As a requirement for running for Congress in the 6th District, former Gov. Edwin Edwards has filed his financial disclosure statement with the U.S. House. It shows his income in 2013 totaling $242,787.
Released within two years of his being released from federal prison, the statement shows Edwards was earning money from his biography, a television show, speaking engagements, energy royalties and retirement benefits.
He didn’t list any stocks, interest earned from savings accounts or liabilities owed to creditors.
Edwards’ most substantial source of income was the government, with $95,939 earned last year from congressional and state retirement systems and Social Security.
He was also paid $79,500 by Left Field Productions for his canceled A&E reality series The Governor’s Wife. He earned another $46,600 through speaking engagements.
His biography, Edwin Edwards: Governor of Louisiana, brought in $17,792 in 2013.
The smallest revenue stream for Edwards came from royalties: $2,787 from Nelson Energy and $169 from Henry Products.
He also reported his income for 2014 until April 20, which amounted to $51,074.
Judges Face Age Limit Issue
Attorneys, judges and others interviewed by LaPolitics expect 15 to 20 district judge races this year. Many of the seats, which carry with them six-year terms, are opening up because judges either want to retire for the obvious reasons — to practice law, be with their families, play golf or fish — or because they’ve reached the required retirement age of 70.
“We’re seeing more open seats than we’re used to, but it’s due mainly to retirement. But what we’re all waiting to see is how many judges that are age-limited qualify to run anyway,” said a source. “A few of them have been talking about it.”
If a judge turns 70 while in office, he’s allowed to continue serving, but not to seek re-election. The restriction applies to those who wish to run as well.
However, during this year’s session, lawmakers passed HB 96 by Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, which would let voters decide whether the age ban should be overturned.
“If voters approve the constitutional amendment on the November ballot, and it takes effect as planned before the swearing-in in January, then the judges at or above the retirement age who want to run again may be able to do so,” said an attorney. “What they’re trying to figure out is who has the standing to bring the challenge. Maybe no one will need to. It’s unclear right now.”
D.A. Races Expected
“I feel like I’m under siege,” an attorney said recently over drinks at Galatoire’s Bistro in Baton Rouge. “We all do. Every time I turn around, somebody wants a check. District attorney races. The judges. They’re killing us.”
In addition to as many as 20 elections this fall for district judge, there are six open district attorney seats. Add to that another five D.A.s who are expected to be challenged and four more races that are developing slowly with roughly a month to go until qualifying. All in, that’s the possibility of as many as 35 races for district judge and district attorney.
“Now you have to wonder if that many will come forward and qualify,” said a source tracking the races. “The most D.A. races I’ve ever seen in one cycle is around 16 a few decades ago. So this appears to be a slight pick-up in action. If about 10 of the races produce challengers to incumbents, and three or four beat an incumbent, I would consider that a pretty big deal. But it’s still early.”
So far, six district attorneys have announced they’re not running again or are retiring, including Bob Levy in the 3rd District in Lincoln-Union; Jam Downs in the 9th in Rapides; Phil Haney in the 16th in Iberia-St. Martin-St. Mary; Cecil Sanner in the 38th in Cameron; Walter Reed in the 22nd in St. Tammany-Washington; and David Burton in the 36th in Beauregard.
Consultants already working the races only expect half or less to be competitive.
Meanwhile, there are already serious challenges in Lafayette (former A.D.A. Keith Stutes is taking on D.A. Mike Harson); West Feliciana; St. Landry; Jefferson Davis (D.A. Mike Cassidy is facing former D.A. and district judge Wendell Miller); and Terrebonne.
There are slight possibilities of races in Bienville, St. Bernard, St. John and Caldwell, where D.A. Mark McKee pressed charges against Sheriff Steve May over fixing tickets.
The highest-profile race as of now comes courtesy of St. Tammany D.A. Water Reed, who has decided not to seek a sixth term while under fire for questionable campaign finance expenditures, management decisions and other activities. Slidell attorney Alan Black, Covington attorney Roy Burns, Jr., and chief deputy sheriff Brian Trainor have all expressed interest in running. Burns has already launched the first media buy of the race with a 30-second spot on WNOE.
Senate Race Most Expensive Yet
If you’re already growing weary of all those television ads about Louisiana’s hotly contested U.S. Senate race, then you’ll take little comfort in learning that there’s more money flowing into the candidates’ campaign accounts than in any other comparable statewide election in recent history.
