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GOP wins elections battle; policy war outcome uncertain

It wasn’t Republicans’ wildest dreams met in the general election runoff for Louisiana state offices, but it should satisfy those partisans and supporters of Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal, and put conservatives and reformers in a good position to get needed public policy changes enacted.

At the beginning of the night, for the House the Democrats needed to win 8 of 17 contests to have a majority will Republicans had to win 11. Actually, one GOP-leaning representative already was in the bag while one of the contests was Democrat vs. Democrat-leaning independent, so among the partisan-only contests, the Democrats effectively needed only 7 of 16, and the Republicans 10 of 16. The Senate already was in Democrat control with 22 seats with 4 contests outstanding.

In the Senate, a couple of seats swapped and the other tow held, leaving a small overall GOP pickup of 1 at 15 seats. For the GOP to win the House, however, it would have to make a lot of pickups and couldn’t quite do it. Even as two of its candidates won by fewer than 100 votes, it lost several contests decided by two or three times that margin. While Republicans did pick up several Democrat-held seats and cracked 50, they lost one narrowly and just missed having a plurality in the chamber.


Is Montgomery representation what NW LA citizens want?

In a wide-ranging news conference just days before Saturday’s election for the Louisiana Senate, state Rep. Coach Montgomery denied he alone was responsible for the sun rising in the east, but made it clear that almost anything else good that had happened in the state and in his district over the last 20 years was his doing.

The Republican Montgomery looks to move his legislative career over into the Senate after five terms in the House. “While I have supported term limits, we can’t let something as inconsequential as the will of the people or the spirit of the law get in the way of my continued service to this district, of which I lived in for about a year and moved into just so I selflessly could help out these people.”

He further likened his inconsistency of that issue to his party switching from Democrat a year ago. “I want to reassure my former Democrat partisans that I still will reliably vote for liberal positions – I switched for purely political reasons, not because I changed my mind on anything – and that’s why you need to vote for me over the genuine conservative,” he argued. Although in this term in office his pro-family voting record as measured by the Louisiana Family Forum, and his pro-growth record as measured by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry show more pro-family and pro-growth records than not, he pointed out that in the years previous he had miserable pro-family, pro-growth records that should reassure these voters.

However, he quickly cautioned that Republicans and conservatives also needed to vote for him. “Look at the few conservative votes I have made over the years, and forget about the rest of my voting record,” he advised to them. “Spending a half-million bucks of largely special interest money on campaigning highlighting these should convince you of my sincerity,” he noted. “And, if you think what I’ve just said about being a Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal are inconsistent, you’re wrong. I am consistent because I’m consistently inconsistent, which makes me principled and trustworthy.”

He specified an example of his commitment to consistent inconsistency, when he reminded, “I was the deciding vote that passed the Stelly tax – for which I refuse to apologize or say I was wrong – which has siphoned more money out of Louisianans than any tax increase in the state’s history, but just five years later as I prepared to run for this office I proposed legislation that would have raised the sales tax in exchange for getting rid of the Stelly income tax increase, and later voted for some minor reductions in it. So I voted for the Stelly Plan before I voted against it – how in any way is that not inconsistent?”

He also pointed out the prodigious service he had performed over the past two decades in leading Louisiana to a better quality of life. “I’m proud to say that in my 20 years in the House, compared to other states Louisiana has gone from being last in almost every meaningful indicator of quality of life to second-to-last in a couple. The progress we’ve made, the greatness of this state, is absolutely astounding. Why fix something that isn’t broken?”

This assistance extends to Bossier Parish, he made clear, in the process outlining the incredible transformative role he plays in politics. “The main reason people should vote for me is that I’m one of the best butchers of pork the political world ever has seen. I’ll snap up every dollar of yours I can get my hands on and give it out in a way that will make you feel grateful to me – even though it’s your money and it a good chunk of it goes to special interests you’ll never see. And you don’t even have to live in my district and I’ll do the same. Getting rid of chicken processors, building veterans’ homes, getting new federal installations – our other elected officials and the energy of our citizens had nothing to do any of this. It was all my doing, and if there had been anybody else but me in office, you wouldn’t have gotten any of this, as you know according to my campaign ads.”

When pointed out this argument sounded like he was being consistent about something, he refuted it. “Just look at I-49 funding. This year after only 19 years in the House my bad wording and knowledge of parliamentary procedure almost cost us tens of millions of dollars of potential funding – which still hasn’t been authorized – for it until my colleagues straightened the problem out.” Still, he recommended, “think of the mess my opponent would have made of it – he only served in the Legislature for 8 years.”

