With U.S. Sen.-elect John Kennedy preparing for a move to Washington, the list of those who might replace him as treasurer in Louisiana seems to grow with each passing day.
Kennedy took 69 percent of the vote over Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell on the state’s pre-Christmas run-off ballot. That means a special election for treasurer will have to be called soon.
Former state House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, a Republican from Lake Charles, told LaPolitics he might be a candidate for the post. “It’s something I would consider,” said Kleckley, who now works for the law firm of Adams & Reese.
Also looking at the race is Acadiana health care executive Gus Rantz, who placed fifth in the recent primary for the 3rd Congressional District.
Meanwhile, state Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington, has been building his campaign for a few months. He’s said he intends to be a candidate in the special election.
State Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Metairie, recently held a fundraiser in New Orleans to test the waters and could make her final decision soon.
You can add Republican Angele Davis of Baton Rouge, the president and CEO of the Davis Kelley Group, to the list. She’s thinking about the race.
After losing her bid for the U.S. Senate this year, Democratic attorney Caroline Fayard is among the many being urged to look at the special election for treasurer, which has so far been dominated by an avalanche of Republican contenders.
“I haven’t made any decisions,” she said, noting the election won’t be held until October, and everyone is still recovering from the 2016 cycle.
Reporter Julia O’Donoghue at NOLA.com has included a few other possibilities in her reporting. These include state Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte; state Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger, D-New Orleans; and retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness.
Like Fayard and Maness, Derrick Edwards, a New Orleans attorney and quadriplegic, ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate this year. Edwards has already put out a press release stating he will be a candidate.
Others looking at the contest include state Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, and state Rep. Paul Hollis, R-Mandeville.
Ron Henson, currently the first assistant state treasurer, is expected to be appointed as the interim treasurer until the details of a special election can be decided on.
If Kennedy resigns by Dec. 14, a special election for treasurer could be called for March 25. If he resigns after that date, it could be a fall 2017 special election.
Special Session Chatter Persists
Will Louisiana lawmakers be forced to gather in yet another special session in the New Year? That’s a question representatives and senators, along with officials from the Edwards Administration, have pondered as 2016 has transformed into 2017, and a new budget deficit has begun to surface.
A current fiscal year shortfall of around $300 million is anticipated. Lawmakers will have to address that sooner rather than later.
The two-month regular session that convenes April 10 is already weighed down by other hefty issues, like the 2017-18 budget, significant tax proposals and criminal justice reform. As a result, according to sources in the Edwards administration, a special session held before the spring regular session may be “inevitable.”
That sentiment started to spread during the Legislature’s annual Christmas party at the Capitol on Dec. 15. Earlier that day, the Joint Budget Committee voted to close a $313 million deficit from last fiscal year, which created some goodwill in a building that has become better known for its conflicts as of late.
If another deficit emerges for the ongoing 2016-17 fiscal year, it will be the 15th time Louisiana has suffered a mid-year budget gap over the past nine years, according to an Associated Press tabulation.
The job of making the most recent deficit official goes to the Revenue Estimating Conference, which computes the state’s cash flow and decides how much money the government can spend. The REC meets in mid-January. Although they know it’s unlikely, state officials would prefer the panel find a huge spike in revenue.
After two special sessions and a regular session that resulted in a slew of temporary tax changes, lawmakers were hopeful they had solved the challenges facing this fiscal year. But those tax increases, some of which are now passing out of existence, failed to bring in as much money as forecasted.
Legislators were hopeful that another special session wouldn’t be needed in 2017 — especially after a record-breaking number of continuous days served in session in 2016.
Refinery Tax Vetted
With some lawmakers already getting cold feet over the idea of a personal income tax change in 2017, a small circle of political players is starting to look at a concept that’s being described as a refinery tax.
It’s relatively new to ongoing tax conversations, but sources with the Edwards Administration say the Revenue Department is “vetting the idea,” while not actually taking a firm stance on it.
One of the working concepts involves a swap for the elimination or reduction of the severance tax. But nothing is concrete at this point.
The tax would certainly be a non-starter with the business lobby unless there are some gigantic sweeteners — and even then it’s a long shot.
“It may or may not even happen,” said state Rep. Kenny Havard, R-St. Francisville, who’s working on the concept. “I’m still looking at all the numbers. It’s not a shot at our refineries, and I don’t want to put them at a disadvantage. I want to make it a win-win.”
Changes In Lobbyists’ Ranks
The last few months have seen a wave of new leaders taking over a handful of the Capitol’s best-known lobbying associations. The changes have created a new political dynamic in Baton Rouge; they’re part of a larger changeover that’s somewhat generational.
Groups that represent car dealers, chemical plant workers, nursing home operators and municipal level officials before the Legislature have seen the most recent changes.
Joe Donchess is retiring at the end of the month as the executive director of the Louisiana Nursing Home Assoc., and John Gallagher was hired two weeks ago as the new head of the Louisiana Municipal Assoc.
Bob Israel completed his final session directing the Louisiana Automobile Dealers Assoc. this year; he has been replaced by Will Green. And Greg Bowser is the new president of the Louisiana Chemical Assoc. and the Louisiana Chemical Industry Alliance, taking the place of Dan Borné.
