By Jeremy Alford and Mitch Rabalais
A new trade association has been established in Baton Rouge to “advocate and support Louisiana’s new medical marijuana and plant-based industry.”
The Louisiana Association of Therapeutic Alternatives, or LATA, was formed by the nine marijuana pharmacies that are licensed to do business in Louisiana.
“We needed to speak with one voice and work to educate doctors, patients, lawmakers and regulators about this industry,” said LATA President Doug Boudreaux. “We have seen the need to educate all the players in this new world of alternative treatments. Doctors and patients need to be educated on the process and how this new delivery system will work.”
He added that the association will conduct outreach to physicians, patients, growers and pharmacies.
“This is a new industry in Louisiana with a lot of regulation and moving parts; we still have some kinks to work out, as with any new industry that is arriving in the state,” said LATA Executive Director Jesse McCormick. “LSU and Southern University are the only two licensed growers in the state, and it makes sense to have constant dialog with the growers on product amounts and different strains of product. It is also in our best interest to share results and data between doctors and pharmacists to help with dosing and delivery methods to the patients, and this new association will accomplish that.”
No Stopping For Scalise
With the shift in power on Capitol Hill, Congressman Steve Scalise has gone from being the majority whip to the minority whip, but the aggressive politico from Jefferson Parish hasn’t missed a step.
In an interview with LaPolitics during Washington Mardi Gras two weeks ago, Scalise said his team has already targeted at least 18 U.S. House districts they believe can be recaptured by the Republicans during the 2020 congressional elections.
For his part, Scalise, a master recruiter and fundraiser, is already hitting the road to lay the groundwork. It’s the same kind of approach to policy and politics that landed Scalise in the leadership, and it could catapult him even higher should his party win back the majority next year.
While he is mapping out a path to victory for national Republicans, Scalise will still be helping elect conservative members to the Louisiana Legislature.
While Attorney General Jeff Landry is leading the Louisiana Committee for a Conservative Majority’s attempt to get more like-minded legislators elected, Scalise said he’s interested in offering assistance wherever possible.
“I’m looking to get more involved, and want to assist Jeff wherever I can,” said Scalise. “I think there are a lot of great-looking opportunities out there when it comes to the Legislature.”
Landry Hosts Trump Hotel Event
With much of Louisiana’s political class in the Beltway for the recent Washington Mardi Gras, Attorney General Jeff Landry took advantage of the opportunity and hosted a well-attended fundraiser at President Donald Trump’s downtown hotel.
U.S. Sens. Mike Lee and John Kennedy, along with Minority Whip Steve Scalise, praised Landry in remarks to the crowd, with more than one speaker using the word “fearless.” For his part, Lee said he wished Landry “could be cloned, so he could be here in DC and in Louisiana at the same time.”
Landry was not the only Bayou State elected official to hold an event at the Trump Hotel. House Speaker Taylor Barras, House Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry and Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto hosted a joint fundraiser there, as well.
Political History: Carter, Reagan And Louisiana
The 1980 presidential election will always be remembered for the epic campaign that pitted incumbent President Jimmy Carter of Georgia against then-Governor Ronald Reagan of California.
That presidential race was significant for Louisiana because it marked one of the few times in history that the Bayou State was a political battleground in a national election. Both campaigns spent considerable time, money and resources in the state, while the two candidates made sure to carve out time for personal appearances, rallies and fundraisers.
According to press reports, by the time October came around, Reagan’s conservative message appeared to resonate with many voters, even though Carter had easily won Louisiana’s 10 electoral votes four years earlier.
Seeing the shift, then-Rep. Woody Jenkins of Baton Rouge decided to make an unorthodox political play. Jenkins, then a Democrat, had challenged incumbent U.S. Sen. Russell Long earlier in the year. While his candidacy forced Long to take up his first active campaign in years, Jenkins was handily defeated in the primary.
With his own political advancement on hold, Jenkins called a press conference and announced that he was resigning his post as a Democratic National Committeeman, because he would be supporting Reagan in the presidential election. The announcement was surprising because, despite some misgivings about Carter, the Louisiana Democrats, led by Long and former Gov. Edwin Edwards, were firmly in the Georgian’s camp.
“For me to support Carter would be a case of extreme ‘party-itis’,” he told the reporters. “Carter offers no hope to strengthen the national defense or curb inflation. I weighed this carefully. I’m not one to come out for other parties.”
Jenkins was on the winning side, as Reagan carried nearly 52 percent of the vote in the Bayou State.
Gubernatorial Campaigns Make Hires
The three declared candidates for governor are building up their staffs in anticipation of the campaign to come.
Incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards is shouldering the additional burden of having to juggle personnel in his own administration. For instance, his former deputy chief of staff, Richard Carbo, is now serving as the campaign manager. Linda Day, Edwards’ 2015 campaign manager, will be on staff as a senior advisor. Two other veterans from the 2015 race, media consultant Jared Arsement and GOTV constant Ben Jeffers, will be returning to their old posts.