Besides his not taking credit for sunrise, he also denied one other statement. Echoing the terminology he had used in 1998 about fellow legislators who wanted to follow the Constitution to set up a repeal of gambling, in reference to a question wondering whether he was running a political con game – by acting as a political chameleon willing to say anything to stay in power – even bigger than David Duke’s attempt to make himself look politically respectable, he said of the people asserting this, “If Hitler was back, he's got a pretty good start. He's got a few good prospects.”


Will reformism's and Republicanism's wins continue?

Reformism and Republican conservatism were the watchwords of the 2007 Louisiana primary elections, and each side of the Red River gave us a dose of one or the other.

On the Caddo side, a set of predictable races surprisingly made the Senate District 38 race the most interesting. Incumbent Republican Sherri Smith Cheek has one of the most liberal/populist voting records of Senate Republicans, and even in the entire Senate, but with her campaign coffers awash in funds from special interests, particularly the health care industry where she has fought to keep state priorities away from more efficient, individual- and community-based care in favor of more wasteful spending favoring institutionalized care, it was not expected that an unknown Republican reformer, attorney Alan Seabaugh, would give her much competition.

But despite being outspent about three to one, Seabaugh, who relentlessly placed himself as a genuine conservative, reform-minded alternative to her, nearly knocked off Cheek whose total expenditures approached the $200,000 level. He came within 300 votes of her in Caddo Parish but only got 40 percent of the vote in the smaller-populated DeSoto Parish part of the district.

This should serve as a shot across the bow to entice Cheek to alter her voting record in a more conservative direction. Up against a more experienced, higher-quality candidate she well may have lost, and the outcome should encourage tougher competition against her in 2011 if she does not change.

As interesting was the role Republican Party identification played on the Bossier side of the river. Of course, the vast majority of candidates in the parish now avoid the Democrat label; electoral prospects have gotten so bad for them that longtime Democrat stalwart Wanda Bennett didn’t even sign up for the Police Jury District 3 under the party label for which she had labored for decades, choosing to run as no party (a tactic pioneered on the Jury by District 10 member Jerome Darby). It worked, for she defeated a Republican.

Maybe Coroner Rita Yanez Horton should have followed that lead. The incumbent ran as a Democrat against newcomer John Chandler and was blown out. Democrat District 5 juror Henry Mitchell might have benefited as well, getting upended by a Republican, Barry Butler. Outside of state Sen. Robert Adley’s brushing off a college-aged longshot and longtime member Winfred Johnston getting reelected, the Republicans triumphed up against Democrats.

But perhaps the most significant demonstration of the power of the GOP label came in a contest of two Republicans the House District 9 tilt between School Board member Henry Burns and education official Richey Jackson. Despite Burns having switched from the Democrats only months before, the parish GOP endorsed Burns, who ended up winning by less than 100 votes. Although a party endorsement doesn’t mean much in Louisiana, in a race that close, it probably made the difference.

The intriguing collision of reformism and Republican conservatism impends appropriately (the district split between the two parishes with a slight numerical edge to Caddo) with the upcoming general election runoff for Senate District 37 between state Rep. Billy Montgomery and former state Rep. B.L. “Buddy” Shaw. Montgomery, with a historically solid liberal voting record in the House from Bossier but who a year ago switched to the GOP, by the numbers would be an underdog to the impeccably conservative Shaw from Caddo.

Shaw, at 74 actually a few years older than Montgomery, surprised some by the vigor of his campaign to finish a few percentage points behind Montgomery, whose big problem is that most of the voters for the other two Republican candidates cast votes that way because they wanted conservative reformers in power so he is unlikely to get many of their votes, although he will pick up many of the lone liberal Democrat from the primary. Also, Shaw has a larger geographical base from which to draw.

But Montgomery might slip in if both the reform and conservative bases in the district, perhaps the most conservative/reformist district in the state, do not enjoy the same amount of energy as in the primary. Without Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal to excite them to turn out to vote for candidates like him, or Agriculture Secretary Bob Odom voluntarily removed from the ballot to annoy them to vote against candidates like him, Shaw’s campaign will have to work harder to ensure those conservatives and/or reformers will want to come out to the polls again where for many ballots the only other race on it will be the Attorney General’s contest.

Shaw’s campaign amazingly spent only about $50,000 to Montgomery’s nearly $300,000 in 2007. Only by continuing his outstanding grass-roots effort will Shaw demonstrate even the heavily-moneyed good-old-boys cannot keep Montgomery propped up in office against the reform tide surging across Louisiana. A Shaw win mgiht be the most obvious indicator that the general election runoffs will provide more of the same.


LA Senate's leader choice goes Jindal's way

Republican Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal I take to be a sincere, honest person but there are two things I think he’s held back on. One was his assertion that he really didn’t commit to running for governor until the last year or so, rather than not long after his 2003 losing effort. The other is that he would remain uninvolved in the selection for Legislative leadership after his 2007 victory.