So far, the two lead contenders have deposited more than $21.5 million into their accounts, with more certainly to come.
Incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu, a New Orleans Democrat, has raised $13.5 million this cycle, according to her second quarter finance report filed with the Federal Election Commission. That’s nearly $2 million more than she collected during her entire 2008 re-election campaign. And there’s still three and a half months to go until the November primary.
Her lead challenger, Congressman Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, has raised $8 million thus far. That well exceeds the $2.8 million that was raised by Landrieu’s last major challenger, Treasurer John Kennedy, six years ago.
When coupled with all the outsider spending by third-party groups, says John Couvillon, president of JMC Analytics, this fall’s U.S. Senate race is already the most expensive election Louisiana has ever seen.
“With all the recent court rulings on unlimited fundraising by super PACs, and the possibility that this race could decide the partisan makeup of the Senate, the spigots have been turned wide open,” he said. “The expenditure figures indicate to me that for once a Louisiana statewide race is very prominent on the national level.”
The last major Senate race Louisiana saw was in 2010, when incumbent GOP Sen. David Vitter raised $12.5 million to defend his seat. In that runoff, he bested former Congressman Charlie Melancon, a Democrat who raised $4 million for his challenge.
Adding to the Landrieu-Cassidy tally this cycle is retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness of Mandeville. A Republican newcomer to politics, Maness has managed to transform his fringe candidacy into one the other campaigns are keeping their eyes on, largely due to support from national tea party groups. So far Maness has raised $1.25 million.
Candidates Run To The Right In 6th District
In the packed 6th Congressional District field, entrepreneur Paul Dietzel of Baton Rouge is expecting an endorsement from the Tea Party Leadership Fund. He’s already been endorsed by the Tea Party Express. As one of the first candidates to announce for the race, he appeared to corner the tea party market early.
But now he’s getting stiff GOP competition from Bob Bell, a retired Navy captain and columnist for the Tea Party of Louisiana; Baker businessman and physical therapist Craig McCulloch; and state Rep. Lenar Whitney of Houma. If one of them is unable to get tea party voters in the district to coalesce behind their campaign, the vote will likely be split.
Whitney released a nearly five-minute video recently further explaining why she believes global warming is a “hoax.” The web spot has received national attention, mostly in the form of criticism from left-leaning circles. Her handlers insist she is positioned to be the official tea party candidate in the 6th.
“She’s got the votes and the record on all of the important issues,” said campaign manager Chris Comeaux. “It’s easy to sit there and regurgitate the talking points. She has actually voted her conscious and stood up for her beliefs.”
Bernie Pinsonat of Southern Media and Opinion Research said he’s not surprised to see Whitney attempting to run to the right of the field while everyone except former Gov. Edwin Edwards is trying to beat her there. “If you’re in the middle, you’re road kill,” he said.
It’s difficult to find any campaign literature from state Sen. Dan Claitor and former CPRA chairman Garret Graves that doesn’t promote their conservative values. Neither appears ready to concede the conservative position.
Claitor has been rolling out a series of web videos that stake out his positions on everything from energy and jobs to fiscal management. It’s part of a large, strategic social media campaign.
Graves, meanwhile, recently attended a fundraiser for his campaign that was co-hosted by a dozen parish presidents.
Musical Chairs In N.O. Delegation
In the event that term-limited Sen. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans, qualifies for the open seat in House District 97, as expected, friends of Rep. Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans, say he’ll mount a bid for Murray’s seat if the senator wins.
“Even if Murray decides against running this fall, Wesley is going to run for Senate District 4 next year as Murray terms out,” said a source close to Bishop. “His entire House district is inside that Senate district.”
The House district was left vacant this year by Jared Brossett, who left the Legislature to take a seat on the New Orleans City Council.
Murray isn’t the only local pol looking at the House race. Sidney Cates V, the son of Civil District Court Judge Sidney Cates IV, is making moves as well. The president of the NOLA Building Group, the younger Cates has a seat on the Democratic Parish Executive Committee that includes House District 97.
The primary election for the House seat has been scheduled for Nov. 4, with a Dec. 6 runoff as needed. Qualifying will begin Aug. 20 and end Aug. 22.
For more Louisiana political news, visit www.LaPolitics.com or follow Jeremy Alford on Twitter @LaPoliticsNow.