Tuesday, 26 October 2010 18:56

Dardenne Faces Louisiana Democratic Machine And Fayard

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jeffcrouere_150_200With seven days until an important Election Day, Louisiana Secretary of State Jay Dardenne is leading in the race for Lt. Governor. Nonetheless, his campaign is preparing to withstand an assault from his wealthy Democratic opponent, Caroline Fayard.


During his career, Dardenne has established solid credentials as a moderate to conservative Republican. He was elected to the State Senate in 1992 and as Secretary of State in 2006. As expected, he ran first in the primary election for Lt. Governor, but the big surprise of the night was the strong showing from the newcomer Fayard.

 Fayard is a 32-year old attorney who is strongly backed by some of the biggest trial lawyers in the state. Even though she has never been elected to office before, Louisiana Democrats see her as their best bet for statewide victory on November 2nd. Most Democrats have conceded the U.S. Senate race to incumbent David Vitter. His opponent, Democrat U.S. Congressman Charlie Melancon, has run an unimpressive race. In contrast, Fayard has been able to capture the attention of the media and voters by smart messaging. In her television commercials, Fayard declares her independence from the traditional politics of the past. Of course, Fayard is being supported by many of the powerful Louisiana Democrats who have been involved in state politics for decades.


The Louisiana Democratic Party is investing heavily in Fayard. She recently received $214,000 from the state organization and has amassed a total of $423,000 from the Louisiana Democratic Party in the last few weeks. This money will be used for television spots, so that Fayard is able to blanket the airwaves through Election Day.


While Fayard receives lavish funding from her state party, Dardenne has received no funding from the Louisiana Republican Party for his television costs. Initially, this may seem surprising since Dardenne has solid ties and an impressive record as a Republican. In fact, he was once named national Republican legislator of the year. However, it is not surprising in another respect because the Louisiana GOP is led by Roger Villere, who finished sixth in the Lt. Governor primary campaign and spent much of his time during the campaign blasting Dardenne for a “tax and spend” record. At this point, Villere has not officially endorsed Dardenne, although he did send an email encouraging Republicans to vote for both Dardenne and Vitter. Currently, the Secretary of State is getting the most help from the third place finisher Sammy Kershaw, who has been doing a series of political events with Dardenne in Central and North Louisiana.


Democrats are pushing to retain a seat that has not been in Republican hands since Paul Hardy was Lt. Governor in 1992. Democrats also realize that the race will very likely elect the next Governor of Louisiana. The current occupant of that office, Bobby Jindal, is probably not going to finish two terms in office, so when a vacancy occurs, the Lt. Governor automatically takes the top position.


With such important implications for the future of his position, it is shocking that Jindal has totally ignored the race. In the past few months, Jindal has been traveling across the country, fundraising and politicking for GOP candidates in far flung states.


Even though Dardenne has been very supportive of Jindal’s record as Governor, he has not reciprocated. While Jindal has given Dardenne no support, Fayard has received the endorsements of all of the top Democrats in Louisiana, including U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.


Democrats think they have a chance to win the race because Fayard is a fresh face, who can appeal to a broad spectrum of voters. In the past few years, Democrats have had success electing women such as Kathleen Blanco and Mary Landrieu to statewide office.


The problem this year is that Louisiana voters are angry with President Obama and the Democrats because of the poor economy and the oil moratorium. While most Louisiana voters are conservative, Fayard is a liberal who has supported Obama and contributed to former Democratic officeholders such as Cleo Fields and Bill Jefferson.


Dardenne has the advantage in the final week, but will face a serious assault from Fayard. On Election Day in New Orleans, Shreveport and other urban areas, Fayard will have an army of workers on the street getting out the vote. She will need a very impressive turnout among the base of the Democratic Party, African Americans, to have any chance at upsetting Dardenne next Tuesday.


Jeff Crouere is a native of New Orleans, LA and he is the host of a Louisiana based program, “Ringside Politics,” which airs at 7:30 p.m. Fri. and 10:00 p.m. Sun. on WLAE-TV 32, a PBS station, and 7 till 11 a.m.weekdays on WGSO 990 AM in New Orleans and the Northshore. For more information, visit his web site at www.ringsidepolitics.com. E-mail him at [email protected].

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