The Tuesday Tracker, Sponsored by Harris, DeVille & Associates


St. Tammany emerges at center of gubernatorial campaign… John Gallagher talks 2019 municipal races… A look back at the legendary Ed SteimelSteve Scalise and Eddie Rispone have been spotted…Staff shifts over at the Pelican Institute…Billy Nungesser is filling his war chest… Scalise and Cedric Richmond are working overtime…


11 days until the special elections in HD12, HD47, HD18, HD 26, HD 27, HD 62 and HD 17… 55 days until the start of the regular session… 175 days until qualifying opens… 242 days until the primary elections… 277 days until the runoff elections… 335 days left in the term…

Battleground St. Tammany

In exactly eight months, voters will head to the polls and cast their ballots in the primary election for governor. Granted, the field of candidates is not yet set — we think — but those who are already in the arena have drawn battle lines as this race looks headed to an old fashioned Bayou State turf war. 

Incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards appears poised to coast to a runoff spot, while the contest is on between Congressman Ralph Abraham and Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone to see who lands the coveted one-on-one matchup with Edwards in November. 

Key to the strategy for Abraham and Rispone is winning in St. Tammany Parish, the upper half of the GOP’s critical“Pontchartrain Panini” (© LaPolitics Weekly) stronghold. 

“St. Tammany is pivotal for Republicans in statewide race,” said consultant James Hartman, who is a veteran of many campaigns in the parish. “We have not only a very large voting population, but a very large population of Republican activists who are out in the field supporting their candidates cycle after cycle.” 

In addition to the governor’s race, St. Tammany is expected to have hotly contested elections for parish president, sheriff and several legislative seats also driving voters to the polls. 

Rispone, for his part, has had the most visible presence in the parish, participating in multiple events there since he started actively campaigning in January. According to his campaign, Rispone held a roundtable discussion with area business leaders and spoke to a luncheon of the Mandeville Republican Women. 

But while Rispone may be on the ground pressing the flesh, Team Abraham believes that they have the necessary inroads on the Northshore. 

“We think that we have a natural connection there,” said Abraham spokesman Cole Avery, who noted that the congressman’s district borders St. Tammany in Washington and Tangipahoa parishes. “We have a lot of friends there and hope to make some more.”

The current dynamics in the parish, however, could be overturned should either of the race’s two question marks, former Congressman John Fleming and Sen. Sharon Hewitt, enter the contest. Hewitt is a St. Tammany native who would be expected to easily carry her home parish, whereas Fleming’s business and political record are expected to resonate with conservative voters. 

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HDA Client BASF supports MLK Day of Service 

In honor of MLK Day of Service, BASF employees and members of the company’s African American Employee Group (AAEG) at the Geismar site in Ascension Parish visited the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank in late January to sort and pack food for distribution to local agencies. In addition to the day of service, BASF sponsored a Mobile Food Pantry in Donaldsonville, Louisiana on Saturday, Jan. 19. BASF employee volunteers distributed bags of fresh produce and nonperishable goods to more than 300 families in the Donaldsonville area. To learn more about BASF’s MLK Day of service, click here


With John Gallagher

LaPolitics: In 2018, we saw near record levels of turnover on the local and municipal levels. Do you expect this trend to continue in 2019? 

LMA Executive Director John Gallagher: The majority of municipalities held elections in 2018, and I have to say that the results were surprising. In my 20 years with the LMA, I cannot remember such a large turnover at the municipal level in all positions — mayors, council members and chiefs of police. The results did not appear to favor one party over another, so I do not think the results were overly partisan in nature. This trend did not appear to be isolated to Louisiana, either. I spoke to another southern state’s municipal league executive director after their elections of similar volume and they also saw increased turnover. Will this trend continue in 2019? I am not sure. In checking our records, the number of 2019 municipal elections is very small, so I think they will be overshadowed by statewide and legislative races.

LaPolitics: Why do you believe that we are seeing so much turnover on the local and municipal level? 

Gallagher: I think we saw a residual effect of voter frustration that was evidenced on the national level. There may also have been truly local issues where voters were frustrated with the direction of their community. We saw both long-serving and first-term officials lose elections. A very interesting observation based on my recent visits around the state is the proliferation of newly-elected mayors in their 30’s and younger. For example, the new mayor of Turkey Creek is 23 years old, the youngest ever elected mayor in the history of Louisiana. I am very excited to see this trend as it indicates a renewed engagement in local government. Our Mid-Winter conference, which will be held next week, will host a record number of registrants (we anticipate over 700 attendees), which I attribute to the number of newly-elected officials.

LaPolitics: Several former state lawmakers have left the Capitol and joined the ranks of your membership. What is it like to have these new mayors who bring legislative experience from Baton Rouge? 

Gallagher: Yes, 2018 also saw three well-respected legislators move over to municipal government. We are thrilled to welcome Mayor (Jeff) Hall of Alexandria, Mayor (Greg) Cromer of Slidell, and Mayor (Mike) Danahay of Sulphur to the local government world and to the LMA. They join a distinguished list of legislators who have joined the ranks of municipal government over the years and they bring a lot to the table, including insight on local/state relations, which is invaluable as we advocate for municipalities at the state Capitol. We enjoyed great working relationships with all three while they served in the House and were strong supporters of municipal and local government issues. I have visited with each of them and all are enthusiastic about their new roles and their abilities to contribute to municipal governance. They understand not only the challenges of municipal leadership, but also the scope of support and services provided by the LMA. The LMA’s legislative agenda is guided by our Legislative Committee, and we hope that our new legislators-turned-mayors will  join the committee to provide their distinctive insight on proposed legislation.

LaPolitics: What are going to be the municipal races to watch in 2019? 

Gallagher: In checking our database, there appears to be only a handful of municipal races in 2019.  The election in Covington will be interesting to watch as it is an open seat (the current mayor has opted to run for Parish President). I believe that the statewide and legislative elections will likely garner the most attention from those of us who watch the elections.

Ed Steimel: A Political Legend 

In the long history of Louisiana politics, few figures have left as much of an impact as Edward Joseph Steimel Sr., the man who effectively made PAR a major player at the Capitol and created LABI. In an era when loud voices, huge personalities and big egos dominated that  inside the rails, Steimel’s quiet and bookish demeanor stood out. 

Despite spending most of his career in the Bayou State, Steimel was actually born and raised in Arkansas. He graduated from Arkansas State University with a degree in journalism before taking a job with the Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce in 1949.

Proving to be an effective communicator and fundraiser, Steimel joined the staff of PAR before becoming the executive director in 1954.“I knew almost nothing about government when I went to the Public Affairs Research Council,” Steimel would later joke with audiences. 

He was a quick study and proved to be one of the most effective leaders at the Capitol. According to The Politics of Reform by John Maginnis, Steimel’s crowning achievement came in the fall of 1971, when PAR redrew all 144 legislative districts only weeks before voters went to the polls. “The lights blazed late in the PAR offices at 300 Louisiana Avenue in Baton Rouge,” Maginnis wrote.  

After guiding PAR through the 1973 Constitutional Convention, Steimel departed to help form a new group, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry. The following year, LABI won a huge legislative victory with the passage of the landmark Right-to-Work law. According to LSU political scientist Wayne Parent in Unmasking the Carnival, it was during the late 1970s and 80s that Steimel and LABI became a dominant force in the Legislature. 

Steimel retired from LABI and politics in 1989 and spent the rest of his career as a fundraiser for LSU. He passed away in 2016. 

Introducing Steimel for LPB’s Louisiana Legends, Gus Weill remarked, “He was probably and often the lone voice for decency and good government in Louisiana for decades.”  


—Minority Whip Steve Scalise was seen chatting with President Donald Trump before the State of the Union. Scalise was part of the committee that escorted Trump into the chamber. 

—Gov. John Bel Edwards, Speaker Taylor Barras and Sen. Fred Mills were seen breaking ground on New Iberia’s new museum dedicated to Cajun artist George Rodrigue

—Gubernatorial candidate Eddie Rispone was seen chatting with Sen. Jack Donahue and St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister at an event last week in Mandeville. 

—Sen. Sharon Hewitt was seen serving lunch to students at the cafeteria of Pope John Paul II School in Slidell. 

—Signs have appeared in Jefferson Parish that seem to signal that Parish President Mike Yenni is running for re-election. 

—Former Gov. Bobby Jindal appeared on Fox Business Network’ Varney & discuss the 2020 Democratic presidential field and healthcare policy. 

Staff Shifts…

—Former LABI Policy Director Renee Amar has joined the staff of the Pelican Institute, along with former Assistant U.S. Attorney James Baehr and Eric Peterson, who previously worked for Americans for Prosperity. The three additions have doubled the size of the Institute’s staff, which according to CEO Daniel Erspamer, is part of their new, aggressive push of free-market based policy. 

Political Chatter 

@MelindaDeslatte: “LSU economist Jim Richardson moves to increase state general fund forecast. Speaker Barras objects. Motion fails. Another month with nothing changed. #lalege #lagov” 

—Speaker Taylor Barras tells The Daily Iberian that he will be returning home to New Iberia after the completion of his term in the lower chamber’s top job. 

—Sen. Ryan Gatti has been recognized as “Legislator of the Year” by the state’s firefighters. 

—Sen. Rick Ward said that a tax hike is a “last resort” for financing a new bridge across the Mississippi River in the Greater Baton Rouge area. 

—First Lady Donna Edwards reflected on her marriage and personal story in February’s edition of her blog for the Louisiana First Foundation. 

NFL Commish’s letter to JBE: Opps…… 

—St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Randy Smith has officially announced his intentions to seek re-election later this year.

—The Legislative Auditor’s office has released reports on nine of Louisiana’s collegiate athletic programs, including LSU, ULL, Louisiana Tech, Southeastern, McNeese, Nicholls, Northwestern, Southern and Grambling. 

—Higher Ed Commissioner Kim Hunter Reed will speak to the Baton Rouge Press Club at their weekly luncheon next Monday.

—Tax Commission Administrator Charles Abels III has resigned after allegations of impropriety surfaced against both him and his office. 

—The Louisiana Political Hall of Fame’s annual induction ceremony is set for Feb. 23 in Lafayette. 

—Baton Rouge’s annual Gridiron Show is set for the weekend of March 22-23. For the first time ever, tickets can be purchased online through their new website.

—Catch the incomparable Jim Beam’s take on his namesake bourbon. 

The War Chest War

—Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser has scheduled a fundraiser in Kenner for March 11. State GOP Chairman Louis Gurvich is named on the invitation as an honored guest and former Chairman Roger Villere is also listed as a sponsor. 

News Shaping Our Politics

The AP: “After the last Louisiana governor’s race centered on prostitution allegations and questions of honesty and morality, voters might have hoped the competition for the job four years later would be slightly nicer.” 

The Advocate: “A new federal program pitched as a way to aid low-income communities is ramping up across Louisiana, but after a political scramble to make various struggling areas eligible for the tax break, it's investors and real estate developers who are starting to reap the benefits.” 

Gambit: “The race for district attorney of New Orleans is not until November 2020 — a year after this year's race for governor — but already two of the leading potential candidates are taking political shots at one another.” 

Beltway Beat 

With Congress approaching the Feb. 15 deadline for another government shutdown, tensions are running high on Capitol Hill as ongoing negotiations over spending and President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall continue. 

—Minority Whip Steve Scalise and Assistant Majority Whip Cedric Richmond have been working overtime, trying to keep the votes counted as the leadership continues to hammer out the details of a possible agreement. 

—In addition to working on the shutdown negotiations, Scalise is also attempting to garner signatures for a discharge petition of the pro-life Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.  

Richmond also appeared in a video with Majority Whip James Clyburn, discussing the legacy of the Civil Rights movement and serving in Congress as an African-American member. 

—U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy sat down with The Epoch Times to discuss his bill that would use money seized from drug cartels to finance construction of a border wall. 

—U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue has voiced his support for Congressman Ralph Abraham’s bill that would allow soybean farmers to access assistance under the USDA’s Market Facilitation Program 

—Congressman Garret Graves is partnering with Congressman Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts on a bill that would allow constituents to use the internet to authorize congressional casework, rather than requiring a face-to-face meeting with staff.  

What You Missed in the Weekly 

—GOP “keeping their powder dry” 

—LABI shakes things up on the super PAC front 

Cross to Bear documentary heads to production 

—Minority Whip Steve Scalise talks 2019 legislative races 

—Inside the Rails: two Mikes offer support and two incumbents face unexpected challenges 

—A legislative surplus and filed bills lead off our Field Notes! 

—U.S. Sen. John Kennedy talks about medieval times and James Carville discusses his looks in our They Said It! feature 

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HDA Client Sasol employees volunteer in Calcasieu classrooms through Partners in Education program

Sasol employee volunteers partner with Calcasieu Parish schools through Partners in Education, a collaborative effort between businesses and area school boards to engage students in education-based community programs. Sasol has been a proud partner of Calcasieu area schools for more than 25 years.

Over the last year, Sasol employees logged hundreds volunteer hours in four partner schools. The program is designed to enhance school-based science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through curricula and professional development for educators. 

Sasol leads several programs in area schools, including the McNeese State University Banners Cultural Series, which utilizes arts and humanities performances to engage students, and a monthly Second Saturday Science Show, which encourages student interests in science and provides educational employee demonstrations. 

Collectively, these programs bring math and science to life through demonstrations and hands-on learning. Combined, they have increased students’ grade-point averages across curriculums and educated them about the importance of STEM skills and training in today’s workforce.

To learn more about Partners in Education and other Sasol programs, visit Sasol online.

#HBD Trackers! 

— Tuesday, Feb. 12: Jan Moller and Dana Parks

— Wednesday, Feb. 13: Former Rep. Stephen Ortego

— Thursday, Feb. 14: Leslie Turk, Kim Allen, former Rep. Raymond Jetson and Jacob Luneau

— Friday, Feb. 15: Former Rep. Joe Harrison, Lenny Kopowski, Jerry Pepper and Lynda Woolard

— Saturday, Feb. 16: Sen. Eddie Lambert and Adam Sharp

— Sunday, Feb. 17: Former Rep. Lenar Whitney

— Monday, Feb. 18: Former Sen. Bob Kostelka, Royal Alexander, direct mail man Brent Barksdale and Mike Stagg

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