As I suspected not long ago, Democrat state Sen. Joel Chaisson emerged as the body’s choice for its president – even though not all of the votes are in since several incoming members’ identities remain up for grabs until after this weekend’s election. Given the other announced competitors – Democrats Joe McPherson and Robert Adley – and that there will be a moderate majority of Democrats in the body, Chaisson was by far the best choice for Jindal to succeed in getting his agenda of ethics reform and fiscal restructuring of the state through the Senate.

Neither McPherson nor Adley were suited in any way to help Jindal’s agenda. The former consistently advocated against restructuring health care to make it more efficient and effective, while the latter almost single-handedly torpedoed lukewarm ethics reform and resisted sufficient tax reduction in the last session. Chaisson has been much more open to these ideas.

Jindal said when he personally announced Chaisson had secured a majority of the Senate votes, that “We’re not here selecting a Senate president. Rather, we’re here confirming the Senate’s choice.” One wonders if “confirmation” consisted of Jindal operatives quietly informing senators that McPherson (who after the Oct. 20 primary proclaimed he already had secured enough votes to win) or Adley simply were unacceptable to Jindal, leading the rush to anoint Chaisson. That certainly would explain McPherson’s face-saving claim that he didn’t make promises like Chaisson did, causing a presumed loss of support; it’s highly unlikely, or entirely na├»ve, of McPherson having not done the same to win support (and he was doling out campaign funds to some candidates, which doesn’t seem too different from promising committee positions).

In fact, McPherson and Adley may get cut out of leadership in all. If Jindal really did exert some backroom influence, even indirectly, it will become evident if the majority of chairmanships go Republicans’ way and McPherson and Adley are cut out entirely (although McPherson’s current chairmanship of Health and Welfare is likely to be inherited by the Republican version of him, Republican vice chairwoman Sherri Smith Cheek who is no bargain to reform efforts).

This announcement further solidifies expectations that Republican state Rep. Jim Tucker will assume the House speakership. Whether Republican any majority party there likely will not have much of a majority to be able to force one of its partisans on the chamber, and if Jindal is flexing political muscles he will want a Republican speaker to balance a Democrat president.


Veterans Day, 2007

In honor of observance of Veterans Day, please access the link above to learn more about how Veterans Day came about.


Early voting shows GOP might have good LA success

It may not be enough to accurately foretell next Saturday’s vote, but Republicans must be encouraged seeing what is coming out concerning early voting in at least one parish.

Caddo Parish reported almost half of its early voters were Republicans. Compared to statewide metrics, this is significantly disproportionately in the GOP’s favor. For the Oct. 20 election, with 24.6 percent of the state’s electorate registered Republican in time for it, 36.1 percent of the early votes cast were by Republicans, and 28.9 percent of the all votes were cast by those registered with the GOP label.

In ratio terms, this means the proportion of Republicans voting early was 46.7 percent greater than their actual proportion registered, and their actual total turnout was 80.1 percent of their early voting turnout. But translating the Caddo figures of this time to a projected proportion of a few days into the future, the percentage shoots up to 40 percent of the actual turnout being Republicans.

A comparison to actual past returns lends confidence to this estimate. Those numbers are close to the Jefferson Parish figures of Oct. 20. Caddo now is 26.5 percent Republican, with a 49.8 percent Republican early vote proportion, translating to 40 percent on Nov. 17, is close to the Jefferson figures then of 29.7 percent Republican, 50.1 percent Republican proportion of early voting, that became a 40 percent Republican proportion of the Oct. 20 electorate in that parish.

This is good news for GOP candidate for atty. gen. Royal Alexander, who ran a little behind his Democrat general election runoff opponent and barely ahead of the incumbent Democrat. Not leading the primary and with a lot of Democrat votes means he needs disproportionate Republican turnout on Saturday. Better for him, almost all down-ballot runoffs are in the places where significant numbers of voters lie in which he did well in the primary. For example, the Senate District 37 race straddles Caddo and Bossier Parishes where he lead his opponent by over 11,000 votes, and wining Bossier outright.

Looking specifically at that Senate race, the news also is good for former State Rep. B.L. “Buddy” Shaw. While the Republican faces another Republican in State Rep. Billy Montgomery, it is widely known that Montgomery is a recent switcher from the Democrats and that the vast majority of Republican votes likely are to go Shaw’s way. Even as Republican candidates including Shaw got 54 percent of the primary vote, it looks likely that Montgomery will spend more money, perhaps a half-million dollars, than any other legislative candidate in the state to try to win this seat, while Shaw is not likely to even hit six figures in his spending.

It’s only the result of one parish, but if it mirrors the remainder of the state, the GOP may have a good enough night that could produce a statewide win, three of four Senate seat wins, and enough House seat wins to take over that chamber.