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Faux conservatives crucial to Edwards win

In the 2019 Louisiana governor elections post-mortems, analysts have made a number of valid points about base activation and campaign quality (or lack thereof) to explain the narrow reelection of Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards. But they miss the most critical aspect of all: how a small cadre of those who call themselves conservatives ended up pulling the lever for an unambiguously liberal politician when presented with a solid, mainstream, and credible alternative in Republican Eddie Rispone decided the contest.

To explain the phenomenon, two case studies suffice. We begin with Rod Dreher, who has pretty good conservative credentials. He’s published in such places of superior conservative analysis as National Review, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, and the Washington Times. But, as he explained in his American Conservative column, he voted for Edwards.

That turns out to be a head-scratcher, to say the least:


Lessons from the 2019 LA governor's race

Louisiana learned some lessons from the conclusion of 2019 state elections, primarily focused on the gubernatorial contest – largely unflattering, but with some hope for the distant future.

Personalism still matters more than issues and ideology. Louisiana’s electorate to a degree not seen elsewhere in the Union places its emphasis on candidate images at the expense of issue preferences in its voting decisions. The state’s history of paternalistic government, its population’s lower levels of educational attainment, and its relative lack of economic development and the insularity that produces all contribute to this being out of step with the nation as a whole and even makes it distinct compared to its regional neighbors.

Louisiana voters, even as this aspect of the political culture continues to erode, disproportionately don’t incorporate and analyze information about candidate records and preferences in making their decisions, preferring to supplanting that with vague perceptions (often influenced by negative advertising that has little to do with reality) about candidates as leaders and providers of things. In essence, the fog created by personalistic appeals obscures the ability of many to vote in their own self-interests (such as this guy, who should know better).


Results reconfirm LA as banana republic

Yesterday, Louisiana proved it’s not yet ready for primetime because, as the state’s junior senator suggested, too many Louisianans are happy with crappy.

Runoffs for 2019 state elections could have resulted in a different story. At their conclusion, had several things happened the erosion of living standards and opportunity for the majority that begun under Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards could have commenced. Tax relief, putting government on a small diet, more efficient use of funds, increased personal responsibility from those receiving government largesse, fiscal reform that rewards initiative rather than encouraging dependency and rent-seeking, and tort reform would have followed had conservative Republicans hit the perfecta.

They almost got it. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will continue to implement education reform based upon accountability and choice as intended under reforms instituted by GOP former Gov. Bobby Jindal, with the election of Republican Ronnie Morris to District 6 that will give that bloc a healthy majority. The Louisiana Supreme Court will retain a majority open to curtailing tort overreach and jackpot justice with the election of Republican Will Crain to District 1.


Day of reckoning here for LA political culture

Saturday's gubernatorial election marks an inflection point for Louisiana’s political culture in two ways, in both products and processes, with a profound impact on the state’s future.

A victory by challenger Republican businessman and novice politician Eddie Rispone would demonstrate a critical mass for evolution of that political culture has occurred. A win for incumbent Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards temporarily extends the life of a dying superstructure.

The Edwards vision emanates squarely from Louisiana’s past, a century-old ideology that divides society into exploiters and the exploited, the favored few and the multitudinous unfortunate, and the rescuers and their charges. It proffers a Manichean view of society with enemies of the state, who have used good luck and dastardly behavior to put them in a position to earn too much and have too much, against everybody else, with only government able to tame the oppressing class through redistribution of power and resources that benefits all (although this process inevitably provides opportunities for the elites overseeing it to acquire power and privilege as their price for aiding the unwashed).


Kennedy impeachment intent doctrine fails

News show favorite Louisiana’s usually perspicacious Republican Sen. John Kennedy as always remained glib but missed the mark when he commented about the partisan impeachment circus currently in Washington, DC.

Appearing on a Sunday morning show, Kennedy argued that Republican Pres. Donald Trump’s conversation with Ukrainian Pres. Volodymyr Zelensky where Trump discussed that the Ukraine uphold treaty obligations in assisting on a corruption probe that included the son of Democrat former Vice Pres. Joe Biden – a potential challenger in 2020 – possibly could be an impeachable offense. During the call, Trump never mentioned military aid, which had been negotiated but not yet delivered. Zelensky didn’t even know the aid, which showed up three months later, as of the call had not arrived, nor did he feel like Trump was bargaining with him. In fact, the Ukraine has yet to pursue Trump’s request to provide any investigatory assistance.

Nonetheless, Democrats have declared the episode worthy of impeachment and conviction to remove Trump from office. Kennedy largely disagrees, with one exception:


Early voting small advantage to Edwards

So, early voting statistics for this Saturday’s contest predict a Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards reelection? Not so fast, my readers.

At the conclusion of early voting this weekend, about 115,000 more people voted early than in the general election of Oct. 12. This set an all-time record for early turnout proportion – although history suggests that won’t last long, as early voting for the 2020 elections that features the presidential race should surge past it.

But, significantly, the proportion of blacks in early voting rose from around 25 to 31 percent from the general election to runoff, undoubtedly spurred by efforts of special interest groups to round up and deliver them to early voting locations in larger parishes (typically two locations). As roughly of 90 percent of blacks will vote for Democrats, this gives a boost to Edwards and others of his party running in down-ballot contests (although only a handful of state-level contests went to a runoff featuring major party matchups, and in every case leaving Republicans heavily favored).


