The Tuesday Tracker, Sponsored by Harris, DeVille & Associates

   By Jeremy Alford & Mitch Rabalais    |    March 12, 2019    |    Issue 178    |    |    @LaPoliticsNow    |   

Your Roll Call

Guesstimating what a second term would look like for John Bel EdwardsMike Strain wades into a sticky, icky, icky controversy… Stephen Handwerk talks about the Dem gameplan for 2019… A look back at “Bloody O’Reilly”… Derrius Guice, Willis Reed and Pope Francis have been spotted… Changes at The Advocate… Staffer says bye to U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy and hello to President Donald Trump…  

Capitoland Countdown

18 days until the special election runoffs in HD 17, HD 18 and HD 62... 27 days until the start of the regular session... 147 days until qualifying opens... 214 days until the primary elections... 249 days until the runoff elections... 307 days left in the term...

THE LEAD (JJA Analysis)

Sizing Up JBE 2.0

What if Gov. John Bel Edwards seizes re-election from the hands of his enemies, as he has already promised? For starters, it wouldn't matter if he captured victory by 1 percent or one vote. A win would be a win, and it would be a historic victory as well. Edwards would become the first Democrat in 44 years to be re-elected governor in the Bayou State, and only the fifth overall to do so since 1967.

A re-election for Edwards would likewise serve as a filter for his brand. In other words, things would likely change, at least politically. While Edwards would still be Edwards, his extended governorship would undoubtedly attract more attention from national Democratic circles and maybe even position his administration for policy gains, possibly in the area of election districts.

Then there's the usual trappings of a second term, which vary from one governor to the next. For former Gov. Mike Foster, there was an unleashing of sorts, especially since another office was out of the question; he was free to pursue revenue increases, ride his motorcycles and shoot ducks without apologies. By comparison, the politics during former Gov. Bobby Jindal's final four years became amplified as he launched a dark horse bid for president.

Yet no matter how a politician stirs his or her own roux, another bowl of executive leadership typically leads to landmines of all stripes. You can refer to such instances as part of a campaign curse, or call them Capitol coincidences if you like, but the trend is unmistakable — if not a touch overstated by this writer: 

  • Former Gov. John McKeithen, Louisiana’s first modern two-term governor, entered his second stretch facing allegations of mafia ties and went on to watch voters reject 53 proposed constitutional amendments his administration supported. 
  • Former Gov. Edwin Edwards, the first Edwards to secure two terms, went from being re-elected in the mid-1970s to becoming a target in the so-called Koreagate investigations, which placed a spotlight on questionable gifts supposedly received by the Cajun Prince and his family. 
  • During the summer of his re-election bid, Foster was greeted by this headline in The New York Times: “A Dealing With David Duke Haunts Louisiana Governor.” Allegedly, Foster “secretly bought (the former klansman's) list of contributors and supporters.”
  • As for Jindal, a number of political items became sideways between 2012 and 2016, but he was hurt most by the perception that he was more focused on Iowa and New Hampshire than he was on West Monroe and New Roads. (Jindal was an active candidate for president during his second term.)

None of this, of course, means Gov. Edwards is doomed to repeat these misfortunes. But there are some educated guesses we could make to help paint a portrait of what JBE 2.0 might look like.

Almost instantly Edwards would go from being a big deal inside heavyweight Democratic quilting circles to being a bigger deal. His 2015 election story remains an inspiration to Democrats who work in red states, and that campaign is still a reminder that personality politics and messaging can move souls to vote against the grain. A centrist governing style has likewise won Edwards acclaim from trade journals, party players and elected officials in other states. Author John Grisham even co-hosted a fundraiser for Edwards this term.

That’s all to say Edwards is nearing a (not-so-fiscal) cliff that will either send him home to Tangipahoa Parish or into the political stratosphere. Although such opportunities aren’t on the governor’s radar, a re-election win would likely prompt outside forces from D.C. and elsewhere to begin whispering about a U.S. Senate run or a cabinet post or some other job or appointment. When a team player moves up the bench, that’s to be expected.

If anything could dampen such calls, it would be redistricting, which the Legislature will presumably tackle in 2021. Using the most recent U.S. Census figures, legislators redraw election lines every 10 years to account for population shifts. It will be an intense process that both parties will want to control, and it’s among the reasons both parties have become aggressive in their quests for gubernatorial seats. Veto authority always matters, but it matters a little bit more during redistricting. 

A new Legislature would await Edwards, too, should he emerge victorious. And depending on its composition, that revamped House and Senate may make Edwards wish he would have lost. While the current term has been marked by growing pains and, more specifically, uncertainty, there are no guarantees the next will be any better. The Senate, traditionally a backstop for governors, will become more conservative while losing longtime Senate President John Alario, an Edwards ally. Over in the House, groups that usually support Republicans are keeping open minds about backing conservative Democrats, which would make for some interesting dynamics. 

For now, however, Edwards is only promised a place on the fall ballot, just like his GOP opponents, Congressman Ralph Abraham and businessman Eddie Rispone — two men who will also sooner than later start telling you what they think a second Edwards term would look like.

