Vitter Leads, Nungesser Tied

Jeremy Alford Thursday, December 18, 2014 0
Vitter Leads, Nungesser Tied

Voters, obviously, aren’t yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.

But that didn’t stop the Metairie-based research firm Multi-Quest from going into the field for 606 live interviews with likely voters to gauge the races for governor and lieutenant governor. Conducted over three days beginning Oct. 22, it has a margin of error of +/-4 percent.

The firm paid for the poll and does not have a client in either of the top races.

In the race for governor, U.S. Sen. David Vitter led the group with 25.9 percent, followed by Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne at 10.9 percent.

The numbers are nearly identical to those of a Voter Consumer Research Poll from March and a Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research poll from December, 2013.

A Southern Media and Opinion Research poll from November, 2013, showed the same stack up top, only with Vitter leading Dardenne 30-18.

State Rep. John Bel Edwards came in at 4 percent, edging out the only other Democrat in Multi-Quest’s gubernatorial field, Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, who hasn’t announced for the race but received 3.8 percent. Republican Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle had 2.3 percent.

While Campbell hasn’t necessarily ruled out running, the big question on the Democratic side is New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, and on the GOP side, Treasurer John Kennedy.

Vitter attracted 41 percent of the Republican vote in the Multi-Quest poll. He scored 32 percent among independents. Dardenne runs strongest in central Louisiana, which includes Baton Rouge, besting Vitter 23-16 there. African-American voters didn’t seem to like the field, with 70 percent undecided or refusing to say.

The poll for governor is punctuated by a large undecided vote overall, around 53 percent, which is still lower than the 72 percent who had no idea which way they would lean for lieutenant governor.

Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser led Jefferson Parish President John Young 10.3-9.6, which amounts to a statistical tie with the margin of error.

Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden, the only Democrat polled, received 8.1 percent. State Sen. Elbert Guillory, R-Opelousas, who has expressed an interest in the race, was not included. Young and Holden polled the same 11.6 percent among black voters.


Marijuana Issue To Resurface

After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications, such as oils and pills.

Danny Ford, lobbyist for the Louisiana Cannabis Industry Assoc., said narrowing the focus of such a proposal is a smart move.

“We’ve got to find a way to get something passed,” he said. “We’re excited about further exploring both the medicinal and agriculture sides of this issue.

Ford said LCIA will also gear up next year to help educate the candidates for governor and to learn their stances on various issues.

In November, the association endorsed Congressman Bill Cassidy in the U.S. Senate race. In the first primary debate, Cassidy announced his support for medical marijuana.


Primary Appeared Free Of Fraud

As big and nasty as the ballot was in the primary, and as high as the stakes were for both parties, there were no serious accusations of voter fraud in Louisiana’s top races.

“It was unusually quiet for an election cycle this big,” said Meg Casper, press secretary for Secretary of State Tom Schedler.

Former Congressman Jeff Landry, chairman of the GOP’s voter integrity program, echoed the view.

“It has been really quiet,” Landry told LaPolitics on election night, adding with a smile, “I guess we’ll have to wait and see what the runoffs look like.”


Drinking In Huey Long History

Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.

Acknowledging the donkey in the room, Cassidy told his supporters in the bar that Huey Long, in 1930, was the last U.S. Senate candidate to overthrow an incumbent in Louisiana. Apparently there weren’t any John Overton groupies in the crowd, for no one objected to the factoid.

Long was indeed elected in 1930, but didn’t claim the seat until 1932, as he wanted to maintain control over the state rather than hand it over to the lieutenant governor.

After arriving in D.C. in 1932, Huey set his sights on Louisiana’s other Senate seat and put up his ally, then-Congressman John Overton, who took down incumbent Sen. Edwin Broussard.

A Senate committee looked into fraud and abuse in relation to the 1932 campaign, noting the “deplorable and distressing political conditions” in Louisiana, but submitted a report with no recommendations.

So it was Overton, not Long, who last overcame an incumbent U.S. senator on a Louisiana ballot.

For what it’s worth, if senior Sen. Mary Landrieu is looking to make a similar splash, there’s another bar in Baton Rouge that might be available for a last minute campaign event — Uncle Earl’s on Perkins Road.


UNO Polling May Be In Jeopardy

The administration at the University of New Orleans has recommended the elimination of the graduate program in the political science department.

But sources at the university now say there could be unintended consequences, like the shuttering of the Survey Research Center, which has long been an independent voice for polling.

Politicos and media executives in the New Orleans area are said to be lobbying UNO heavily.


Maginnis To Be In Hall Of Fame

The Louisiana Political Museum recently announced that late LaPolitics founder and author John Maginnis will be included in the 2014 class of Louisiana Political Hall of Fame inductees.

Induction activities will be held in Winnfield on Feb. 7 at the Louisiana Political Museum.