There is a new environment that now requires association directors to lean from the front, embrace social media, expand missions and put an added emphasis on publicity.
Political History: Oldest Governors
At 89, Edwin Washington Edwards is Louisiana’s oldest living former governor, followed by Mike Foster, 86; Kathleen Blanco, 74; Buddy Roemer, 73; and Bobby Jindal, 45.
Edwards, though, still has some time to put in if he wants to become the state’s longest-living former governor. That distinction belongs to Louisiana’s singing governor, Jimmie Davis, who lived to be 101 years old before dying in 2000.
But the matter isn’t clear-cut. It’s still not known when Davis was actually born. His sharecropper parents couldn’t remember his birthday, Davis told The New York Times. They thought it happened some time between 1899 and 1903.
Then there’s James Madison Wells, who lived to the age of 91. An active Whig and a former sheriff who took office in 1865, his critics called him “Mad Wells.” He was eventually removed from office for failing to calm the violence and riots related to a constitutional convention.
Three other governors lived until they were 86: Joshua Baker, James A. Noe and Robert F. Kennon. Another three made it to 81: Sam Jones, John McKeithen and Dave Treen.
Political History: The First Creole Governor
When Jacques Phillippe Villeré was sworn in as the second governor of Louisiana 200 years ago, he was both the first Louisiana native to be elected to the post and the first Creole to serve in the position.
Villeré was born in the present location of Kenner. He governed during a time when Louisiana’s economy was booming and its population as a new state was on the rise. Open trade along the Mississippi River was key to Villeré’s success on both these fronts.
During Villeré’s four-year term, disputes between Anglo-Americans and native Creoles were starting to take root. The Legislature even waded into the clash of cultures by publishing all laws in French and English. It was a divide that dominated state politics for many of the years that followed.
From a policy perspective, you have Villeré to thank for dueling-related deaths being classified as a capital offense. But that is certainly not his greatest policy accomplishment. Before he was Louisiana’s second governor, Villeré helped draft the state’s first Constitution. He ran to become the first governor in 1812, but lost in a landslide to William C. C. Claiborne.
Villeré ran again for governor in 1824 and lost again. He was preparing to make a bid yet again in 1830 in a special election, but died on his St. Bernard Parish plantation before that campaign got underway.
Pro-JBE PAC Releases Poll
Rebuild Louisiana, the political action committee supporting the efforts of Gov. John Bel Edwards, has a new poll in hand from Washington-based Anzalone Liszt Grove that tests not only the governor but also some of his key issues.
The poll was conducted with 617 likely voters in Louisiana between Nov. 28 and Dec. 1. The margin of sampling error is +/-3.9 percent.
The data suggest that Edwards’ positive job rating has reached 66 percent. The most recent poll from Southern Media and Opinion Research, based in Baton Rouge, had it at 62 percent.
Edwards also got high marks — 74 percent — for his handling of this year’s floods in the Anzalone poll.
Likely to cause at least a minor dust-up for the warring factions involved are the numbers that show 61 percent to 62 percent of the respondents were in favor of Edwards’ position on a lawsuit against oil and gas companies and his executive order to ban discrimination against LGBT citizens.
On the latest budget shortfall, 54 percent of poll participants blamed “too many tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy” and 37 percent cited “not enough spending cuts.”
Race To Replace Genovese
Now that Jimmy Genovese is headed to the Louisiana Supreme Court, the race to claim his seat on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal can begin. The special election has been called for March 25.
The first candidate out of the gate is Candyce Perret, a Lafayette attorney and small business owner who already has a campaign structure.
Former state Sen. Mike Michot will serve as her campaign chair; Marie Centanni has been tapped as campaign manager; Jared Arsement is handling media; and Nicole DesOrmeaux is in charge of fundraising.
Briggs Still Recovering
Louisiana Oil and Gas Assoc. president Don Briggs has been relocated to an inpatient rehabilitation facility in Houston after sustaining a serious head injury while he was on vacation in North Carolina in October.
“According to his physicians, his health is progressing daily and the prognosis is good for recovery,” said LOGA vice president Gifford Briggs, who is serving as the association’s interim president pending Don Briggs’ return.
Political History: Pinckney Pinchback
On Dec. 9, 1872, Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback took his oath of office in Louisiana to become the first politician of African descent to serve as a U.S. governor.
P.B.S. Pinchback, a Republican, was the Bayou State’s 24th governor. He served for only 35 days during the impeachment trial of Henry Clay Warmoth. While Warmoth stepped aside as governor during this period, he was never convicted of charges that he fraudulently certified the 1872 gubernatorial election.
That 1872 race certainly goes down as one of Louisiana’s strangest elections for governor, with John McEnery and William Pitt Kellogg both declaring victory and both holding inaugurations. McEnery served in office for roughly four months before President Ulysses S. Grant certified Kellogg as governor and offered him federal protection during the state’s Reconstruction era.
While it’s well known that Louisiana had the first African-American governor in the nation, it’s often overlooked that Pinchback was also among the youngest. He was just 35 when he was sworn in.