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HDA Client Sasol Featured in OFFI Thrive Report for Community Impact 

The Organization for Foreign Investment recognized Sasol’s workforce initiatives in its 2019 Thrive Report. The OFFI comprises numerous international companies with interests across America, and promotes its members’ contributions to their communities.

Sasol was honored for its work to help underemployed and unemployed South Louisianans get qualified and find work with industry through its Southwest Louisiana Workforce Resource Guide and Scholarship Program, which launched in 2015.

The Workforce Resource Guide is a step-by-step guide to choosing a career path, acquiring training, certifications and basic life skills, preparing a resume and ultimately securing a job in support of area industry.

The program connects local residents with job training and social service resources, one-on-one mentorship and career counseling services. Following the successful launch of the resource guide, Sasol and its community partners expanded the program to provide financial assistance to cover tuition, transportation, childcare and other costs associated with educational advancement.

Sasol has invested over $740,000 in the guide and associated support services.

The scholarship program has helped more than 170 recipients graduate from technical programs. Furthermore, more than 200 people have participated in Sasol-sponsored Workforce Readiness Seminars, which provide information on topics including career planning, resume preparation and communication. 

Those interested in attending seminars, applying for a scholarship or becoming a mentor can learn more on the Foundation for SWLA website.

Learn more about Sasol’s Corporate Social Investment.

View the full OFII Thrive report including Sasol’s spotlight.


Strain, LSU in the Weeds

  • AN OVERVIEW: The birth of the Bayou State’s medical ganja industry is proving to be almost as controversial as the introduction of gambling during the 1990s. There’s big money behind the joint venture and major league personalities are being pulled into the haze, but there’s a human side to this story as well as patients await their alternative healing.
  • THE HEADLINES: Ag Commissioner Mike Strain, who regulates growing, said he’s taking the LSU Ag Center to court for bucking regulations. Remember, this is a man who campaigns in a white cowboy hat. He ain’t messing around. “They’ve fought the law every step of the way,” Strain told USA Today’s Greg Hilburn. LSU officials, however, believe that’s a dopey interpretation. “The allegations made by Commissioner Strain are simply untrue,” Dr. Bill Richardson, LSU’s vice president for agriculture, said in a statement provided to The Advocate’s Sam Karlin
  • SURFACE POLITICS: All of this smoke could invite a challenger to take on Strain this fall. The Republican from Abita Springs is making a bid for his fourth term and has nearly $700,000 in his campaign stash. Luckily for him, we’ve yet to see an effective high-on-life candidate run for statewide office. The issue of potent herbal medicine may have caught on statewide, but the candidates who really, really dig the concept simply haven’t. 
  • REAL POLITICS: Strain deserves to take Mary Jane to the prom; Louisiana needs a weed czar and weeds are his job. The commissioner’s rule-making efforts and regulatory role have shown he wants more of a say in the process. The time has come, though, for the Legislature to step up. A joint oversight hearing is in order, in the least, to determine if Strain has the tools he needs to do his job and to hear what others have to say about his department’s performance.
  • POLICY PERSPECTIVES: After four sessions of tough votes, lawmakers have become gun-shy about carrying bills for green medicine. But many supporters would like to see clean-up legislation introduced this go around. A text asking if Strain was pursuing legislation of his own didn’t yield any answers prior to our deadline. On the recreational front, a handful of Black Caucus members are working on taxation bills for the regular session that convenes in roughly four weeks. Hemp/CBD-related bills are expected to be filed, too.
  • THE BIG PICTURE, MAN: This time last year, Louisiana was positioned to be a leader on the medicinal issue in the Deep South. Today, states like Mississippi and Georgia have campaigns that are trying to catch up. None, however, have the pharmaceutical, university and banking partners that Louisiana enjoys. At one time Louisiana was positioned to at least have a leg up along the coast when it came to casino games as well, but we fell behind Mississippi in terms of enactment and boots on the ground. Are we about to witness the same kind of economic defeat again?


Stephen Handwerk

LaPolitics: On Saturday, the Democratic State Central Committee endorsed Gov. John Bel Edwards’ re-election. What specific actions will the party be undertaking to aid the governor’s campaign effort? 

Louisiana Democratic Party Executive Director Stephen Handwerk: Getting Gov. Edwards re-elected is the Louisiana Democratic Party’s top priority for 2019 and we’re dedicating an array of resources to make that happen. Our 2019 campaign Victory for Louisiana is already gearing up for this election cycle. We’re opening field offices around the state dedicated to knocking on doors, making phone calls, and ensuring we talk to every voter we can. We’re energized by the amount of people who have signed up to volunteer so far. 

What are the biggest issues that the party is tracking heading into the regular session? 

