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Jindal PSC choice highlights political conflict, stakes

Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal got a rare chance to appoint somebody to the Louisiana Public Service Commission, because it is an elective position where this chance only comes because of vacancy of the office, and decided so because of the dynamics surrounding that particular position and the entire commission.

Jindal appointed E. Pat Manuel, an Alexandria-area businessman and GOP stalwart to replace Democrat Dale Sittig who took over as Jindal’s new appointee to head the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port. Manuel was a large contributor to Jindal for his gubernatorial campaign but will not run in the special election to fulfill the remainder of the term ending in 2010.

This gives for the first time a Republican majority on the Commission although Sittig tended to vote more in the conservative direction along with other Republicans Jay Blossman and Jimmy Field than with Democrats Lambert Boissiere III and Foster Campbell. This would tend to less unnecessary state interference in the areas the Commission had jurisdiction – utilities and road transportation – and thereby produce a better economic climate.

But obviously Manuel was not the long-term solution for Jindal to keep the seat in GOP hands. The challenge to both Jindal and the party especially is great because already announcing for the job is Democrat term-limited state Sen. Joe McPherson who in many ways is the antithesis of reform movement in Louisiana. McPherson is well known as one of the last populists and one of the best of the good old boys.

McPherson also is no fan of Jindal. When the new Legislature convened earlier this year Jindal made sure McPherson didn’t get the chamber’s top spot was demoted from a committee chairmanship the latter used to favor the industry in which he makes his living, nursing homes. They also clashed on the scope and role of government and on ethics reforms. McPherson has not been shy in expressing his views on Jindal, sarcastically promoting Jindal’s chances to be named Sen. John McCain’s vice presidential running mate in order to get him out of the state, such havoc had Jindal wreaked on McPherson’s political way of life.

Ironically, now perhaps he’ll do Jindal a favor. Were McPherson to win the special election, his Senate exit surely would bring a more responsible senator, probably Republican, to the chamber and McPherson will have followed the path of Campbell, also a leading Senate Democrat populist who left for the Commission, in removing that undesirable element from the Senate. One wonders whether Jindal picked somebody not interested in more than interim service precisely to convey no incumbency advantage to somebody that would make him better able to defeat McPherson just to get McPherson out of the Senate.

Perhaps not given partisan control of the Commission in the balance (and with Blossman’s seat open this fall the chance that a Republican may not get elected there; Campbell drew no opposition in the other race this fall). Republicans particularly would cringe with a Campbell clone joining him on the Commission, so there’s probably some work going on behind the scenes to find a strong candidate to put up against McPherson with this appointment buying time to do so.


Anonymous said...

You might want to do a little research on the prospects for McPherson's seat. The frontrunner already appears to be a Dem, Jay Luneau, a personal injury attorney.

Anonymous said...

Luneau has so many personal problems, I'd be very surprised if he runs for anything when the authorities get through with him and his wife figures him out. What a crook. No wonder he is McPherson's ally.