When I held the secretary of state’s post back in the 1980s, I often joked about the duties of the second in charge. Bobby Freeman held the lieutenant governor’s post, and was chagrined when I would say: “Here’s what the lieutenant governor does each day: He gets up in the morning, has his coffee, then calls the Governor’s Mansion to see if per chance the governor died the night before. If he didn’t, the lieutenant governor is free to go fishin’ or play bourré for the day.”
But the national ambitions of Gov. Bobby Jindal have put a whole new slant on the number two job. Just last week, Newsweek was touting Jindal as a strong possibility for vice president in 2012. If the Democrats continue to slip and the Republicans regain the White House, Jindal should at least be a shoo-in for a major cabinet position. And that would mean the Louisiana lieutenant governor would take over the top spot and be primed for two more terms. So the lieutenant governor’s job now becomes all the more attractive to a number of ambitious Louisiana politicos.
A number of Republicans are already expressing interest to the governor for an appointment, but close observers don’t give Jindal’s potential pick that much credence. The short time frame gives such a pick too little time to effectively build a base of support, particularly when a number of major present and former statewide officials will give the race a good look. And so far, Jindal’s track record has not been particularly good when he supports a candidate.
On the Republican side, two statewide officials are definitely giving the office strong consideration. For them, it’s a “free shot,” for if they should lose, they still hold on to their present positions. Secretary of State Jay Dardenne is weighing the race as well as Treasurer John Kennedy. Both have good reputations and can point to significant improvements in their respective offices. They both would like to be governor, and see the lieutenant governor’s spot as a way to extend their political base.
Both Dardenne and Kennedy have been independent of the governor, and Kennedy has even been quite aggressive in pushing a separate statewide agenda from Jindal. But you can bet they will be in lock step with the ambitious chief executive if they have a chance to move up to the top spot.
So who’s on the Democratic side? Let’s see….oh, yes. There is a former two-term lieutenant governor who received high marks in the job and used it as a springboard to becoming governor. She presently has a war chest of some $3 million dollars banked to use for a campaign. That’s right, Kathleen Blanco is rested and ready! She is working on a book about her time in public life that should be timed well for a future campaign.
Jindal was out of state 41 days last year. And as national attention increases for Jindal, his national travel will continue to increase. When he’s gone, the lieutenant governor is acting governor. It would be quite a scenario to watch a Jindal-Blanco relationship in action at the Capitol in the years to come.
A spicy race for lieutenant governor will increase interest in already busy fall elections that are less than nine months away. And the winner will immediately become the favorite to replace Jindal whenever he finishes his term or moves on to bigger and better things. So to see if the first step in this scenario takes off, keep an eye on the New Orleans Mayor’s race this weekend.
Jim Brown is a former Louisiana state representative, secretary of state and insurance commissioner. His weekly column, available at www.jimbrownla.com, appears in numerous newspapers and Web sites throughout the South.
Black Friday shopping begins; Pope visiting Turkey; oil prices decline and more national and international news for Friday, November 28, 2014.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
The fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
By now, the story of how longtime LSU coach Dale Brown discovered Shaquille O'Neal has been told many times: Brown happened upon a massive 13-year-old at an army base in Germany, stayed in touch with him and eventually became like a second father.
Fate simply wasn't ready to give the New Orleans Saints a break from longtime nemesis Steve Smith.
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.