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GOP riches in SOS race makes party prospects good

An embarrassment of riches pervades the special election for secretary of state for Republicans, signaling bad news for Democrats and perhaps indicating a big GOP year in Louisiana in 2007.

With state Sen. Jay Dardenne announcing for the office, this gives Republicans two quality candidates for it as he joins former party head Mike Francis. Both are well-funded with good reform credentials that no doubt will resonate through the state after the current unelected occupant Al Ater has politicized his position.

At this point, the only high-profile Democrat that has expressed serious interest in (although not entrance into) the contest is state Rep. Carla Dartez. But she is underfunded relative to the Republicans and, as a more liberal Democrat, could not do a good job to try to shake off the perception that through Ater and the Democrat-controlled Legislature that Democrats are out to use electoral trickery, if not outright fraud, to maintain their tenuous grasp on power in the state.

If this is the contest that shapes up, given that perception and her underfunding, Dartez may not even make the general election. An early poll didn’t even register her (having Dardenne at 17 percent, Francis at 7, although with over 50 percent undecided, there’s not a lot to read into this other than Dardenne is known from politics and Francis has to work harder to become more known). Further, being a special election, a low-stimulus election of this nature disproportionately would disfavor a Democrat, especially one whose scattered base probably will mean she would have 50,000 fewer voters statewide to draw upon.

Perhaps the surest sign of GOP confidence is that the race has drawn two quality candidates. Except for races for the governor’s mansion (and not always even then), in the past Republicans seldom have fielded more than one (if even that) strong candidate for executive offices. If one of these wins later this year, and especially if both made the general election runoff, this would presage a big 2007 for the GOP.

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