Search This Blog


Leger likely to challenge Landry, lose

Louisiana Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry likely will draw a high-profile Democrat challenger, but is unlikely to lose his reelection bid.

Recently, Landry announced his intentions to run for a second term, and (insert here customary declaration the statement that follows next is certainty unless the candidate in question gets caught with a live boy or dead girl) is pretty close to a lock to winning that. In part, it’s because of the historic nature of his first three years in office.

Until Landry assumed the Department of Justice helm by defeating seasoned two-term incumbent Republican Buddy Caldwell, Louisiana attorney generals had a marginal role in defining the exercise of state government power. Constitutionally, the officer mainly deals with civil law, although a district attorney or court may invite him to deal with criminal matters. Statute also gives him a variety of powers not inconsistent with these in the Constitution.

Previous attorney generals typically acted as allies of the governor, almost always because they didn’t differ much philosophically from them. If anything, past officeholders’ greatest acts of policy import came in decisions whether to prosecute alleged civil offenders, with an eye towards gaining reelection allies. Thus, Louisiana became known as a jackpot justice state, with populist motives in place for going after judgments against large corporations that could result in awards distributed to special interests.

Caldwell, who served his first term as a Democrat, largely fit this mold so his interests didn’t really clash with the governor during his terms, Republican former Gov. Bobby Jindal. But the conservative Landry took office with current liberal Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, with whom he differed substantially ideologically.

This has led to Landry – always successfully – to challenge legally Edwards’ overreach of executive power on several issues, making him the first attorney general in nearly nine decades to try to enforce limitations by law or the Constitution on the exercise of state government power. With limited government increasingly favored by the Louisiana electorate, Landry can point next year’s voters to a string of such examples, and this forms the basis for a strong reelection campaign.

Regardless, Landry should draw at least one high-profile challenger among Democrats term-limited in the Legislature in a bid to continue their political careers. Three names have prompted some discussion as opponents: state Sens. Eric LaFleur and JP Morrell and state Speaker Pro-Tempore Walt Leger.

The senators don’t seem likely bets. Morrell is a political legacy in New Orleans, with his father having served in the state House and now as Clerk of Criminal Court and his mother previously on the City Council, and his future lies in securing a full-time office there. LaFleur has well-paying gigs as the state’s most prominent municipal bond attorney and as the attorney for Ville Platte, jobs which he would have to surrender if becoming Attorney General.

Leger is a different story. Nakedly politically ambitious, he won election to the House just a few years after finishing law school, and managed to become speaker pro-tem in his second term. Edwards tried to push him as speaker for his final term, but the chamber’s majority GOP rebuffed him for one of their own.

But insofar as Orleans Parish politics goes, he has no place to go. White in a majority black city, any quality black candidate (such as Morrell) will defeat him for any city/parish-wide office, the state Senate, or for Congress. Even his city council district is majority black. While his House district is majority black, he won’t be able to replicate that success in other jurisdictions.

So, he will make some statewide run as a last chance to hold onto power, and with his background attorney general seems most probable as the office. And he would compete well, but he would lose statewide to any quality Republican, much less to one with Landry’s credentials and demonstrated past campaign skills.

Thus, Landry won’t have an easy time of it, but expect him to extend Democrats’ woes, who excepting for Edwards’ shock win in 2015 have lost every single statewide contest in the past decade.

No comments: