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Stokes exit leaves LA Democrats empty-handed

What’s a Democrat to do in Louisiana, where only extraordinary circumstances can get one of their own elected to statewide office? Even worse, when their preferred non-Democrat can’t follow through?

Such vexation they encountered last week when GOP state Rep. Julie Stokes just before qualifying begins later this week passed on the special election for the vacant treasurer position made necessary by the office’s former occupant Sen. John Kennedy ascending to his current post. Regrettably, Stokes discovered she had breast cancer, and while the prognosis for curing that kind is good, it will take a physical toll on her that would make campaigning impossible for the October election.

At present, no major Democrat had declared an intention to contest the office. Former minor Senate candidate Derrick Edwards, no relation to Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, actively pursues the post, but despite being a black Democrat, party activists will shy away from him. He received just a smattering of votes in his previous run, and his endorsement of views close to the public’s views and therefore way out of step with party regulars, such as the state has not a revenue but spending problem, make him a non-starter in their eyes.

So, their Plan B had focused on supporting Stokes. Three other Republicans have announced their intentions to run, all more objectionable to this crowd: former Commissioner of Administration Angéle Davis, state Sen. Neil Riser, and former state Rep. John Schroder. Each has qualities that would make it difficult for a true-believing Democrat to give support.

All three quite fiscally conservative, Davis served under former Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal and Riser had Jindal’s backing in the Senate and when he ran unsuccessfully for U.S. representative. Given the sociopathic hatred many on the left have for Jindal, those associations alone would cause heartburn for liberals to press a button for either. And while Schroder clashed with Jindal occasionally on spending issues, he made himself even more openly an opponent to John Bel Edwards on budgeting

By contrast, Stokes had a history of backing tax increases that made Riser and Schroder blanch that Davis opposed in principle while working for Jindal, and demonstrated big government credentials by defecting from party leadership in helping usher through an amendment to this year’s budget that increased spending, an amendment opposed by Schroder and a budget Riser voted against. She could have done well as a shadow Democrat, with her last campaign finance report showing donations from a diverse mixture of establishment Republicans, Democrats, and interest groups.

But with that option out, now Democrats must search for Plan C. It’s way late in the game to find another ambitious, pliable Republican that could run a competitive campaign, and any Democrats contemplating a run know full well they have next to no chance to win no matter how much money they spend. Further, unlike in some election years, having a name at or near the top of the ballot would have little trickle-down partisan benefit as outside of New Orleans few offices have contests. And any top-down benefit does little to help the party’s fortunes in the Crescent City with its overwhelming Democrat majority in the electorate.

Therefore, the question becomes whether somebody out there wants to take one for the team by spending a lot of money for little personal and partisan return, a potential candidate in the mold of House Speaker Pro-tem Walt Leger. He faces this week whether to run for New Orleans mayor, where he would not be the frontrunner but has a minor chance to defeat some potentially strong black Democrats. Term-limited in the Legislature and with no chance to unseat black Democrat state Sen. Karen Peterson in 2019 (who just passed on a mayoral run) and with hefty idle campaign funds, he could take a flier on the treasurer’s race and almost certainly lose in an inevitable runoff to any of Davis, Riser, or Schroder.

Yet unless some angel investor like Leger comes out of the woodwork, Louisiana Democrats will have to sit back and watch somebody they loath enter an office that has sent two of its last four occupants to the U.S. Senate. Such is the life of a party when its leaders and candidates remain woefully out of touch with the public.

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