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Divergent Senate polling artifact or real movement?

Just when you think you’ve got this polling thing on Louisiana’s U.S. Senate race figured out, here comes another one that tosses aside previous conjecturing … maybe.

September closes with a couple of candidate-related polls sandwiching two independent ones. The latest comes from the pollster for Republican Rep. John Fleming and, surprise, it’s pretty flattering for him. It has Fleming just behind Republican Rep. Charles Boustany and Democrat Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, just ahead of former lieutenant governor candidate Democrat Caroline Fayard and Republican Treasurer John Kennedy. In other words, five candidates all poll within four percentage points.

Three major differences stand out from the last independent poll, by Southern Media Opinion and Research: Campbell’s and Fleming’s shares almost double and Kennedy’s falls by a few points. Fayard and Boustany poll about the same, with the proportion of undecided still around the one-quarter mark (although this one presses undecided respondents to answer, creating a category of leaners that leaves only one-sixth genuinely undecided).


Sow's ear Senate hopeful whines of getting ignored

Welcome to the real world, Josh Pellerin, where you have the right to throw as much of your own money as you want at trying to win elective office and people have just as much right to dismiss you.

Democrat Pellerin, a businessman political novice, runs for the U.S. Senate, by his own admission anointed to do so by Pres. Barack Obama. He’s dumped $300,000 into the contest (well beyond the nearly $120,000 he reported out the door at the beginning of July, of which he had lent half from himself) and says he’ll go higher. His reward? According to the latest independent poll, 1.7 percent of the intended vote.

According to him, this comes from a conspiracy of pollsters and those who commission their products. Apparently, not enough of them put his name into consideration for respondents, so when candidate forum organizers go looking for contenders to invite from a crowded field of two dozen, he doesn’t have a chance to attain a high-enough average for inclusion. He thinks they need investigating, presumably yet another thing government must stick its nose into according to his prevailing political worldview.


Campbell quest fading through unconvincing actions

If not a polling artifact that Democrat Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell has seen a major erosion of support in the last month, maybe it’s due to a campaign approaching the erratic that reveals a Manichean worldview making Louisianans uneasy.

The latest independent poll of the U.S. Senate race that Campbell contests showed his support nearly halved from less than a month previous, falling from second to fourth place. Possibly that result comes from him having served as a Democrat placeholder for respondents not paying a lot of attention to the race prior to Labor Day who have decided to get more serious and thus now list themselves as undecided.

But that’s not a strong argument, for Campbell doesn’t have much name recognition outside of north Louisiana. Rather, prospective voters could be tuning in to his bombastic political style that leave them scratching their heads over contradictory signals and increasingly reluctant to back him given the plethora of alternatives.


Needed reform rankles LA education establishment

A debate over teacher training in Louisiana has brewed, exposing traditional fault lines separating those more interested in protecting the status quo and those willing to embrace innovation that improves the dismal condition of the state’s education quality.

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will consider next month a change to teacher preparation curricula that includes a one-year apprenticeship requirement for those hired by virtue of having an education degree. That would roughly double the current requirement, where at the end of university study a student teacher shadows an experienced one for a term. Not only could it provide better preparation but it also might improve retention, as students get a better idea of the job.

Since the effort would require stipends for the mentors and trainees involved, some have claimed that the extra expense makes the idea infeasible. Superintendent John White estimates the three-year rollout would cost $7.5 million, although others call that an underestimation and allege that as school districts face budgetary pressures brought on by flat state funding (and a partial rollback of a state bonus of two year ago aimed at classroom salaries) this should obviate the move.


Statewide regulation best for taxis, ride sharing

Jefferson Parish correctly gave official legalization to ride share services (or, if you prefer, “transportation network companies”), but the debate over it has spawned a new one, over the issue of at which level government should the regulation occur.

