By Jeremy Alford, Sarah Gamard and Mitch Rabalais
A rather holy wave may be building for the 2019 election cycle in the form of pastors and faith-based advocates qualifying as candidates; that’s according to Rev. Gene Mills, the executive director of the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF).While Mills’ forecast applies largely to next year’s House and Senate races, along with a few down-ballot-items, there could be at least one statewide contest playing host to contenders from the forum’s flock.
“I have a number of friends who are considering running for office; a number of pastors from across the state who are even considering stepping down to step over,” Mills said during the season-closing episode of The LaPolitics Report podcast recently.
State Rep. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge, is among the latest to make the leap. Edmonds was formerly a LFF vice president — and Mills believes he could appear on other ballots sooner than later. “I think Rick is going to get into the race,” he said of the fall special election to replace former Secretary of State Tom Schedler.
Meanwhile, former state Rep. Tony Perkins, who co-founded LFF and is now the president of the Family Research Council, was probably among the first from these far-right ranks to crossover in Baton Rouge.
Mills said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Perkins on a ballot again one day, too, although he clarified that Perkins has no such immediate plans.
Asked about party politics, Mills sought higher ground — much higher. “I don’t trust the donkey,” Mills said. “I don’t trust the elephant. I’m here to represent the Lion of the Tribe of Judah and the Lamb of God.”
Capitol’s Revolving Door
In what is snowballing into a legislative record, both chambers of the Louisiana Legislature have concluded 10 special elections, including a single-candidate House race during the qualifying period.
Special elections are called during a term of the Legislature when a lawmaker creates a vacancy, either by retiring, stepping down, moving to another elected office or other means.
In House District 10, in the Minden area, a special election was called for the November ballot. But Rep.-elect Wayne McMahen became the only candidate to qualify for the post.
Another two special legislative elections in the cities of Slidell and Sulphur will have to wait for the fall ballot. One more needs to be called because Sen. Jonathan Perry, R-Kaplan, became the lone candidate for a seat on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal.
There could be up to six more special elections required this term, depending on the fates of various candidacies.
With senators and representatives haggling over impossible budget issues in seemingly endless special sessions, lawmakers are heading to the exits as quickly as they can. The House in particular has experienced record-breaking turnover, losing seven members this term alone.
As such, there are seven members of the lower chamber running for new jobs on the fall ballot:
— Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, is in the contest for secretary of state.
— Rep. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge, is too.
— Rep. Chris Hazel, R-Pineville, is running for a judgeship in the 9th Judicial District.
— Rep. Marcus Hunter, D-Monroe, is campaigning for a gavel in the 4th Judicial District.
— Rep. Jeff Hall, D-Alexandria, is trying to get the top job in Alexandria City Hall for the second time. But this go-around, he will have no interference from longtime Mayor Jacques Roy, who’s stepping aside.
— Rep. Major Thibaut, D-New Roads, is eyeing the position of Pointe Coupee Parish president.
— Rep. Kenny Havard, R-St. Francisville, has his sights set on being West Feliciana Parish president.
Political History: Louisiana’s First Congresswoman
On Oct. 16, 1972, then-U.S. House Majority Leader Hale Boggs disappeared. The Louisiana congressman had been campaigning for a colleague’s re-election in Alaska when his plane went missing. Military efforts to find the aircraft were unsuccessful after a 39-day search.
While the search had been ongoing, voters in Boggs’ New Orleans-based district still overwhelmingly re-elected him posthumously. This triggered a special election (although a waiting period had to be observed until the congressman was declared legally dead).
When the qualifying to succeed Boggs opened up, his wife Lindy Boggs jumped into the race with the full support of the Louisiana Democratic Party establishment. Having a deceased member’s wife fill a seat had been a common practice for decades. For instance, Rose McConnell Long filled the rest of the Kingfish’s term in the U.S. Senate after his assassination in 1935.
Lindy Boggs, however, was a political player in her own right, and made it clear that she would not be a mere stand-in. Over the course of her marriage, Lindy had run Hale’s campaigns and managed his office. She had also chaired the inaugural committees for John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, campaigned for Democratic candidates around the country, and led the Democratic Wives’ Forum and the Women’s National Democratic Club.
“She’s the only widow I know who is really qualified — damn qualified — to take over,” said then-Congressman F. Edward Hebert, who chaired the Armed Services Committee at the time.
In the special election, Lindy Boggs defeated her opposition by a 4-1 margin. Her victory marked the first time Louisiana voters elected a woman to Congress.
On her arrival to the lower chamber, Boggs was assigned a seat on the the House Banking and Currency Committee. According to her memoir, Washington Through a Purple Veil, she had found it difficult to do business with banks as a newly single woman, and was unable to get a loan or credit card. As a member of the committee governing financial regulations, she set out to change this.
When a bill came before the committee that prohibited banks from discriminating against customers based on age or race, Boggs attached an amendment. Denying credit on the basis of “sex or marital status” would be outlawed. The bill passed overwhelmingly, and women were able to take out loans, mortgages and credit cards in their own names — for the first time in American history.
“It wasn’t that it was Lindy Boggs making the difference,” she later recalled. “It was the fact that there was a woman at the right place at the right time to make a difference.”
Q&A: Billy Tauzin
LaPolitics: We understand that you are currently working on a book about your career in politics. Can you tell us about this and give us a little preview of what we will see in the book?
Former Congressman Billy Tauzin: A lot of the book will talk about how things got so dysfunctional and how to get back to a functioning Congress. But it will also contain memoirs. I’ve been writing for Facebook on a lot of subjects, covering 35 years of public office, from the days I served in the Legislature as a floor leader for Edwin Edwards to the days I served in Congress, as a member of the leadership of both parties for 25 years. So there is a lot of great stories about a lot of events and a lot of things that happened — many of them humorous, many of them sort of inside stories of some important national events.
LaPolitics: We’re a couple of months away from the congressional midterm elections. What are your expectations?
Tauzin: Well, it’s very difficult to predict at this early stage in the game. The one thing I have learned is that in the last several weeks, prior to November elections in the midterm, is that waves develop. It’s either going to be a blue wave or a red wave. I don’t think there is going to be too much in between. Somebody really is going to be surprised. The polls are now showing a very closely contested national race. History tells us that in the mid-terms, the party in power generally loses seats. But the polls are now showing, in the generic ballot at least, that it is a close contest. Anybody that makes a prediction today is either Nostradamus or a fool.
LaPolitics: A big story in the news recently was President Donald Trump’s trip to Singapore to meet with the North Koreans. You’re a former member of Congress who was there during the ‘80s and ‘90s with the Soviets and it was a new era of foreign policy. What do you make of all of this?
Tauzin: Well, I visited the Berlin Wall after Ronald Reagan encouraged Gorbachev to take the wall down. I’ve been on the Great Wall of China. It’s a part of my history. The one thing I do know is that these are major historical events when they happen. This is one. Anybody who is tuned in to gossipy stories this week instead of paying attention to what is happening in Singapore is making a big mistake. This is historic. It will be incredibly dramatic. If it leads to a denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and an end to the war that never ended, that would be a situation where the whole world would be better off. It could be a prelude if we eventually have the same opportunities with Iran. So this is about world peace, this is about whether we have nuclear war or not. This is serious stuff.
LaPolitics: You ran for governor in 1987. We’re a little over a year out from the next governor’s election. What’s essential to building a campaign early and do any contenders stand out to you?
Tauzin: It’s a little early. But if you want to watch somebody, watch Steve Scalise as a potential contender. Obviously, the governor is going to run for re-election, and he still has very high public approval ratings, so he will not be an easy target for an opponent. But if you thought of who would be an amazingly strong opponent right now, that would be Steve Scalise. He’s got his eyes set on being Speaker or at least being close to the Speaker in the House, assuming that the Republicans maintain the majority. If they do not maintain control, then you have to watch. Maybe Steve Scalise wants to come home. We’ll have to wait and see.
LaPolitics: What do you think is a better job, being governor of Louisiana or a member of Congress?
Tauzin: I loved my service in the state Legislature. It was not partisan then at all. It wasn’t as if you were with the governor or not. I loved my service in Congress, because at least while I was there, we got along. We could be friends and still disagree and debate one another. That’s gone now. I guess I missed the opportunity to serve Louisiana as governor. I really wanted that opportunity and I’ll always regret that I blew that chance.
For more Louisiana political news, visit www.LaPolitics.com or follow Jeremy Alford on Twitter @LaPoliticsNow.