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GOP must stop Edwards rail boondoggle power play

Perhaps it’s merely a reflection of a fantasy, or more seriously a last-gasp effort to stamp an agenda about to be washed entirely out to sea, but playing like tomorrow doesn’t exist Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards announced high-speed passenger rail service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans would commence sometime in 2027.

Edwards said the state had agreed with Amtrak to start this up with a once-daily roundtrip between the two cities. By then, presumably an extensive upgrading of 80 miles of tracks will have been completed, supposedly costing $250 million. The state would have to put up $50 million for the upgrades.

Actually, it doesn’t have to come up with just under $20.5 million of that amount. Not long after the 2023 Regular Session of the Legislature closed after allocating that amount of money to pay off the federal government to zero out the 2005-era hurricane disaster Road Home program, the federal government said the state could keep the money if it used it for disaster preparation. Eschewing any alternative use, and to the displeasure of some Republican legislators on the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget who had to approve reprogramming the money who pointed out more cost-effective uses, the Edwards Administration steered that towards the state match for high-speed intercity passenger rail. The JLCB approved only because Edwards negotiated the whole deal beforehand and then presented it as an accomplished fate that if not approved would scuttle the swap.


Johnson ascension quick, remarkable rise to top

Within the past two weeks, Louisiana conservatives have hit the jackpot. First, Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry won the governorship impressively without a runoff. Days later, GOP state Sen. Cameron Henry, in a career marked largely with fiscal conservatism, laid claim to the state Senate presidency starting next term. Now, Republican Rep. Mike Johnson, from Louisiana’s Congressional District 4, has become Speaker of the House of Representatives.

It took congressional Republicans three weeks to sort it out, but finally they settled unanimously on Johnson to take up the gavel after three other alternatives fell a few votes short in a chamber where the GOP has but a narrow edge. It all began when a handful of fiscal conservatives, using a procedure inserted by former Republican speaker Rep. Kevin McCarthy as a condition of his retaining the job at the year’s beginning, to vacate his position because he didn’t live up to one of his pledges to vote on appropriations bills separately.

Let’s match some questions to answers about Johnson’s rise to prominence, becoming the first Louisianan ever to hold the top spot in a chamber of Congress:


Turnout may cost Democrats winnable Caddo race

Unless Democrats find a way to rally their voters, they will let slip away the sheriff’s post in Caddo Parish.

Earlier this month, the sheriff’s race there sent white Republican lawyer and former Shreveport city councilor John Nickelson and black Democrat former Shreveport chief administrative officer and police chief Henry Whithorn into a runoff. Nickelson, who has the endorsement of outgoing GOP Sheriff Steve Prator, received 45 percent of the vote while Whitehorn, who worked for Democrat former Mayor Adrian Perkins who decisively lost a reelection bid last year, pulled in 35 percent. Two other Republicans took in 11 percent while two other Democrats, one black, racked up 9 percent.

That GOP candidates collected 56 percent should raise some eyebrows. Whites are just shy of a majority of registrants, with blacks barely behind and the remaining other race voters at about five percent. Conventional wisdom would be that while few blacks would vote for a Republican, the proportion of liberal whites would at least double that chunk and would vote for a Democrat, giving Whitehorn the edge.


Routed Democrats may suffer more shock losses

The Republican rout in state elections this month may presage even more momentum in that direction for next month’s runoff elections, perhaps at the state but especially at the local level.

Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry was expected to triumph in November, but instead got the job done in October. Republicans already had taken without opposition Insurance Commissioner with Tim Temple and Agriculture Commissioner with Mike Strain, and GOP Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser as expected won outright as well. Nearly winning outright were for Attorney General Republican Solicitor General Liz Murrill and for Treasurer the GOP’s John Fleming, a former congressman and White House official. Republican First Assistant Secretary of State Nancy Landry narrowly took the most votes for that office, but given the distribution of votes all three should win handily in November over lackluster Democrats. Almost certainly Republicans will hold all statewide offices.

Most of the eight Board of Elementary and Secondary Education also were decided, with Republicans state Rep. Paul Hollis easily cruising in District 1 and state Rep. Lance Harris in District 5, joining incumbent Republican Ronnie Morris in District 6 who also won handily, along with District 3’s GOP incumbent Sandy Holloway who didn’t face opposition. Democrat incumbent Preston Castille did turn away a challenger, and new member Democrat Sharon Latten Clark who faced no opposition in District 2.


Johnson may yet bring House speakership to LA

Louisiana will have another bite at the apple when Republican Rep. Mike Johnson receives consideration for the U.S. House of Representative speakership this week.

Upon the deposing of former Speaker Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy earlier this month, the House GOP first gave consideration to GOP Rep. Steve Scalise. But several holdouts within the Republican Conference made it clear to him that he could not gain the narrow margin necessary to win, and he withdrew his name with plans to remain as Majority Leader – currently with Hale Boggs the only Louisianans to serve in that role since it became institutionalized at the start of the 20th century.

With Scalise ruling himself out, the Conference then tried to settle on GOP Rep. Jim Jordan, Judiciary Committee chairman. Another small but different coterie of Republicans objected to his candidacy – Scalise rejected for not being conservative enough in being part of a leadership team having to compromise from time to time (American Conservative Union rating of 84 in the 117th Congress, 91 lifetime, where 100 means voting for the conservative preference every time), Jordan losing out because some thought him too conservative (ACU rating of 100 last Congress and lifetime). At that, the Conference decided to throw the process open to multiple candidates simultaneously, which later this week may resolve the issue.