Veterans Day, 2019

This column publishes every Monday through Friday around noon U.S. Central Time (maybe even after sundown on busy days, or maybe before noon if things work out, or even sometimes on the weekend if there's big news) except whenever a significant national holiday falls on the Monday through Friday associated with the otherwise-usual publication on the previous day (unless it is Thanksgiving Day, Independence Day, Christmas, or New Year's Day when it is the day on which the holiday is observed by the U.S. government). In my opinion, in addition to these are also Memorial Day and Veterans' Day.

With Monday, Nov. 11 being Veterans' Day, I invite you to explore the links connected to this page.



Worse schools, less likely to support change

Not only do the just-released school and district accountability scores in Louisiana speak to the educational quality and pace of improvement within the state’s elementary and secondary education, these also illuminate how many Louisianans vote against their own self-interests.

The state’s Department of Education announced yesterday the scores, which federal law requires that it computes. Overall, these showed improvement from 2018, particularly among worse-performing schools. Tempering that good news, about 17 percent of schools ended up classified as “struggling,” while 44 percent had at least one student sub-population of interest classified as that.

However, out of all of this comes a fascinating nugget of electoral and political importance. A relationship exists between the quality of a school district and vote in the 2019 gubernatorial general election. Specifically, the worse the schools perform, the more votes for Democrats in that election.


Leftists increasing LA early voting efforts

If reelection of Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards goes down in flames, it won’t be for lack of trying by one far left Louisiana special interest group.

Edwards finds himself locked in a tight reelection battle against Republican Eddie Rispone. Further, in the general election his candidacy didn’t seem to generate as much enthusiasm among Democrats, especially blacks, as seems necessary to win.

However, one group aims to change that, and it’s off to a good start. The Power Coalition for Equity and Justice launched efforts at the commencement of early voting last Saturday to get as many people, very disproportionately black and Democrat, to the polls.


Edwards lies again about Medicaid expansion

Election season lies just keep coming from Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards about Medicaid expansion.

Edwards has held up expansion as a major accomplishment of his tenure, despite flimsy arguments in its favor. Throughout his reelection campaign he has touted how it brought insurance to many who didn’t have it and attributed care received under it as care that otherwise never would have occurred. In fact, as many as nearly half of all expansion enrollees already had privately-paid insurance and the remainder had access to care at the state’s charity hospitals. (And in any event, the health benefits allegedly conveyed by expansion are wildly overblown.) Further, about a tenth of enrollees at the peak were ineligible – largely because upon entering office Edwards’ Department of Health deliberately weakened verification standards – wasting $500 million a year in inappropriate payments.

That fact alone falsifies the idea that expansion “saved” money – an argument that almost made sense in 2016 when the federal government paid for all but several million dollars in administrative costs. But the tens of millions of state dollars wasted through inappropriate payments cancels any economic benefits from rerouting tax dollars from other states to pump through Louisiana (while Louisianans also see their federal tax dollars going elsewhere to pay for other states’ expansions) – even as an Edwards Administration-financed report erroneously inflated claims of economic benefits and left out other important data that left it almost useless to understanding expansion’s economic impact.


Edwards politicizes "reform," capital outlay

If Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards has shown anything in his just about four years in office, it’s that he plays politics ruthlessly with state money in his quest to create an image and to hold onto power.

During his reelection campaign, Edwards has touted certain capital outlay projects and “savings” from criminal justice changes he promoted. The latter claimed it could lower the state’s incarceration rate without an increase in crime and thereby save money, by diverting nonviolent offenders and releasing others early. Money retained would go into the general fund and programs that supposedly would reduce recidivism.

But a review of the outcomes indicates that benefits from these – money for criminal justice efforts and projects benefitting local areas – often didn’t materialize in areas where Edwards has faced criticism from other elected officials. Indeed, Edwards on projects has gone out of his way to deny these to specific legislators critical of his policies.


Lying, panicked Edwards sees himself behind

The last Louisiana gubernatorial debate confirmed what other signs had indicated: Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards thinks he’s going to lose reelection.

Up to that point, the Edwards reelection had brought to battle some weaponry of questionable effectiveness in its quest to outpace Republican businessman Eddie Rispone in the runoff. It has replicated the 2015 playbook in attacking your runoff opponent, but this time with a distinct lack of ammunition. So, it has treated the public to ranting about Rispone’s ties to someone who similarly has donated copiously to conservative candidates, complaining that Rispone wouldn’t show up to every single candidate forum that issued invitations, and asserting that voters don’t know what they would get with Rispone in the Governor’s Mansion. In turn, this makes Rispone, according to Edwards, allied with corruption, shirking his duties, and too much of a risk in office.

These charges are, of course, nonsense, but they do serve the purpose of distracting from Edwards’ dismal record in office with – considering Louisiana can’t create jobs under his watch, its economic growth remains anemic compared to other states, it lags them as well with one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, and on a per capita basis had a higher net population loss last year than all but one state. Meanwhile, taxes were raised that cost Louisianans over $4 billion more over the course of Edwards’ term while spending from state sources increased at almost twice the rate of inflation.

