Tuesday, 08 December 2015 21:56

Vitter, Bitter Louisiana political winds, Dardenne to the JBE post

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vitter teaby Lou Gehrig Burnett, Publisher of Fax-Net

Long lists for president
There is a long list of candidates to choose from for president on the March 5 ballot among Democrats and Republicans.
On the GOP side, 14 candidates qualified for the Louisiana presidential preference primary. They are:
Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Tim Cook, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, Peter Messina, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, and Donald Trump.

Only registered Republicans will be able to vote for one of these candidates.

On the Democratic side, 10 candidates qualified. They are:
Steve Burke, Hillary Clinton, Rocky De La Fuenta, Henry Hewes, Keith Todd, Martin O’Malley, Bernie Sanders, Michael Steinberg, Willie Wilson, and John Wolfe.
Only registered Democrats will be able to vote for one of these candidates.
Also qualifying were candidates for positions on the Republican and Democratic State Central Committees and Parish Executive Committees.
Most were unopposed in the various districts, but those with opposition will be on the ballot on March 5.

Gone With the Political Wind
With the speed of a swift-moving Category 5 hurricane, the Louisiana Republican Party was devastated and finds itself without two of its stalwart leaders and facing a rebuilding process.
Who will step up and replace U.S. Sen. David Vitter and Gov. Bobby Jindal? Both are headed for the political bench and will no longer have a starring role as quarterbacks of the Louisiana GOP.
Election Year 2015 was a defining moment for the party – and not in a good way. And Vitter and Jindal can share the blame for the devastation that took place.
Jindal’s second term as governor was a disaster as he was more focused on running for president than running the state. His disapproval rating plunged to 70% in some polls, making him to second-most unpopular governor in the country.
As for Vitter, hindsight is definitely 20-20. He realizes now, to be sure, that he should have stayed in the Senate where he had seniority and was amassing more power as the years went by. He probably would not have been challenged for a third term in 2016.
Vitter and Jindal, both with big egos, controlled most of the Louisiana Republican Party, but in separate factions. The two never liked one another and always refused to help the other.
Vitter had his power base and Jindal had his. In the governor’s race, Vitter could have benefited from those 30% of voters who still believe Jindal is a good governor, but no endorsement came from the outgoing governor.
In fact, he upstaged Vitter when the senator seemed to have some momentum over the Syrian refugee issue by announcing he was pulling out of the presidential race.
Vitter’s involvement in a prostitution scandal and Jindal’s overwhelming unpopularity created the perfect storm for a two-term Democratic state representative from the little town of Amite.
John Bel Edwards, to his credit, seized upon the opportunity despite the fact that some prominent Democrats were urging him not to run and instead back a Republican candidate other than Vitter.
Perhaps it was the training Edwards received at West Point which made him determined to fight the battle to the end. And, in the end, he scored a landslide victory over Vitter, getting 56% of the vote.
He became the first Democrat to be elected to a statewide office since 2008. But while the victory flag flies momentarily, Edwards realizes he has another battle ahead as he deals with a Legislature that is majority Republican in both houses.
No doubt Edwards will have to reach back for all that fighting strategy he learned at West Point as he tries to change the state’s political direction.

Bitter over Vitter?
Are Republican members of the state Legislature bitter over Democrat John Bel Edwards defeating David Vitter for governor? There are signs that they might be.
House Republicans are insisting on a member of their party for Speaker of the House and are rallying behind Rep. Cameron Henry of Metairie. They hold a majority of the seats – 61 out of 105.
Gov.-Elect Edwards wants a Democrat as Speaker and is pushing for Rep. Walt Leger of New Orleans. To accomplish that, he needs to woo at least nine GOP members to vote with Democrats. It will take 53 votes to elect the Speaker.
Over in the Senate, it’s a done deal. Republican Sen. John Alario of Westwego will continue as President.
So it seems only fair that Republicans allow the Democratic governor to have at least one leadership position in the Legislature. Even outgoing Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal was okay with that.when he took office eight years ago. He had a Democrat as Senate President and a Republican as House Speaker.
There is more than meets the eye here. The Speaker controls committee chairmanships and decides which members sit on the various committees. With a Democrat as Speaker, Edwards would control those selections. With a Republican, he would not.
Edwards sees the issue as one of bipartisanship while the Republicans see it as an opportunity for independence from the governor.
Political observers are watching this political chess match closely to see if Republicans in the Legislature will adopt the policy that Congressional Republicans did when Democrat Barack Obama was elected president.
Congressional GOP leaders, especially U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, was bold enough to say that his party’s top priority was making sure Obama was not re-elected. That top priority did not work out very well for the GOP. Obama was re-elected.
Will that be the secret top priority of Republicans in the Louisiana Legislature – to make sure that Edwards is not re-elected? We’ll see.
The power of the Louisiana governor is well known and he has a lot of leverage other governors do not have. Hopefully, the two political parties will work together to solve the many problems facing the state.