After a couple of years of batting around the issue, the Parish Council approved a set of regulations that include nationwide criminal background checks and the possibility of random drug tests every three months and applied these to taxi services as well, and also standards for vehicle registration, and guidelines for drivers to identify publicly their cars as ride sharing providers. These largely mirror actions taken by other Louisiana local governments in which national ride share companies have started operations, all in the southern part of the state, except for St. Tammany Parish where its governments just wink and nod at provision of the service.

State law presently mandates entirely regulation of endpoint-to-endpoint for-hire transportation within a parish and ten miles surrounding it by local governments, hence the necessity of enabling ordinances for such services to operate legally. However, a number of states – 20 according to Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta and 34 according to the leading ride share outfit Uber – have statewide regulation of services like Uber. The only Louisiana statewide standards come in the area of insurance for these drivers and their vehicles, passed last year.


Differing Senate polls reveal strategies, awareness

While a new poll on Louisiana’s U.S. Senate race shows the contest more in flux than previously and provides some insight into strategic decision-making by the candidates, it also raises questions about the dynamics being captured by this and other polling.

Southern Media Opinion and Research is reported to have results for public dissemination today that show Republican Treas. John Kennedy still leading the filed, but down about 10 points from the last independent poll by The Hayride/Remington Research released a couple of weeks ago, falling from 27 to 16.9 percent in that roughly two-week span. Republican Rep. Charles Boustany inched forward a couple of points to 15.2 percent, supplanting Democrat Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell as runner-up who tumbled by almost half down to 9.2 percent. Democrat lawyer and former lieutenant governor candidate Caroline Fayard also passed up Campbell by essentially maintaining her share of the intended vote at 11.2 percent. Republican Rep. John Fleming got a boost of a couple of points to pull 8.3 percent while Republican 2014 Senate candidate military retiree Rob Maness lost a few to fall to 3.3 percent.

Taking both polls as valid, some interesting dynamics emerge. Fleming may show signs of life, which should worry the others. As the only consistently principled conservative in the contest who has credibility in conservative governance, only he could defeat the likes of Kennedy or Boustany in a runoff by draining their conservative support, leaving them mostly supported by the left of the electorate. That still might not do it, particularly as Kennedy can command such crossover support that no one else could take him down.


Ignorant Anthem protesters deserve public censure

Like Pokemon Go, sitting during the National Anthem at the beginning of sports and other events has become trendy lately. It even seems to have invaded north Louisiana, where at a Haughton High School football game some witnessed this.

Jurisprudence establishing not having to show respect to the concept of America goes back decades, when in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette the U.S. Supreme Court declared that the state could not compel students to show reverence to the symbols of the country. Even though the objection in this case rested on religious grounds, the Court’s majority decision framed its argument on the free speech aspects of the First Amendment.

On that basis, of late the busybodies at the Louisiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union sent out a notice to the state’s school districts reminding that these could not make standing during the Anthem compulsory, asserting that they had received complaints that some districts had issued a dictate that students do so. As the state cannot do this regarding this most restrictive population, students, it certainly cannot compel this from the general population.


Kennedy fumble may create opening for others

Perhaps Treas. John Kennedy thought his U.S. Senate opponent Rep. Charles Boustany was having too much fun making unforced campaign errors, and so decided to join him out of perhaps the same motivation.

Last time this space noted the Boustany campaign’s odd handling of allegations that the candidate had frequented prostitutes. Despite the lack of verifiable, credible evidence to back up the claim made by a freelance writer in a recently-published book, after the candidate denied it the campaign kept revisiting the issue and then charged Kennedy in particular with the equivalent of spreading gossip about the issue.

Kennedy’s campaign staff had sent out links to media coverage of the book’s assertion, and when Boustany’s wife and staff pointed that out and elevated that action to negative rumormongering, Kennedy responded by denying circulating anything other than pertinent news, managing one by one to name the accusations. This inflamed Boustany even more, who openly complained, apparently trying to create the impression that these actions demonstrated Kennedy’s flawed character that made him unworthy of entering the Senate, and perhaps even unworthy enough for him to lick Boustany’s boots.