Search This Blog


Surprises, continuity mark LA fall qualifying

Qualifying for state and federal elective offices last week ratified some past choices, threw another into turmoil, and even affected the biggest race on the ballot next year.

The one statewide special election, for Secretary of State, topped the ballot. But U.S. House of Representatives seats, a couple of Supreme Court posts, and a spot on the Public Service Commission also were up for grabs.

The jobs on the state’s top court and the PSC promised great continuity. Perhaps buoyed by his recent decision to buck his fellow commissioners by voting against the wasteful Windcatcher project, PSC District 2 Republican Commissioner Craig Greene drew no challengers, just a year after he won the place in a special election.

GOP Associate Justice Jeff Hughes also will walk back into another decade-long term without opposition. The Republican majority on the Court will continue as the only challenger who signed up against incumbent Associate Justice Greg Guidry was another Republican, Richard Ducote, who ran for an Orleans Parish Juvenile Court judge position over three decades ago and since has won a few high-profile cases as well as amassed sanctions in multiple states.

But candidates for Secretary of State received a last-minute surprise. Expected to qualify and who did were Republicans former state Sen. A.G. Crowe and state Reps. Rick Edmonds and Julie Stokes and Democrat Department of Justice administrator (who had served in similar positions in the Department of State) Renee Free.

Then right at the end of qualifying Republican current Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin jumped in. Ever since taking over after the resignation of former Secretary Tom Schedler, Ardoin had insisted he wouldn’t run for the permanent job.

This makes more certain that only one from the GOP will make a runoff against Free, and that person almost certainly will go on to win. Ardoin seems unlikely to pull that off, with such a relatively late start and no natural constituency outside of a few insiders in state government.

However, he will draw a nontrivial share of the vote and most likely disproportionately from the Republican candidate considered the most moderate and insider of the bunch, Stokes. This makes it less likely that Crowe and Edmonds, considered more insurgent contestants, will split the vote in a fashion to allow Stokes to make the runoff, and increases chances that one of them will survive to defeat Free.

And while the congressional races ended up supplying contests that will be no contests in favor of incumbents, the Fifth District tilt will add a layer of intrigue to next year’s gubernatorial race. Rumor had it that Democrats would desist from opposing incumbent Republican Rep. Ralph Abraham, on the basis that Abraham is mulling a run for governor. Without a race, Abraham could raise fewer dollars for his federal campaign account and couldn’t really spend these leveraged into a gubernatorial campaign.

That actually wouldn’t discourage greatly Abraham from effectively indirectly spending federal campaign cash on a state contest. He could have used the tactic pioneered by former Sen. David Vitter for governor in 2015: have an ally form a political action committee in support of a candidate but entirely separate from the campaign, accept funds for it including from the candidate’s federal account, then spend it promoting the candidate and his issues or bashing opponents and their issue preferences on any kind of contest.

Still, having to resort to this would have created less efficient campaigning. But Abraham won’t have to as he had three sign up against him (one arrested for impersonating a peace officer right after qualifying) that included a Democrat, so he can start running ads designed in a way not only to raise his name recognition (his sprawling district covers three major media markets) but also to promote issues with both federal and state policy components to them. Then he has a head start should he choose to go for it next year.

No comments: