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.
So far the Democratic agenda includes proposals to expand Medicaid; increase the minimum wage; offer equal pay to women; heighten regulations on predatory lending practices, like payday loans; and add more transparency in the governor’s office.
Hot-button education issues ranging from Common Core to charter schools have some lawmakers pushing to scrap the appointing process and go back to electing the state's super.
Police say the handcuffed man fatally shot himself in the back, but his family isn't buying the story.
Gov. Bobby Jindal offered a budget proposal that suggests new education and health care spending, pay raises for state workers and an incentive fund to encourage colleges to enhance their science, engineering and technology training.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday, March 11, 2014:
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent rhetoric against President Barack Obama has failed to boost his standing among the conservative base.
Louisiana's annual legislative session begins.
The state has hired marksmen to shoot feral hogs from helicopters at two wildlife management areas in south Louisiana.
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.
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.