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Recycled, fresh faces both see chances to win seats

With qualifying less than a month away, perhaps Louisiana has in store for it a return of the living dead – lawmakers sent to their political graves by term limits, now resurfacing in attempts to get back into office. At least a little more fresh meat seems willing to join them, as a few incumbents (perhaps) voluntarily join them. And behind most decisions lay a political story.

A few incumbents actually are taking off because, although they would likely win, they just don’t want to do it any more. State Sen. Buddy Shaw is such an example, as he is 77 and he out-campaigned others, some half his age, to win last time. But Buddy has done his service and now can take a break.

Others leave (even as they do not publicly announce this) because they don’t know that they could win again, mainly because of redistricting.
Such is the case of Democrats state Reps. Reed Henderson, James Armes, and Chris Roy (hint: whenever you hear a retiree talk about how there’s too much “partisanship” in the Legislature as a reason to quit, it’s because they think they’re on the short end of a partisan vote in their districts). Others may have an additional issue besides redistricting, such as with state Reps. Rosalind Jones and Bobby Badon – the former finding politics perhaps not as much fun after the legal problems of her father, former state Sen. Prisoner #13933-035 who otherwise wanted to try for his old seat, and the latter having distractions from an arrest that did not lead to a conviction.

While these choices mean a few more new faces, just as many old ones will vie to replace others just as stale as them. Obviously, the old ones have ambition and want the high of being somebody of (minor) importance again, but it also takes what they see as an opening to commit.

Thus, the we get the machination of the particularly ambitious former state Sen. John David Cain, who tried to stay in office before limitation by running unsuccessfully for insurance commissioner, then got aced out of the House seat in his district (which he had held previously) by the wife of another term-limited legislator who has been practically invisible in her first term. Cain, a Republican switcher a few years back, immediately began plotting a return to his other old seat, now held by another, more recent GOP switcher (probably doing that in response to Cain’s known coming challenge) state Sen. John Smith. Perhaps Cain’s desperation comes from the fact that he can cash in on a second state pension with another term of service.

Opelousas Mayor Don Cravins wants to abandon that job for the one he had previously in challenging state Sen. Elbert Guillory. Family and factional rivalry fuels in part this intra-Democrat tilt. The Cravins presence has waned since his son, who succeeded him, took off to work for Sen. Mary Landrieu, and instead of getting his wife elected his longtime rival Guillory slipped in. Since then, Guillory’s independent streak has upset Cravins and his organization even more.

The same story applies to the resurfacing of Greg Tarver to attempting wresting his old seat back from state Sen. Lydia Jackson. Both come from politically prominent families, but Jackson’s hyper-partisanship and constant criticism of Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal has reduced the Democrat’s effectiveness dramatically. Tarver had a reputation as a get-along, go-along guy (perhaps to his detriment) and he has responded to certain interests displeased with Jackson, daughter of a former state representative who she eventually succeeded.

Finally, also from the Shreveport area, former state Rep. Ernest Baylor seeks to make his successor current state Rep. Barbara Norton go 1-8 in election contests. Finally getting elective office on her seventh try four years ago, the inarticulate Norton has had a penchant for sending up bad legislation and perhaps exercising even worse judgment in her capacity. But maybe what got enough interests riled to try to knock her off was her acquiescence to a redistricting plan opposed by all other black legislators that prevented an extra majority-black House district from being drawn.

Notably, when sifting through retirements and resurfacings, the state GOP looks to benefit. While the resurfacings and a few retirements promise to have the same party remain in power, a few other retirements clearly have created openings for Republicans to pick up seats – in part, of course, cracked wide by redistricting. And if that comes to pass, it will be the newer blood that makes the pickups, setting up interesting dynamics with any incoming, returning warhorses.

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