By Jeremy Alford and Mitch Rabalais
Among the zaps and zings dinging around the Bayou State’s caverns of political lore are countless phrases and quotes that have outlived the political souls who first uttered them.
Late Gov. Earl K. Long was one of those souls, and he had a knack for mercilessly mocking his political opponents with funny — and often biting — nicknames. Former Gov. Sam Houston Jones, for instance, was stuck with “sweet-smelling Sam,” while Congressman Harold McSween earned the unfortunate title of “Catfish Mouth McSween.”
Long reserved his best barbs, however, for his chief political rival, New Orleans Mayor deLesseps “Chep” Morrison. Their shared animosity was deeply personal and rather public.
According to historian Jack McGuire, when the two faced off in the 1956 Democratic primary for governor, Long told friends that he wanted to beat Morrison “more than eating any blueberry or huckleberry pie my mama ever made.”
Out on the campaign trail, stumping before largely rural crowds, the governor from Winnfield opened up repeatedly on the urbane mayor of the Crescent City, calling him “Dellasoups” and making jokes about about his expensive tailored suits.
“Dellasoups has $50 neckties and $400 suits,” Long said in one speech. “Put a $400 suit on Uncle Earl and it will look like socks on a rooster.”
Decision Time For Candidates
Qualifying begins this week for seven seats in the state House of Representatives, a notable turnover as legislators begin the final year of the term.
The vacancies occurred when sitting representatives were elected to different jobs on last fall’s ballot or, in one case, appointed to another government position.
The primary elections are scheduled for Feb. 23 in:
— House District 12 in the Ruston area, which was vacated by former Rep. Rob Shadoin.
— House District 47 in the Cameron-Vermilion region, which was vacated by Sen. Bob Hensgens.
— House District 18 in Pointe Coupee Parish, which was vacated by Parish President Major Thibaut.
— House District 26 in the Alexandria area, which was vacated by Mayor Jeff Hall.
— House District 27 in Rapides Parish, which was vacated by Judge Chris Hazel.
— House District 62 in the St. Francisville area, which was vacated by Parish President Kenny Havard.
— House District 17 in the Monroe area, which was vacated by Judge Marcus Hunter.
The next regular session of the Legislature convenes April 8, and runoffs, if needed, are slated for March 30. That means candidates elected in a second round of balloting will have to hit the ground running.
Cassidy Supports President’s Shutdown Strategy
As far as the partial shutdown of the federal government is concerned, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy said in an interview that he’s following the lead of President Donald Trump.
In this particular case, that means supporting the president’s decision to temporarily close some government agencies rather than back away from his pledge to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The issue is: Do we secure our southern border or not?,” Cassidy told LaPolitics. “The president, and I agree with him, feels as if that is what is necessary to keep Americans safer and more secure.”
Louisiana’s senior senator said any resolution to end the shutdown would have to emerge from the lower chamber of Congress, which Democrats seized control of this term.
“It is really going to depend upon the politics in the House of Representatives,” he said. “If (U.S. House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi decides that she can’t (end the shutdown) because of her internal House politics, it is going to be longer.”
While Cassidy labeled Democrats as unwilling partners during the shutdown negotiations, he added that Trump’s approach could change minds.
“Democrats tend to believe in bigger government, so I think the president’s calculus is that they are going to want the government open and they are going to be willing to give a little bit,” he said.
The senator said he has seen the effects of the shutdown firsthand, particularly in the area of flood relief.
Gubernatorial Candidates Building Up War Chests
With this fall’s gubernatorial race quickly approaching, the major candidates are hitting the fundraising circuit and building up their war chests in anticipation of a costly campaign.
Looking at the 2015 race for governor as an indicator, both Gov. John Bel Edwards and former U.S. Sen. David Vitter spent roughly $11 million each through the primary and runoff.
The costs of running a statewide campaign in 2019 are only expected to increase, meaning that candidates will likely need north of $10 million to wage a competitive fight.
Edwards’ re-election campaign currently leads the money race. Last week, the governor’s campaign staff told reporters that the governor currently has $8.4 million on hand. Edwards has been steadily raising money since he moved into the Governor’s Mansion, taking in nearly $3.8 million in 2018 alone.
Republican challenger Eddie Rispone, a Baton Rouge businessman, has about $5.5 million in the bank. While Rispone has held a few fundraisers, the vast majority of his campaign cash comes from personal funds. When he entered the race, Rispone pledged to spend at least $5 million of his own money on the gubernatorial campaign.
The third candidate in the race, Congressman Ralph Abraham, has yet to release his fundraising figures, but he has been out raising money since launching his campaign in December, most notably holding several large fundraisers that have drawn criticism from the Edwards camp.
Existing state law prevents Abraham from transferring money from his Federal account to his gubernatorial campaign.
Hewitt Decision Soon
Sen. Sharon Hewitt told LaPolitics that she will make a final decision (and announcement) about running for governor within the next few weeks. Hewitt, an engineer by trade, said it’s all about heart — and numbers. “We’re still looking at all of the data to see if there is a path to victory,” she said.
She’s also thinking about “other alternatives,” which Capitol insiders believe could be re-election, if not something more, such as a bid for Senate president. “Whatever I decide to do, I will be all in and it will be full steam ahead,” she said.
They Said It
“In 2019, it is my intention not to have a single special session of the Legislature. This should be doable.”
—Gov. John Bel Edwards, on the Legislature in 2019, at the Baton Rouge Press Club
“That’s a fact. You can write that down and take it home to mama.”
—U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, on the necessity for a border wall, on Fox Business
“I prefer to think she was over caffeinated and made a mistake.”
—U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, on a colleague’s profane remarks about President Donald Trump, via a press release
For more Louisiana political news, visit www.LaPolitics.com or follow Jeremy Alford on Twitter @LaPoliticsNow.