At a meeting hosted on Nov. 14 in Lake Charles by the Southwest Louisiana Republican Roundtable, Calcasieu Clerk of Court Lynn Jones made a bold prediction.
“John Bel Edwards is going to end up running for president,” Jones said. “You watch. Democrats are going to have to start looking elsewhere for a new kind of candidate. If he can get re-elected governor, there’s going to be a push.”
Maybe the Boston Globe was listening to Jones that night, because two days later reporter James Pindell posted a story online entitled “20 candidates who could run in 2020 — Democrats and Republicans.”
Edwards was the first name on the list.
“If Democrats believe they need the ‘bubba vote’ — AKA white, working-class men — they could look to Edwards, who was elected last year as Louisiana’s governor,” Pindell wrote. “Edwards would run into the same bad timing that former Gov. Bobby Jindal faced: He would need to figure out how to seek reelection in Louisiana in 2019 and essentially run for president at the same time. Jindal passed on 2012 for this reason.”
Lake Charles Mayor’s Race
Calcasieu Parish Police Juror Nic Hunter recently announced that he will be a candidate for Lake Charles mayor on the March 25 ballot.
The retirement of longtime Mayor Randy Roach has sent politicos scrambling, and the race to succeed him is well underway.
Hunter has deep roots in the community. He still owns and operates Harlequin Steaks and Seafood, which his grandparents opened six decades ago.
He won’t face anything that resembles a clear field, though.
Others said to be running include Lake Charles City Councilman Dana Jackson, who started positioning early; Police Jury President Chris Landry; attorney Marshall Simien; Calcasieu Parish Police Juror Tony Guillory; pastor Joe Banks; and Lake Charles Assistant City Administrator Eligha Guillory, Jr., will also be in the race.
A last-minute sleeper candidate could slip in as well, local politicos say.
Legislators Announce Runs Early
Even though the regular campaign season for the Louisiana Legislature won’t come around again until 2019, there’s already one open seat that will be decided by a special election next year. More could soon follow.
In another surprising trend, candidates across the state are already starting to announce their legislative bids for 2019 — showing that even down-ballot campaigns are starting earlier than ever.
Part of this early posturing could be due to terms limits, which will force out 60-70 percent of the House and Senate in three years.
The latest development comes from Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, a longtime Capitol player who started his legislative career in the House in 1994. Martiny said he’s considering a run for a different elected job closer to home in the near future. But it largely depends on what happens on this Election Day.
While he has been urged to consider running for judge in the coming years, Martiny is keeping tabs on the Jefferson Parish Council seat held by Ben Zahn, who’s expected to win his bid for Kenner mayor on Dec. 10. If Zahn is successful, the resulting vacancy on the parish council could be a good fit for Martiny, who is term-limited. “I’m considering that,” Martiny told LaPolitics.
If Martiny is successful, that will trigger a special election in Senate District 10. Rep. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge, has already said he’s interested in running.
Martiny’s potential exit from the upper chamber would create some openings for leadership gigs as well. He’s the commerce chairman and chairman of the Senate GOP delegation.
Also dependent on the Dec. 10 run-offs are the question of whether Sen. Bodi White, R-Central, wins his bid for Baton Rouge mayor and whether Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Shreveport, is victorious in the 4th Congressional District race. If both win, then two special elections will be needed next year.
There’s already a special election scheduled for March 25 in House District 92, where former Rep. Tom Willmott won his primary campaign for the Kenner City Council.
As for some very early posturing, Iberia Parish Councilman Ricky Gonsoulin is already telling supporters that he’ll run in House District 48 in 2019. That’s the seat being vacated by House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, due to term limits.
East Carroll Parish Police Jury President Lee Denny, who lives in House District 19, has also already started campaigning and intends to be on the ballot. This is the district currently occupied by Rep. Bubba Chaney, R-Rayville, who is likewise term limited.
Elected Officials Want LMA Job
Eight candidates were recently interviewed for the executive director position at the Louisiana Municipal Assoc.; they included one state lawmaker and two mayors.