Naturally, and on display at the debate, Edwards cherry-picks the few, largely meaningless picayunish statistics that run counter to the negative big picture (such as celebrating a dead cat bounce by saying for just one recent year the state’s economy grew faster than in most states; regression to the mean inevitably happens but doesn’t indicate a trend). But his campaign spends as much effort on trying to trash Rispone on phantom criteria, which Edwards again pursued almost pathologically throughout the televised forum.

In fact, viewers with no interest in Louisiana politics perhaps looking for the decisive seventh game of the World Series who stumbled across the debate might have gotten sucked into it momentarily at the sight of a wildly expressive, eyes bulging with excitement, well-dressed figure remonstrating furiously, interrupting often, and constantly complaining. They would have been surprised to know this panicked visage was that of the state’s 56th governor, looking for all the world like a backwoods Tangipahoa politician trying to gin up impressionable voters – and failing.

For the first two media questions, Rispone looked and sounded far cooler and in control than the maniac next to him. Edwards calmed down afterwards, but then towards the end had something happen indescribable except as a meltdown when Rispone needled Edwards’ on his inability to achieve fiscal reform other than by raising the sales tax. If Edwards – who a number of legislators privately admit flies into rages when he can’t bully them into toeing his line – acted this way in the Army, he couldn’t be entrusted to lead effectively even a phalanx of toilet attendants.

All in all, when considering polls show Edwards can’t reach 50 percent of the intended vote – and keep in mind these have undercounted Rispone’s support a bit and of those who claim undecided status in these most will vote for the challenger and the rest won’t show up – Edwards’ insistence on more and more debates (challengers typically want that in order to try to catch an incumbent perceived race leader into making a gaffe), and his attack strategy and unhinged debate behavior, seasoned campaign observers know indicate a candidate who thinks he’s behind and can’t win without something big and fortunate happening for him.

This standoff covered almost entirely the same ground as past efforts, save a startling admission by Edwards: he thinks Louisianans aren’t taxed enough. Referring back to a Tax Foundation report using 2012 data that showed the state with one of the lowest tax burdens – even as the interest group publicly has rebuked Edwards for using old data while more recent studies by other organizations put the state in the middle – he claimed there was room to grow on that.

Interestingly, Rispone’s one blunder of the night occurred when he mixed up this study with the most recent U.S. News annual Best States survey that keeps putting Louisiana last, although Rispone later corrected himself. Yet it wouldn’t be a 2019 debate without an Edwards fib, and this time it came over that study, which Edwards alleged used data from 2014-16 – basically, before he got things going as governor. In fact, the earliest data that study uses come from 2015 and most are in the 2017-18 period; for example, on the economy where Louisiana finished 49th, growth used 2017 data, employment 2017 and 2018 data, and business environment 2017 and 2018 data. Edwards is a bald-faced liar; with his policies he owns this awful ranking.

Maybe it’s internal polling data telling him this, or vibes he’s getting out on the campaign trail, but, from wherever, Edwards’ behavior during the debate showed all the hallmarks of somebody running behind and desperate to catch up. If that’s what he thinks, be prepared for his campaign to deliver a fortnight of obfuscation, distortion, extreme exaggerated hyperbole but, most of all, plain nastiness.


Polling puts LA governor job on knife's edge

The 2019 Louisiana gubernatorial runoff race is closer than polling even thinks.

Since the general election put incumbent Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards and Republican challenger Eddie Rispone through to a runoff, two polls independent polls have come out taking the temperature of the race. We Ask America had the race tied at 47-all percent, while JMC Analytics gave Edwards a 48-46 lead.

That’s close, but when breaking down each poll’s assumptions, things actually tighten more. As a reference point, keep in mind that on Oct. 12 the electorate was 69.1 percent white, 27.6 percent black, and 3.3 other race; and 44.9 percent Democrat, 37.1 percent Republican, and 18 percent other/no party. Further, females comprised 55 percent of the registered electorate eligible to vote (the state doesn’t keep statistics on proportion of the electorate voting by sex).


Party, not sex, matters in LA legislative choices

In Louisiana, it’s not the sex of the candidate that matters, but their issue preferences.

The Baton Rouge Advocate’s Mark Ballard recently wrote a semi-lament about the relatively low rates of women winning election to the state Legislature. According to him, great anticipation existed that this election cycle could turn out as “the year of the woman,” with females making significant gains in the number of seats won to drag Louisiana up from the bottom of proportion of women elected to legislative seats.

Instead, not much progress in the way of numbers look set to occur. The present legislature has nine Republicans and eight Democrats among women representatives, and the Senate has two female Republicans and three such Democrats. After the runoff round concludes, likely Republicans will increase by two to 11 while Democrats could hold even at eight, while in the Senate probably the GOP will increase by one to three with Democrats maintaining three.


Edwards pushes false Rispone tale to distract

Don’t believe the latest narrative forwarded by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards pursuant to his reelection attempt, both uncritically amplified by the media and rich in irony.

The Edwards campaign has pushed a theme that gubernatorial runoff opponent Republican Eddie Rispone gives little in the way of details about his issue preferences, which media figures and special interests supporting him gleefully have picked up. Edwards himself alleged that “[n]obody has a clue what this man would do if he were governor.” My Shana Alexander last week claimed so, as have newspaper opinion columnists.

But just because something gets asserted and echoed doesn’t make it true. Let’s review the latest example of an opinion writer going wrong on this subject.


Higher education fires first in feeding frenzy

Now that it’s been fattened with excess taxpayer largesse, the first stab at Louisiana’s fatted calf has occurred, from the state’s higher education institutions following a flawed master plan.

At its meeting last week, the Louisiana Board of Regents for Higher Education expressed its desire to grab over two fiscal years for itself more than $300 million of a projected $534.8 million surplus. It wants $155.6 million to increase operational spending, or about a 15 percent increase in discretionary funding over this year’s fiscal year 2020 budget for FY 2021. Additionally, it petitioned for $150 million in capital outlay spending from the nearly $350 million potentially available for that purpose from the FY 2019 surplus, to address a wish list of $1.5 billion.

Specifically, the Board wants $36.3 million to raise faculty salaries to the southern regional average, $34 million for GO Grants to increase need-based student aid which more than doubles that, $9 million to fund fully Taylor Opportunity Program for Students merit aid, $28.7 million to reward schools for improving student outcomes, and $18.3 million to cover mandated expenses such as rising health insurance and retirement costs. This would add on to the $47 million taxpayer boost from this fiscal year.


LA should see San Francisco's bet, raise it

Louisiana should see San Francisco’s bet and raise it.

Last week, the California city’s government passed a measure that would ban travel to or business with companies in states that have too “restrictive abortion laws.” The 22 states chosen for the policy that begins next year include Louisiana.

San Francisco, now home to just four Fortune 500 companies after two fled in the past two years to another state on the list, Texas, admits yanking its business will have at best a marginal impact on business in those states. Still, it hopes its boycott will encourage other jurisdictions to pile on and maybe move the needle.


Surplus solution: end corporate income taxation

The numbers are in: over the past three years, Louisianans have been overtaxed almost $1 billion. It’s time to change this intolerable abuse of the people’s money.

Last week, the Revenue Estimating Conference put the official fiscal year 2019 surplus at $535 million, joining surpluses over the previous two years that make these the highest in state history over such a time span. Even though the 2018 renewal of 2016 sales tax increases backed by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards took in almost as much, economists attributed the gigantic overbite primarily to federal income tax law changes. Keep in mind the surplus came even as Edwards has ratcheted up spending of state tax revenues on operating costs faster than the rate of inflation during his time in office.

Of course, big spenders like Edwards, his Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, and certain legislators have come up with dishonest rationalizations not to implement tax relief despite the record results:


Maness finds yet another way to draw publicity

Is there a bigger attention whore in Louisiana politics than ex-Senate candidate, ex-state House candidate, and now ex-parish party leader Rob Maness?

Maness managed to insert himself into the news cycle last week when he criticized a statement by political activist Lane Grigsby concerning the state Senate District 16 contest. At the time prior to a recount, vote totals of two Republicans tied, trailing a Democrat. State law in this instance would have had all three on the ballot for the general election runoff, which likely would have handed the Democrat the victory.

However, the recount put GOP state Rep. Franklin Foil ahead by four votes. Grigsby, who has a long history of financial assistance to preferred candidates typically conservative (but not always; during Democrat Gov. John  Bel Edwards’ 2015 campaign he donated to him) had said he would back Foil in a future campaign if he had remained tied in votes and would withdraw from the SD 16 race prior to the runoff.


Change law to avoid electoral ménage à trois

At the very least, change Louisiana election rules about runoffs. Better yet, change the entire election system.

That’s lesson to be drawn from the unusual result from last Saturday’s balloting in Senate District 16. The heavily-Republican district produced two GOP candidates with the exact same vote totals, trailing a Democrat. Under Louisiana law, that makes for a runoff among all three candidates, which would have made the Democrat the favorite to win a district someone from her party by the numbers had no business winning.

As it turned out, a recount turned up an additional vote for one of the Republicans, avoiding the ménage à trois. Regardless, the incident should serve as a signal to make some changes. The rule that a runoff should go to three candidates if the second- and third-ranked tie might make sense if Louisiana had an open or closed primary system. In that instance, a general election would feature party nominees (and any no party candidates), of which by definition there could be only one of each.


Resisting St. George illustrates backwards LA

If you want to understand why Louisiana does so poorly in providing opportunity to its citizens, look no further than the St. George microcosm.

Under the radar statewide in last week’s election, a small but comfortable majority voted the new city into existence. This came despite an enormous effort over the past half-dozen years by representatives of the status quo to prevent its birth, sending waves of disinformation about its formation cascading over the local polity.

Those special interests included most local government elites, prominent citizens who didn’t live in the unincorporated area, and largely Democrats at the state level. They hate what St. George stands for: an example of citizens taking back self-governance from elites who support, if not openly then tacitly, the tax-and-spend/crony capitalist/good-old-boy-and-girl government that has shortchanged Louisiana for decades.


LA elections force Democrats into odd strategy

Oddly, Louisiana Democrats likely will stay away from supporting their own party’s candidates to try to run the runoff election table to avoid an electoral catastrophe for the state’s political left.

When the dust settled after Saturday’s elections, with one exception Louisiana’s conservatives had much about which to cheer. That bit of rain on their parade came in the form of incumbent Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards getting above 46 percent of the vote, making him the favorite to win reelection against Republican businessman Eddie Rispone in about a month’s time.

Everything else set the state’s left up for close to political disaster at the state level. Republicans snared enough House seats to put them on track to get a supermajority of 70. They reached the Senate supermajority mark of 26. A solid pro-reform majority appeared on poised to continue on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. In the only Supreme Court contest on the ballot, appellate court judge Will Crain, a solid conservative, led the field.


Few dramatic NWLA races, but those went big

Drama appeared in few races this weekend in Bossier and Caddo Parishes, but what few had it produced a lot of it.

Somnambulant Bossier Parish contests – what few occurred in following the generally apathetic attitudes of its citizenry – did result in the dumping of appointed Norman Craig in District 4 in favor of John Ed Jorden, while incumbent Glenn Benton easily turned back a challenge in District 2, Chris Marsiglia picked up the open District 6 seat and Philip Rogers and Jim Viola headed to a runoff for the vacant District 3 seat. All are Republicans, which will leave the GOP with a comfortable 9-2-1 majority.

The real action came with the District 36 state Senate contest. Four years ago, Republican Ryan Gatti ran complaining about tax increases. Squeaking in, he immediately voted to raise taxes and spent the next four years assisting his old chum Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards in growing state government and thwarting tort reform that threatened the amount of lucre he acquires in his full-time job as a trial lawyer.


Edwards only LA Democrat election bright spot

For the first time this election season, Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards can be called the favorite to win reelection. It was about the only thing that went right for Louisiana Democrats and their fellow travelers in the 2019 state general elections.

Edwards ended up just over 46.5 percent of the vote, with Republican businessman Eddie Rispone edging past GOP Rep. Ralph Abraham for a runoff spot at a bit over 27 percent of the vote. Three minor candidates collected fewer than three percent among them.

Together, the two major Republicans pulled down just on 51 percent of the vote. They can count on perhaps two percent that went to the minor candidates; with most of the rest not voting in the runoff. Few of these contrarian voters will cast abllots for Edwards; people who vote for minor candidates either do it knowing they don’t want to vote for the incumbent or feel so principled that they won’t vote for anybody but that candidate.


Edwards on defensive; Rispone wins debate

Finally, some body blows were landed in the final statewide televised Louisiana gubernatorial forum of 2019, to the chagrin of Democrats.

As always, participants had differing objectives. For incumbent Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, he needed to keep on dancing fast, trying his best to explain away, if not put nausea-inducing spin on, Louisiana’s worst, if not the worst, economic performance in the nation during his term, induced by tax increases well beyond necessary for the additional spending (that increased almost twice the rate of inflation in terms of state dollars used) he supported. He also needed to dodge whatever of a host of things not related to economics that his opponents Republicans Rep. Ralph Abraham and Eddie Rispone could work them into the mix.

As for the GOP challengers, they had a two-front battle on their hands. Each had to figure out a way to push past the other into an almost-certain runoff and do it in a way that would damage Edwards. Whichever can do both of these in the forum and then amplify that over the next five-plus weeks can become Louisiana’s 57th governor.


Colleges should avoid appearance of favoritism

Several Louisiana higher education institutions may have put their thumbs on the scale to aid anti-reform candidates in Board of Elementary and Secondary Education contests.

From the middle of September on, candidate forums were conducted across the state for the seven contests on the ballot this Saturday. These were conducted by a recently-formed interest group called the Louisiana Public Schools Coalition, comprised of unions and special interests tied to district superintendents and school boards -- all of whom have a history of resisting a reform agenda that emphasizes measured classroom achievement, educational choice, and commitment to escalating standards.

The forums (some of which were recorded) naturally were imbalanced in that the questions came from the organizers (although not all were moderated by people associated with the organizers) and from members in an audience typically stacked with sympathizers, if not affiliates, of the special interests behind the group. There’s nothing wrong with that; candidates know what they get into and even if proceedings slant to promote certain views, useful information for voters can come from that. (Not all pro-reform incumbents attended the forums.)


Blacks unenthusiastic about rehiring Edwards

A reason Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ reelection chances, according to early voting totals, have started to slip away is an understandable lower enthusiasm in the black community for him.

Not only did early voting data for the Oct. 12 election show that Republicans disproportionatelyparticipated relative to Democrats, so did whites relative to blacks. Across the ten most recent statewide elections spanning 2014-18, on average 8.51 percent of whites and 7.06 percent of blacks voted early. For early voting concluding last weekend, the numbers respectively were 14.35 and 10.18, with the gap going from a past mean of 1.45 to this election’s 4.17.

Historically across the ten elections, come election day the ratio of early to election day votes for whites has been 4.62 and for blacks 4.8, meaning to a small degree that whites disproportionately use early voting compared to blacks, so that ameliorates somewhat the impact of early voting in carrying through to election day results. Consider also that the historic overall turnout gap has been about 5 percent higher turnout for whites, or about 3.5 times higher than that for early voting.


Caddo elections figure into statue removal

As Caddo Parish sinks deeper into the political and legal morass involving its decision to remove the courthouse’s Confederate monument, election year politics come more firmly into play.

After the Parish Commission voted in 2017 to move the United Daughters of the Confederacy monument on the grounds since the early part of the 20th century then last year a federal court decided the parish owned the ground underneath the memorial which an appellate court upheld this year, in August the Commission sent the UDC chapter a demand letter to move the statuary in 90 days.

An analysis by Republican state Rep. Thomas Carmody, acting independently of his office and unpaid by the parties involved, told the Commission it used a faulty interpretation of the state’s Civil Code that might entice a suit should it try to move the monument. To add insult to injury, the UDC told the Commission to go pound sand.


Early voting numbers signal Edwards defeat

Early voting statistics for the Oct. 12 Louisiana statewide general election are in, with anecdotal reports based on figures earlier in the process leading to conjecture of a Republican advantage. Those forecasts appear accurate, the final early voting data show.

To determine whether any party’s candidates have an advantage, data from the previous five years of contests with a statewide elective office on them can be used. This yields ten data points. For each election, the proportion of early voting compared to total registration and final turnout percentage may be computed to make a ratio of total turnout percent to early voting percent. An average of these total/early proportions can create a benchmark to forecast total turnout.

Democrats have averaged 39.26 percent total turnout while Republicans have averaged 43.59 percent. In terms of early voting over this span, those means respectively are 8.47 and 10.14. Thus, the ratio for Democrats, is 4.65; for Republicans, it’s 4.35. This shows in recent history that of those who vote Democrats in comparison to Republicans disproportionately don’t vote early, with early votes making up 21.5 percent of their total while for the GOP its early voters comprise 23 percent of that total.


Tap-dancing can't put lipstick on expansion pig

Regarding the dueling opinion pieces by female policy-makers at the opposite ends of Louisiana’s Medicaid expansion debate, more relevant to the debate is what was not written.

Last week, in the Louisiana section of The Center Square news site, Republican state Sen. Sharon Hewitt opined that politics rather than sound policy drove Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ decision to expand Medicaid. She pointed out that it was rolled out hastily, that it registered at least $85 million roughly in payments to non-qualifiers, that a computer system which could have reduced that total was known to be lacking by the Edwards Administration yet expansion occurred without it, implementation of the system removed some 50,000 recipients from the system who likely cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of more inappropriately, and that as a whole gamesmanship appeared to play a role in the selection of new providers for regular and expanded Medicaid judging from the unserious reaction by administration staffers in the vetting process that led to a decision now legally challenged and threatening future provision.

In response, Edwards’s appointee to run the Department of Health, Secretary Rebekah Gee, tried to contest many of Hewitt’s points. She claimed that her department “worked hand-in-hand with the legislative auditor’s staff and the Attorney General’s Office to identify the rare cases of misuse or fraud in the program.” Also, she noted that Hewitt played an early role in the contract selection process the senator now critiqued and that “scoring of the bids was done by an independent review committee without input from politicians or political appointees.” Additionally, she defended the preparedness of the agency in the nearly six months from announcement to startup. Finally, she made a defense of Medicaid overall, including areas outside of the expanded population, and stated that expansion had resulted in “saving lives and [has] cut the state’s uninsured rate in half, while creating new jobs and economic growth in the process.”


Edwards policy, not tariffs, caused job loss

The last thing Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards wants the voting public to know is the wages of his fiscal policies that helped drive the Bayou Steel Group into bankruptcy.

Earlier this week, the company with 2016 estimated $229 million in revenues at its LaPlace facility filed notices in Louisiana and Tennessee, where it has a smaller plant, of layoffs affecting over 400 workers, some 376 of them in Louisiana. It also filed for bankruptcy protection, listing no assets and liabilities of between $50 million to $100 million and having between 5,000 and 10,000 creditors.

The firm had operated as a subsidiary of Black Diamond Capital Management since 2006, which subsequently sold it in 2008, then bought it back in 2016. Black Diamond, a privately held alternative asset management firm, specializes in high yield credit, stressed and distressed credit, restructurings and business turnarounds. Throughout its history, Bayou Steel had problems maintaining profitability, including a stint as a public company listed on the American Stock Exchange, now known as the NYSE American.


Tale of two LA corporations during elections

It’s a tale of two corporations, and has everything to do with election-year and good-old-boy politics in Louisiana.

Last week, Fibrebond Corporation, located in Minden, pulled back on a threat to decamp for east Texas. For months, its owner had complained about the neglected condition of area roads and bridges, forcing long detours for its deliveries. The owner of the firm reaching back decades in the area gave officials an Oct. 1 deadline with economic incentives dangling elsewhere to make an offer.

They did, with Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards triumphantly announcing a deal, its details forthcoming later this week. It should include a commitment to infrastructure upgrades and workforce incentives.


Still ticking UAL bomb needs addressing

It’s the time bomb Louisiana policy-makers, wishfully or otherwise, think has been defused, and thereby doesn’t receive the election-season attention that it should – and some, like Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, hope to hide their culpability in the service of an agenda to grow government.

Constitutionally, by 2029 the state must eliminate its unfunded accrued liabilities – that is, the amount actuarially required to pay off all anticipated future retirement obligations – that existed in 1988. While a few systems have done so, most haven’t including all the large ones. As of earlier this year, that accumulated debt equaled $18.2 billion, with over half in the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana that covers traditional public school employees and a handful of others.

That payoff will cost taxpayers approaching an extra $2 billion this fiscal year, but policy-makers have proclaimed if the public can just bite that bullet for the next decade, all will be well. Once paid off, the remaining manageable level of anticipated debt the systems can endure without asking for extraordinary taxpayer contributions, they assume.


No one wins, viewers lose in LA gov debate

Republicans challenging Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards performed better in a debate broadcast on Louisiana Public Broadcasting stations, and as a result they didn’t end up the biggest losers.

Each gubernatorial candidate had a job to do, which changed somewhat for the GOP contestants since last week’s initial foray. While Edwards still had to deflect and distract from a disappointing record, with Eddie Rispone closing in on Rep. Ralph Abraham, both Republicans now had to show they made a better contrast with Edwards.

That can happen two ways, not incongruent with each other: attack each other’s past and policies and/or attack Edwards’ record. Rispone did a bit of attacking Abraham, while Abraham got some shots in on Edwards. Meanwhile, even as Edwards didn’t get quite as free of a ride as he did the last time, his tactic of disingenuous statements, if not outright lies, largely went without challenge.


LA gov race runoff likely; winner uncertain

Polls, polls, and more polls: what to make of the latest batch the Louisiana governor’s race? That the contest will head to a runoff with a Republican-to-be-named-later challenging Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards but, if one pollster has anticipated turnout correctly, gives an edge to the incumbent.

Prior to the first statewide televised debate last week, a consortium of stations airing it conducted a poll. Early this week, the same pollster released one on behalf of an interest group representing health insurers that might be expected to favor Edwards. Not long afterwards, another put out a survey on behalf of contender Republican Rep. Ralph Abraham.

In a nutshell, in these Edwards received 41 to 47 percent of the intended vote; Abraham got 20 to 24 percent, Republican Eddie Rispone bagged 16 to 22 percent; and minor candidates Democrat Omar Danztler and independent Gary Landrieu corralled 2 to 3 percent (their names were missing as choices in the television station poll).


Historic surpluses prompt new rationalizations

Since justification 1.0 didn’t work, big government advocates in Louisiana have latched on to justifications 2.0 and beyond to keep taking more money than necessary from the people.

In arguing for sales tax increases, Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards broke a campaign promise not to raise any taxes, but said he had to ask because he didn’t know things were that bad when he took office – despite that he had served as his party’s chamber leader and voted for the majority of budgets that he relentlessly criticized. Thus, he justified (version 1.0) increasing taxes as needed to resolve budgetary shortfalls. As it turns out, maybe things weren’t as bad off as to need the largest tax increases in state history.

That’s because, when all was said and done, revenues came in $122 million higher for fiscal year 2017 and $308 million higher in FY 2018. The one percent sales tax increase, assisted by smaller ones on tobacco and alcohol and from reductions and eliminations of other tax credits, brought in an estimated $1.761 billion over those two years. Upon its expiration, over objections from most legislative Republicans, 0.45 cents were retained for FY 2019-25, which should have generated $463 million this year.


Just say no to all 2019 LA amendments

One interest group calls this year’s batch of Louisiana constitutional amendments “challenging.” Not really – vote against all.

The Public Affairs Research Council released its guide for the 2019 lineup, giving voters a resource to vet what it accurately calls “arcane” measures. Perhaps as an indicator of this, the one applying only to New Orleans the mayor of which Democrat LaToya Cantrell has deemed so in need of explication – from her perspective, of course – that she has embarked upon a statewide tour to encourage its passage.

No. Let’s go in reverse order:


Perkins ploy backfires, reduces his standing

Shreveport’s Democrat mayor Adrian Perkins just can’t escape transparency questions – even when he thinks he tries.

After a turbulent first few months in office that saw several questions arise over his handling of financial and personnel matters, Perkins may have thought he have hit upon an uncontroversial method of selecting a new police chief. During the previous administration, former chief Alan Crump resigned and Ben Raymond became interim chief, with the job opening up officially after Crump used his accumulate leave well into this year.

According to the city charter, the mayor appoints and the City Council must approve of this officer, who then serves until a mandatory retirement age with good behavior as under state law the position is considered classified with civil service protections. Past mayors made the pick themselves without any formally-designated process of community input.


Edwards flubs, lies, wins first gov debate

Louisiana’s Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards made a bad flub, lied through his teeth, but “won” the first widely televised debate of gubernatorial candidates against Republicans Rep. Ralph Abraham and Eddie Rispone.

Each invited candidate had different objectives. Edwards had to obfuscate and distract from his record, which not only indicts his term with the country’s worst state economy but also is part of an agenda that generally falls out of the Louisiana electorate’s mainstream. Abraham had to prevent Edwards from doing that while presenting a conservative counterpoint to that agenda. Rispone had to do the same yet, trailing both in the polls, distinguish himself from Abraham in a positive way to mitigate fallout that he criticizes over irrelevancies without any ideas of his own.

Edwards won because he accomplished his objective, at least partially, while the others failed. Assisting him, whether consciously, was the Nexstar news media representatives that served as moderators.


Campbell jilts little guy for crony capitalists

Democrat Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell would rather support crony capitalists than the little guy.

That much he proved last week when the Public Service Commission changed its rules regarding net metering. This refers to the legal requirement that utilities pay customers who generate their own power through solar energy for any excess above which the customer uses. After the end of this year, they will pay wholesale; previously, they paid retail.

Democrat Lambert Bossiere joined Campbell in opposing the change, while Republicans Mike Francis, Craig Greene, and Eric Skrmetta voted in the majority. Advocates noted that this roughly 6 cents per kilowatt-hour represented a subsidization paid by 99 percent of residential customers to the other one percent for no adequate reason. In particular, buyback participants put no money into overhead for building and maintaining transmission capacity, which otherwise justifies the difference between wholesale and retail.


