Some say he will. Others call it downright unfathomable. Most simply have no idea what he’ll do. So until New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu gives a definitive answer on the question of whether he’ll run for governor, pollsters will continue tossing in his name and donors will second guess their investments. So until New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu gives a definitive answer on the question of whether he’ll run for governor, pollsters will continue tossing in his name and donors will second guess their investments. To that end, sources very close to the mayor insist he has not ruled out the possibility of joining the field. But they also say he will soon report having only $30,000 to $40,000 in the bank. While Landrieu is certainly in a position to raise piles of cash fast should he decide to run, that $40,000 is not the kind of number a serious candidate would want to start with.Then again, it’s not exactly due to weak fundraising. Landrieu drained the coffers last year for his re-election campaign. He immediately went to war helping his sister in a heated Senate campaign while at the same time dealing with quite a long list of controversial issues in the city. Democratic operatives suggest Landrieu may be more interested, and better positioned, to become a major influencer in the presidential race. It has become a trend of late to pull from the ranks of big city mayors for top tier D.C. gigs, and Landrieu would once again be following in the footsteps of his mayor-father, who served as secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Landrieu has close ties to the Clinton family. But he could be a strong voice for whatever pol snags the nomination. Rumors have long percolated about possible positions in the Obama Administration, although nothing concrete has surfaced to substantiate the talk.The indecision on running for governor certainly keeps Landrieu relevant — not that a New Orleans mayor needs inventive ways to stay afloat in political waters. The poll numbers must be entertaining, if nothing else, for the mayor, with him guaranteed to make the runoff against the current slate of candidates. Hurt most in those surveys by a Landrieu candidacy is state Rep. John Bel Edwards of Amite, the long-declared candidate who’s been working the base for more than a year. He has a billboard prominently displayed by the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Edwards swept aside the rumors in a recent interview, and predicted Landrieu will stay where he is. “Last fall he told a group in Hammond, and I was there, that he would not run,” Edwards said. “He told the people of New Orleans last year that he would not run. I know Mitch to be an honorable person, and he’ll live up to his word.” One donor said he recently pushed Landrieu on the question, but was unable to get a read one way or the other. A government official in New Orleans said Landrieu has implied he isn’t inclined to run. But a poll showing a clear and definite path to victory could convince him otherwise. Meanwhile, concerns about the mayor’s standing with unions, firefighters and teachers are overhyped, supporters say, and he would be able to pull together a support system quickly if he indeed decided to become the surprise candidate of 2015. Yet with each passing day, it appears more and more unlikely, with or without mixed signals.
Anti-Tax Groups Target Session
National anti-tax organizations such as the Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and Americans for Prosperity are planning to have a noticeable presence at the Capitol during the session, and again when lawmakers face re-election this fall.
Representatives from both groups said they’re ready to mobilize national and grassroots resources — and possibly target media buys from ATR — should lawmakers attempt to increase taxes.
It’s an early sign that Gov. Bobby Jindal will not be alone in his opposition stance, which includes eliminating tax exemptions in ways that aren’t revenue neutral.
“We’re going to actively oppose any proposal that creates a net tax increase,” said Patrick M. Gleason, director of state affairs for ATR. “There will be outreach to lawmakers, and we also plan to educate their constituencies on how they voted.”
Gleason, who was in Louisiana late last month for meetings, said lawmakers who have signed ATR’s well-known anti-tax pledge will be reminded of their promise.
AFP’s Louisiana director Phillip Joffrion said, “We are not supportive of net tax increases, and we will hold legislators accountable. It is a critically important issue for us.”
Depending on how hard these groups turn the screws, they could take some of the heat off of Jindal, since legislators might be more prone to complain publicly about the special interests than the governor.
The Louisiana Assoc. of Business and Industry can be counted on as an anti-tax voice. Sources close to the business community say an overarching narrative is coming together. They suggest that raising taxes is bad policy because it inhibits the ability of businesses to create jobs and make capital investments.
An effort will be made to show economic improvements in the state since 2008, when Jindal took office and halted the flow of tax increases.