Rep. Greg Cromer, R-Slidell, threw his name into the mix, along with Columbia Mayor Richard Meredith, Oak Grove Mayor Adam Holland and former Delhi mayor Lynn Lewis.
John Gallagher, who’s currently serving as the interim director, was on the interview list as well, in addition to Geoffrey Large, Blane Faulk and Francis T. Delhomme.
Three final candidates are expected to be selected. They will be interviewed by the LMA board later in December, when the new executive director will be chosen.
Former LMA executive director Ronnie Harris vacated the position in October to seek opportunities in the private sector.
Political History: Have You Heard About Heard?
William Wright Heard was the first Louisiana governor elected in the 1900s. He was also the person responsible for choosing the state’s seal and motto.
In 1902, just two years after being elected, Heard told the secretary of state to start using a seal that depicted a pelican tearing into its own breast to feed its young. Around that iconic image were placed the words: “Union… Justice… Confidence.”
When Heard was elected in 1900, only 76,000 voters showed up at the polls — down from 203,000 voters four years prior. The Constitution of 1898 had disenfranchised African-American and poor white voters.
Heard, a Union Parish politician, just couldn’t excite the masses. He had held the statewide elected position of auditor for two terms and had served in the state House, but seemed ill prepared for the governorship.
A better administrator than a statesman, Heard helped create the state prison system, and was in office for Louisiana’s first discovery of oil via a rig in what is now Jefferson Davis Parish. (Some historians dispute that Jennings Oil Company Number 1 was actually the first such operation.)
Heard took office at the relatively young age of 47 and served just one term, which was what the law allowed at the time. After leaving the post of governor, Heard became a full-time banker and lived out the rest of his days in New Orleans.
Louisiana Names For Top Trump Posts
President-elect Donald Trump still has a few top jobs to fill. And there are a few Louisiana politicians who are about to be jobless. Thus, it’s only natural that the rumor mill is churning out possibilities.
We know now that some of these possible candidates are out of the running. Would David Vitter have made a good fit for a gig in the Treasury Dept.? Maybe. But we’ll never know, as that post went to Steven Mnuchin, of Goldman Sachs fame.
As of press time, outgoing Congressman Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, is reportedly on the short list to be Trump’s chief U.S. trade negotiator, according to Politico.
The insider D.C. publication noted that Boustany “has long been a trade advocate in Congress and sits on the House Ways and Means Committee … The lawmaker has had a keen interest in the issue, especially as it relates to the oil and gas interests of his south Louisiana district.”
There are those who helped Trump on the ground in the Bayou State. Two of those top players were Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta, chairman of the Louisiana for Trump campaign, and Louisiana for Trump executive director Ryan Lambert.
Skrmetta said he sent Trump’s transition team “the names of highly qualified individuals from Louisiana who are interested in serving the nation and our 45th president.”
Then there’s retired U.S. Navy commander John Wells, a Slidell-based attorney whose practice focuses on military and veterans’ issues. Following Trump’s election, a grassroots effort was launched to have Wells appointed as veterans affairs secretary.
The executive director of the non-profit Military-Veterans Advocacy, Wells has the support of some members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation. His bid has been endorsed by the St. Tammany Republican Parish Executive Committee.
“There’s no doubt Cdr. Wells would represent the president-elect’s vision and help fulfill Trump’s promises of reform in the V.A.,” said St. Tammany RPEC chairman Larry Frieman. “Our servicemen and women and our veterans have given their best to the United States, and they need representation from someone like John to ensure we give our best back to them.”
Trump has made several White House hires and nominated a number of cabinet heads already; these include philanthropist Betsy DeVos, slated for education secretary.
While not from Louisiana, DeVos does have firm political ties to the Bayou State. In addition to donating money to candidates in Louisiana, she heads the American Federation for Children, which is the parent organization for the Louisiana Federation for Children.
For more Louisiana political news, visit www.LaPolitics.com or follow Jeremy Alford on Twitter @LaPoliticsNow.