By announcing she would seek the SoS spot, Fayard gambled that it would be the path of least resistance to some elected office. The SoS job is currently held by an anonymous appointed-incumbent that ended up raising no campaign dollars during his 5 months at the helm. The only other announced suitor at the time of Fayard's announcement was Walker Hines. And we've said enough about his political skills to give you an idea of what kind of competition he might pose.
With her relatively high name recognition, mountains of personal cash and, most importantly, weak Republican competition, Fayard stood a good chance winning the seat as it stood on May 5th. However, one wildcard was left that could upend her smooth path to victory. Scott Angelle has been widely rumored as a candidate for both SoS and Lieutenant Governor. He's seen as a rising star in the Republican party after switching parties last fall. Angelle would have immediately caught the inside track and made Fayard's path to victory nearly impossible.
But now it looks more likely that Angelle will not run. Why? Enter Speaker of the House Jim Tucker.
Yes, it looks like Jim Tucker, sometimes ally, sometimes enemy of Governor Jindal is looking at the Secretary of State's race closely. He's already asked House allies to keep from making any promises in the race. Tucker has about $191k in his House Account, with another $80k or so in "T-Pac," his political campaign committee. He has already committed to support Mike Strain for Ag Secretary through his PAC.
Tucker has many virtues as a candidate, including prodigious fundraising ability, high name recognition as Speaker of the House, close ties with Republican movers, and a large statewide financial network. He also has had allies across the aisle in New Orleans at times in the past.
However, Tucker has hobbled himself lately on two counts. First, his defiance of the Jindal's dictum on the State Budget has been widely noted. Second, and even more importantly, Tucker is carrying one of the most divisive pieces of legislation for the Governor, the SUNO-UNO Merger Bill. This instrument was crafted to attack New Orleans, and especially Black Democrats in New Orleans, under the guise of Higher Education reform. Jindal picked this target, as opposed to the many other public schools ripe for reform throughout Louisiana because it was the easiest for him to do. He doesn't care about New Orleans, or about African-Americans, and therefore, this is an easy move for him. It even bolsters him with conservatives since it is thinly-veiled racism wrapped in a good government glove, their favorite kind.
By carrying this bill, and being a spokesman for it, Tucker puts himself into perilous waters. He's already led an attack on New Orleans through the redistricting process, and it's easy to assume that Tucker simply doesn't think New Orleans matters to his election prospects.
For Fayard, however, Tucker's partisan race-baiting only helps her solidify her support among African Americans in any potential race. Instead of the generic R, Tucker becomes a white-hot issue himself, as the flag-bearer of an assault on an African-American institution. Tucker could have appeared to be the reasonable, moderate, pro-business Republican that is a shoe-in for any statewide election. However, his attacks on Jindal's budget, combined with his SUNO-UNO bill, undermine his credibility among many politically-engaged Louisianians on both sides of the aisle.
Fayard went from facing sure disaster with the entry of Scott Angelle, to facing a much more favorable opponent in Jim Tucker. Whatever his virtues, it's hard to imagine how Tucker does not himself become a lightning rod for criticism from Democrats. Without his SUNO-UNO bill, Tucker would have inspired little passion and probably nominal support among Democrats.
Now, no doubt to Fayard's delight, Tucker must answer for SUNO-UNO.
by: Lamar Parmentel
Read more by Lamar Parmentel on the Daily Kingfish