Jindal: No On Taxes; Maybe On Fees
While proposals to increase taxes may be dead on arrival when they reach Gov. Bobby Jindal’s desk, the administration tells LaPolitics that it is willing to at least review fee changes this session.
But how lawmakers package them will determine how Jindal comes down on the issue. That is, the governor is neither opening the door for fees, nor is he shutting down related talks.
“We will review any fee increase proposal to determine if they are truly fees to pay for services rendered and not taxes by a different name,” said Jindal spokesperson Shannon Bates Dirmann.
This could be a very small — maybe tiny — opening for state departments and agencies that are facing at least 15 percent reductions across the board in the next fiscal year.
The latest multi-year revenue forecast has many thinking long-term. The 2015-16 fiscal year will face a $1.6 billion shortfall, at the very least, with the following three fiscal years seeing budget shortfalls ranging from $1.4-1.8 billion each if there are no changes in the economy and incoming revenue streams.
Back To Closed Primaries?
The conversion of Louisiana to a closed primary election system is an issue that’s been on and off the political radar over the last year. But a group of high-ranking Republicans are hoping to keep it on and are quietly touring the state to build support.
Sources tell LaPolitics that the state’s Republican National Committeeman Ross Little is working with other members of the GOP central committee to gauge support of lawmakers and donors. Meetings are taking place, guided by a supportive resolution from the central committee.
While there’s a chance the issue could surface in legislation during the spring session, the only consensus among those involved so far is that the conversion shouldn’t happen until after 2016.
Whether state and federal races should both be included is still a point of contention, as is what to do with independent voters.
The effort could face opposition from Secretary of State Tom Schedler, who said in an earlier interview, “There’s a divided sea on that particular issue. I personally like the open primary system. I think it works well for Louisiana.”
He added that the temporary switch back to closed primaries in 2010 was confusing for voters.
Still, there’s an undeniable appeal in the old ways for Louisiana Republicans. Reverting to closed primaries would certainly force more white voters to the GOP side. Currently, most have no incentive to change their party registration, even if they’re voting Republican.
There’s definitely a trend to build on, with 225,000 white Democrats defecting over the past 10 years.
BESE Election PAC May Return
With eight seats on the fall ballot for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and a pro-reform majority to protect, it looks like the group that helped elect the board in 2011 will be back at it this fall.
The Alliance for Better Classrooms, headed by Baton Rouge businessman Lane Grigsby, is putting the band back together. Playing point on the ground will be Dan Juneau, the former president of the Louisiana Assoc. of Business and Industry.
It’s still unknown whether the group will use its old political action committee, or PAC, but the possibility is definitely on the table.
“We want to protect our gains in education,” Grigsby said. “We were very involved in the last cycle, which led to the super majority and the appointment of John White as superintendent. We anticipate that this fall, those same elected members will face some good opposition from people with hidden agendas.”
Pro-Dardenne Super PAC Emerges
The Fund for Louisiana’s Future, a super PAC created to back the gubernatorial campaign of U.S. Sen. David Vitter, is no longer the lone wolf in the Bayou State.
Another super PAC, called “Now or Never-Louisiana PAC,” has been created to support Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne to the tune of no-limit contributions. It was registered on the state level in October, 2014, by individuals affiliated with Axiom Strategies, which has offices in Kansas City and Washington.
The pro-Dardenne super PAC is headed by Axiom’s Travis Smith, a former McCain-Palin staffer and former chief of staff to Congressman Kevin Yoder of Kansas.
“There’s a difference between the candidates in this race,” Smith told LaPolitics, “and we plan to actively demonstrate the differences to voters.”
There’s no word yet on when the Now or Never PAC will file its first report, or whether it has any major pledges or donations. But the firm behind the super PAC is an up and comer. Principal partner Jeff Roe was recently hired to work on the political organization of Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. Roe’s bio claims credit for the election of 31 congressmen and four U.S. senators.
It could be an early indication that Dardenne’s supporters plan to try to compete for national money against Vitter’s team — the super PACs are prohibited from coordinating with the campaigns.
There have also been rumblings in recent months of a bipartisan, anti-Vitter super PAC, but sources with knowledge of the effort contend the difficulty of attracting national money for this race against a sitting senator has been one of the hurdles.