Foster Campbell on key committee
Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell of Elm Grove has been chosen by Gov.-Elect John Bel Edwards to co-chair a key committee of his transition team.
Campbell will co-chair the Fiscal Matters Transition Committee along with Sharon Robinson, former Inspector General and Assistant Legislative Auditor.
The Fiscal Matters Committee will be charged with identifying ways to eliminate the budget deficit, fund K-12 and higher education, and improve access to healthcare in the state.
In announcing the appointments, Edwards said, “Louisiana faces severe budget challenges, and until we address them head-on, we cannot begin the work of rebuilding our state.”
Several prominent Louisianians are serving on the committee, which is already meeting and will meet several times a week throughout the transition.
Among members of the committee from the area are April Jordan, staff auditor for the city of Shreveport, former state Sen. Lydia Jackson, a vice president at Capital One Bank, and Wayne Brown, CEO of Brown Builders.
The appointment of Campbell to such a key committee has not gone unnoticed by some conservative Republicans, who are friends of the oil and gas industry.
Campbell, who served 25 years in the Senate before becoming Public Service Commissioner, has long-advocated an oil processing tax, which won the support of then-Governor David Treen, but the bill never made it through the Legislature, thanks to the powerful oil and gas lobby.
Campbell’s appointment has spooked the oil and gas lobbyists because they realize that he has never given up on making such a tax a reality. And conservative bloggers and talk show hosts are already blasting away at Campbell and Edwards.
Making them even more nervous is the fact that Campbell is saying that he is giving serious consideration to running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican David Vitter.

Will Dardenne get powerful post?

Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, as we go to press, seems to be the choice of Gov.-Elect Joh Bel Edwards for the powerful position of Commissioner of Administration.
The appointment would show Edwards wants to be inclusive and bipartisan. But is Dardenne a double-edged sword for the Edwards administration?
On the plus side, he definitely knows state government. He served as a state senator from 1992-2006, as Secretary of State from 2006-2010, and as Lt. Governor from 2010 to the present.
On the other hand, he is persona non grata with many Republicans for endorsing Democrat Edwards after finishing fourth in the gubernatorial election. His endorsement was helpful to Edwards, most political analysts contend.
Still, his supporters don’t blame him for endorsing Edwards after Republican candidate Sen. David Vitter bashed him relentlessly with negative television ads in an effort to save his own skin and make the runoff.
So, could his appointment to Commissioner of Administration be considered a payoff for his endorsement? Of course it could. But many feel it would be a good appointment by Edwards.
Dardenne is personable and well-liked in most political circles and there is no doubt that he is imminently qualified for the job because of his background in state government.
What does the Commissioner of Administration and his Division do? Here is what its website says:
“The Division is charged with performing a wide variety of legislatively mandates activities and other required functions of state government, including overseeing the general management of all state finances and financial operations.”
It also prepares the Executive Budget, ensures general fiscal accountability throughout state government and makes purchases for state agencies when required by executive order.
And, one supposes, Edwards would like to use Dardenne as a go-between with Republican state legislators as he develops his vision for the state. The key question is how will legislators feel about Dardenne jumping ship in the governor’s race.
Many had some very unkind things to say about him for abandoning the party and Vitter. Only time will tell if those wounds can be healed.

Last modified on Tuesday, 22 December 2015 22:05
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