Make case before asking for more taxation

Here’s an example of wrong-headed fiscal policy that tries to squeeze more out Louisiana taxpayers.

Next month, most registered voters in Bossier Parish face a ballot question whether essentially to double property taxes they pay to support the Cypress-Black Bayou Recreation and Water Conservation District. A state political subdivision since 1958, local residents mainly know the area in the middle of the parish for its water recreation possibilities, park and recreational vehicle/camping areas, and its small zoo and Nature Center. Additionally, about 750 private properties abut the water, with that shoreline regulated by the district.

In 2014, voters approved with 57 percent of the vote a reauthorization of a 1.54 mill property tax in the 65 of 81 precincts attached to the district (that since has rolled forward to 1.56 mills). At the time, the district’s commission – comprised of appointees by local governments, one of which includes the executive director Robert Berry – faced monetary woes and pledged to cut back on some offerings while increasing user fees to get the district into the black.


Rispone not serious about better than Edwards

Now we have our answer about Louisiana Republican gubernatorial candidate Eddie Rispone: it’s more than about doing better than Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards.

When businessman Rispone formally announced his candidacy almost a year ago, he explained that he entered the contest because “we can do better” than Edwards. A longtime and major contributor to conservative causes and candidates, Rispone entered the race first as other major GOP potential contestants dithered. Eventually, only Republican Rep. Ralph Abraham took the plunge.

Noted then, given the large amount of personal resources he could commit to the effort, was he effectively could expose Edwards as an old style, big government populist out of step with the Louisiana majority on a majority of issues. Edwards won in 2015 only because of fratricide among strong Republican candidates and, without a visible record, then could obscure this reality.


Edwards puts politics over neediest people

Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards needing to escape some unfavorable public scrutiny catalyzed efforts to find help for over a thousand Louisiana families with children with disabilities.

Without fanfare, close to the end of the Louisiana Legislature’s 2019 regular session, Edwards signed HB 199 by Republican state Rep. Dodie Horton into law. Act 421 requires the state to follow the “TEFRA option,” first made available in 1982 that permits Medicaid assistance to families with a child with disability regardless of family income and assets. As long as the cost of care for the client at home comes out less than if institutionalized, the state must provide similar services as in institutions.

By way of example, Horton recently visited with a new program recipient as part of a media story. Until the law went into effect recently, that family paid $74,000 a year out of pocket for care, putting it under a severe financial strain. This highlights the perversity of existing Medicaid policy, where families with lower incomes receive these services for free, but those middle-class and above have to divest themselves of assets they earned, often by spending themselves into poverty because of bad fortune in order to qualify for Medicaid services.


Money data not kind to Gatti's reelection try

Republican state Sen. Ryan Gatti doesn’t have just recently-released campaign figures about which to worry. Some past numbers aren’t going to help his reelection chances in his right-of-center district, either.

Last week, he and principal opponent Republican Robert Mills filed their data for 30 days prior to the election. Gatti found his $148,000 raised couldn’t match the $192,000 Mills raised; Mills outspent him $142,000 to $111,000; and, most alarmingly, he had just $40,000 in the bank for the stretch run while Mills sat on $174,000.

Worse for him, Gatti went deep into his own pockets to squeak out a win in his previous election. Making dozens of loans to himself, many after the election’s conclusion, at the end of 2018 he had loaned himself almost $422,000 and had fewer than $75,000 left in his campaign account – perhaps explaining why he fought so hard from his Senate perch to kill legislation that not only almost certainly would have decreased vehicle insurance rates but also would have made his personal injury attorney practice less lucrative. He kicked in another $8,000 or so in 2019.


More polls, but not more LA gov race certainty

Two more polls about the Louisiana governor’s race continue to offer little in the way of clarity about how the contest will pan out.

Last month came the second iteration of a Market Research Insights poll whose initial effort varied considerably from almost all other polling. It forecast an incumbent Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards reelection without having to go to a runoff, although with less certainty than the previous incarnation.

The first poll’s divergent results came in large part due to a sampling frame that likely disproportionately drew from Edwards supporters. It’s possible that the pollster’s guess in this regard could turn out correct on Oct. 12, but runs against the field of play. The second such poll didn’t have all of its statistics made public, but it’s almost certain it used the same sampling frame and therefore has the same validity issue.


LA has advantage over others stuck on stupid

If you’re Louisiana, you come out a winner when other states or their local governments go off the deep end.

Dozens of cities in leftist states such as California, Washington, and Massachusetts are studying proposals to ban or limit the use of natural gas in commercial and residential buildings. Berkeley, CA, already has done this for new construction. Activists backing this idea argue that the electric grid has picked up more renewably powered sources while gas can leak and allegedly contribute to climate change.

At first, this statist boycott might seem to hurt Louisiana. Since the fracking revolution that launched the state into a battle with Oklahoma and Alaska for third-most amount of natural gas produced annually, prices generally have hovered in the $10-15 per thousand cubic feet range for residential and settled in around $8 for commercial use, netting some nice returns for state producers. Better, with new facilities opening beginning in 2016 and still expanding, the state has exploded from nothing into trailing only Texas in gas exportation.