The fresh faces over at Edwards HQ include pollsters John Anzalone and Zach McCrary, digital strategist Julie Ager and finance director Katie Penland, who comes to Team JBE from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. She’ll be working with Emilie Tenenbaum, who has handled the governor’s fundraising since 2016.
Congressman Ralph Abraham’s effort will be led by campaign manager John Vick, who previously worked for U.S. Sen. John Kennedy and the Republican Party of Virginia. Courtney Alexander, a former staffer for Abraham’s congressional office and U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy’s 2014 campaign, will be taking over as the campaign’s political director, while Bill Skelly and Causeway Solutions will be handling polling and data analysis. Lionel Rainey III will be Abraham’s general consultant, while fundraiser Allee Bautsch Gruenwald will be tasked with keeping the doctor’s war chest full.
Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone has named Bryan Reed as his campaign chief. Reed was previously the deputy political director for U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s 2016 presidential campaign. Sarah Harbison, who formerly worked for U.S. Sen. John Kennedy and Treasurer John Schroder, is the new political director, and veteran fundraiser Sally Nungesser will be raising money. Tony Fabrizio, who was the chief pollster for President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, will be crunching the numbers for Rispone, too.
Political History: Where Dat? (The Followup)
In the summer of 2001, the talks between the New Orleans Saints and the state of Louisiana seemed at an impasse. Owner Tom Benson and his executives wanted a new stadium for the NFL team, while the state wanted to find the cheapest way to keep the Saints in New Orleans.
The state’s lead negotiator was Stephen Perry, then-Gov. Mike Foster’s chief of staff. Through his contacts in Mississippi politics, Perry had found out about a series of clandestine meetings that Benson had had with Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and U.S. Sen. Trent Lott in an effort to move the Black and Gold to the Magnolia State.
Musgrove and Lott had put together a formal proposal for large retractable-roof stadium and an accompanying development just off of I-10 in Hancock County. Benson and his executives had heard the final pitch from Mississippi officials just days before heading to a meeting with their Bayou State counterparts.
Perry, incensed at the idea that the Saints could be leaving, opened the meeting by telling Benson, team vice president Arnie Fielkow and the assembled teams of negotiators that he was well aware of the discussions over in Mississippi. “You’re not negotiating with us in good faith,” he said.
After a few more minutes of tense talks, Benson’s team, visibly frustrated and enraged, stood up and announced to the room that they were ending the negotiations with the state of Louisiana. “It was a very short meeting and it broke down quickly,” Fielkow told LaPolitics.
Perry then headed for the Superdome, where he called a press conference and announced that the Saints had walked out of talks with Louisiana and appeared to be inching away from New Orleans. While rumors had been bouncing around for months, Perry’s statements were the first official confirmation. “It would be a catastrophic mistake for the franchise on every conceivable level,” he told reporters.
Later that evening, Benson responded in his own press conference. “I’m particularly disappointed and frustrated by the allegations that the Saints have acted in bad faith during these negotiations,” he said, his voice rising with emotion.
After about a week of silence, tempers cooled and the two sides agreed to meet in Baton Rouge. While Gov. Foster had let Perry lead the talks, he sat in on this meeting, speaking directly with Benson himself. “The governor was pretty clear that a new stadium was going to be very difficult,” Fielkow said.
Leaving Foster and Benson, a small team of negotiators from both sides huddled in a small room. After some haggling, they worked out the framework of a deal. The state would pay the Saints $186 million over ten years to help supplement the team’s revenue. In return, the franchise would drop their demands for a new stadium.
The deal was overwhelmingly approved by the Legislature, giving the Black and Gold a permanent home (again) on Poydras Street.
Ruckert Makes BOLD Moves
After three years of running his own shop, BOLD Strategies, consultant Kyle Ruckert is expanding his portfolio again by adding his wife Lynnel and Andree Miller to the rolls. Both worked in the trenches for former U.S. Sen. David Vitter, alongside Kyle.
Lynnel spent the majority of her career on Capitol Hill, including an eight-year stint as Minority Whip Steve Scalise’s chief of staff, and recently left her position in Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office. Miller previously worked for St. Jude’s before joining Vitter’s Senate staff and eventually working for Lynnel.
In addition to handling the Louisiana Committee for a Conservative Majority, BOLD’s clients include Landry, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy and Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon.
They Said It
“Every drunk in every bar in America looked up at the TV and said, ‘That’s pass interference!’” —U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, on the Saints-Rams game, on CSPAN
“I don’t think so.” —Former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, on running for president, on CNN
“If we don’t do something about the cost of health insurance in this country, the voters are gonna go medieval on us, and they should.” —U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, or rising healthcare costs, on CNN
For more Louisiana political news, visit LaPolitics.com or follow Alford and Rabalais on Twitter via @LaPoliticsNow.