Also in the class will be former state Rep. Peppi Bruneau, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, former state Rep. Juba Diez, state Rep. Noble Ellington and late Judge Corky Marvin.


Vitter Considering Chairmanship

As senior Sen. Mary Landrieu loses her chairmanship of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, junior Sen. David Vitter is picking up the gavel for the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee. It’s all part of the game of musical chairs that’s following the Republican takeover of the Senate.

As the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, it was thought Vitter would move into the top slot there. But another Republican is first in line. Instead, Vitter is telling supporters he’ll chair small business.

That falls in line with Vitter’s recent efforts to become the leading big business candidate in the 2015 race for governor. Of course, if he wins next year, he’ll have to hand his Senate gavel in.

Democrats had argued that Landrieu should be re-elected so she could keep her Senate chairmanship. Perhaps Democrats will now argue that Vitter should stay in D.C. to better leverage his new position, rather than move to Baton Rouge.


AG Candidates Stack Up

Attorney General Buddy Caldwell will likely be called many things during the 2015 election cycle, but lonely will not be one of them.

Democratic attorney Ike Jackson, Jr., of Plaquemines announced recently that he too has plans to join the increasingly crowded race.

The former general counsel for the state Dept. of Natural Resources, Jackson admitted that fundraising will be his largest hurdle. He added, however, that he will not begin raising money until it becomes clear whether the Democratic Party wants to endorse a candidate.

A Voter Consumer Research poll released earlier this year showed Caldwell leading former Congressman Jeff Landry 23-15. But it also found that a generic Democrat could lead them both at 33 percent.

So far, there have been no other Democratic takers.

Marty Maley of Baton Rouge, a Republican who has experience as an assistant district attorney, could make a go at Democrats if his organization firms up and the field remains GOP-heavy.

One wild card to surface in recent weeks is Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta. Sources close to the Republican commissioner say he has occasionally given some thought to higher office. One lobbyist suggested that the AG’s race has been discussed.

For now, Skrmetta is more focused on getting re-elected. The primary’s results may have pushed the idea of another office far from his thoughts.

Forest Wright led Skrmetta into the runoff 38-37, with third-place finisher Al Leone getting 25 percent and endorsing Wright. It’s a low showing for a well-financed incumbent, although he was attacked heavily by Wright and others during the primary.

Alexandria Mayor Jacques Roy is being encouraged by some Democratic circles to think about the race. He won his re-election on Nov. 4 with 51 percent, which amounted to 7,787 votes.

Finally, sources say former Congressman Cleo Fields is looking to recruit a candidate for the 2015 race — a quest that has included a conversation with at least one unnamed state lawmaker from New Orleans.


Press Group Has New Lobbysists

After 31 years of pounding the hallways for the Louisiana Press Assoc., Johnny Koch of Roedel Parsons is no longer the head lobbyist for the state’s reporters, editors and publishers.

He was replaced recently by Kevin Hayes of Adams and Reese, signaling what could be a change in strategy for a group that’s on the front lines of Louisiana’s major public records and official journal debates.

That front line has been noisy and messy in recent years, due in large part to the newspaper wars between The Advocate and The Times-Picayune.

Gov. Bobby Jindal has also gotten the upper hand on public records policy since being elected, paving the way for blockades such as the “deliberative process” provision.

Sammy Hanna, Jr., publisher of the Hanna Newspapers, sits on LPA’s board of directors and chairs its legislative committee.

“There were some questions raised by the board that the lobbying process had not been reviewed in a number of years,” said Hanna. “So the board of directors thought it was a good idea to put out a RFP (request for proposals) and see what comes back.”


Offical Voter Turnout Stats

The Secretary of State’s Office released its final figures for this year’s primary elections, revealing voter turnout statewide was 51.5 percent — meaning 1.5 million of Louisiana’s 2.9 million registered voters participated.

Democrats made up 46.8 percent of the electorate statewide, outpacing the 27.7 percent showing posted by Republicans. Overall, however, Republicans managed to turn out more of their registered voters, 61.3-54.4 percent over Democrats.

There were 747,124 Democratic voters and 498,104 Republican voters.

As for voters from “other” parties, 267,106 made it to the polls, representing 25.5 percent of the electorate. Of all “other” party voters in the state, 35.7 percent voted.

There were 1 million white voters, or 64 percent of the total makeup; 435,967 black voters, or 31.4 percent; and 47,725 “other” race voters, or 4.7 percent.

In terms of gender turnout, more women voted, to the tune of 845,689 voters, or 54.9 percent of the electorate. For their male counterparts, there were 666,427 voters, or 45.1 percent of the electorate.


For more Louisiana political news, visit or follow Jeremy Alford on Twitter @LaPoliticsNow.