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Jindal choice of Angelle wins politically in many ways

Gov. Bobby Jindal came up with a politically neat choice for interim lieutenant governor that sheds light on the future of that office and another.

Upon official notification by outgoing Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, a Democrat, of his intended resignation to assume the mayoral position of New Orleans as he is to be sworn in May 6, the Republican appointed Scott Angelle, current secretary of the Department of Natural Resources. Since he is unelected, Angelle can take leave from heading DNR and plans to resume his duties shortly after the November election that will determine his and Landrieu’s successor – if a successor will exist given a parallel effort by Jindal to abolish the office. Angelle pledged he would not run for the position in that election.

Jindal’s choice puts an ally in charge nominally of the Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism, especially as this keeps Angelle performing double-duty as his legislative liaison. Adding this new position to it can leverage Angelle’s abilities here and therefore expand Jindal’s influence further with the Legislature. It also promotes a small bit of bipartisanship as Angelle calls himself a Democrat and thus Jindal can claim to have kept technically the same partisan balance among the state’s executive offices.

Appointing a Democrat is cost-free for Jindal and Republicans because the one constitutional difference between this appointed officer, who must receive confirmation by majorities of both legislative chambers, and the one to be elected is an appointed lieutenant governor does not belong to the succession line in case of a vacancy in the office of governor. That would go to the next elected official in line, currently Republican Secretary of State Jay Dardenne.

This move and Angelle’s stated return also effectively removes Angelle’s consideration from running for the Third Congressional District, where it was believed he might switch parties and run as a Republican. Instead, this is thought to clear the field for the entry of former state Rep. Hunt Downer who already has had state Rep. Nickie Monica defer to him. Angelle would have been considered, regardless of label chosen, a formidable competitor for Downer or any Republican.

In doing this, Jindal helps to minimize political conflict in getting a choice approved, in squelching potential criticism from Democrats, in increasing the chances of a Republican taking the Third District in avoiding either more intense internecine conflict or by removing a strong Democrat opponent, and may boost his legislative lobbying. Angelle gets a small résumé boost that could serve him well for future ambitions, and the state gets an executive officer with past accomplishments. All in all, this decision wins at many levels.

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