The biggest issue we are facing this upcoming session are the small handful of GOP leaders in the legislature that seemingly have prioritized scoring points against the governor ahead of serving the people of Louisiana. Other than that, we have three major issues we’re focusing on this legislative session: educator and school staff pay raises, increasing Louisiana’s minimum wage, and closing the gender pay gap. Teacher pay has been at the forefront of our party for years now. The last raise to educators was by Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco over a decade ago. This is unacceptable in our eyes. By giving teachers pay raises to put their salaries in line with the Southern regional average, we can improve the quality of education in Louisiana and make an investment in the futures of our children. No one working 40 hours a week should have to live below the poverty line and rely on government assistance just to make ends meet. A minimum wage increase helps provide for our workers and ensures they don’t have to pick between eating that night or going to the doctor. Louisiana has the largest gender pay gap in America. Women make an average of 65 cents for every dollar a man does and it is even worse for women of color, who make 48 cents for every dollar a white man does. No one in our society should be paid less to do the same job because of their race, gender, or identity. 

Which particular legislative races will the party be closely following this fall? 

It’s an exciting election year, with a lot of great pick-up opportunities for Democrats. We’ve seen an unprecedented wave of Democratic enthusiasm across the country since 2016, and we think that will continue here in Louisiana in 2019. There will be winnable contests in places that haven’t been competitive recently. There are more than a handful of seats currently held by Republicans that were won by Democrats in 2014, 2015 and again in 2016 - those are the first seats we’ll target.

Can you give us a preview of some new things we will see from the party closer to the elections? 

You can expect to see us employ new staff and technology throughout the cycle. We’re exploring new ways to reach out to engage voters, whether that’s on their phone or at their door. Democrats hold the vast majority of elected offices in Louisiana and we are going to pick up more seats throughout the state. From town councils and mayorships to state representative and senate seats, we’re here to support them. Democrats thinking about running this year should let us know by going here. Stay tuned!


Dining with ‘Bloody’ O’Reilly

After a overwhelming defeat in the Seven Years War, France lost control of all of its territory in North America, ceding Canada and the Ohio River Valley to Great Britain. 

While the English were thrilled with their new possessions, the noblemen were incensed to discover that King Louis XV had secretly ceded Louisiana and control of the Mississippi River to Spain just weeks before the peace talks began.

French colonists in Louisiana, meanwhile, were outraged at the idea of living under Spanish rule. According to historian Walter Greaves Owan in Louisiana Governors: Rulers, Rascals and Reformers, prominent politicians from New Orleans made trips to Versailles to implore the French king to take the territory back, but their concerns fell of deaf ears. 

To add insult to injury, the new governor, an aloof astronomer named Antonio de Ulloa, seemingly snubbed the Creole population of New Orleans when he arrived in the city. In turn, the colonists staged a minor uprising and ran Ulloa out of town. 

King Charles III was unwilling to let the actions stand without response and appointed Gen. Alejandro O’Reilly as the new governor of Louisiana. O’Reilly, determined to restore order, arrived in New Orleans and surprised the colonists by inviting the leaders of the uprising to an elaborate dinner. 

After the dessert was cleared away, however, soldiers arrived and O’Reilly informed the group that, while he had enjoyed the meal, they were all under arrest and set to be executed for attempting to overthrow the Spanish authority. 

While the colonists gave their new governor the nickname of “Bloody O’Reilly,” he later ingratiated himself into Creole society and removed executions from his parties at the Governor’s Mansion. 

S P O T T E D !

—Minority Whip Steve Scalise was seen handing out king cakes to a bipartisan group of his Capitol Hill colleagues on Mardi Gras Day.

—Gov. John Bel Edwards and First Lady Donna Edwards were seen back home in Tangipahoa Parish last week, attending the Oyster Gala in Amite. 

Edwards was also seen sitting court-side at the PMAC with former LSU running back Derrius Guice.   

—Congressman Ralph Abraham was seen visiting with Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin and Gene Mills at the South Louisiana Family Festival’s Extreme Rodeo in Gonzales. 

—Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell was seen visiting Grambling’s campus with university President Rick Gallot and New York Knicks legend Willis Reed

—Sens. Francis Thompson, Mike Walsworth, Jim Fannin and Rep. Jay Morris were seen sharing a laugh before speaking to the Louisiana Realtors Legislative Outreach luncheon in Monroe. 

—Reps. Julie Emerson, Nancy Landry, Blake Miguez and Phillip DeVillier were seen eating lunch together last week to celebrate Emerson’s birthday. 

—LCA’s Rob Landry and his wife Meredith were seen at the Vatican, personally presenting Pope Francis with a papal hat and receiving a special blessing from the Holy Father.

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S T A F F   S H I F T S

—WELCOME BACK TO PRESS ROW: Sam Karlin will be joining The Advocate’s Capitol Bureau, replacing Ace reporter Elizabeth Crisp, who is heading to Washington, D.C. to cover the Bayou State’s delegation on Capitol Hill. 

Matt Wolking, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy’s communications director, will be leaving the staff of the Bayou State’s senior senator for a position on President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign.

Stephen Wright departed Tulane University’s government relations operation to start up his own shop, Seersucker Strategies.

Katie Corkern has left Northshore Families Helping Families for a new role with the Louisiana Rural Mental Health Alliance. 

Allyce Trapp has joined the Capitol Area Home Builders Association in a government relations role, departing Harris, DeVille & Associates.

P O L I T I C A L   C H A T T E R

@MelindaDeslatte: ". @LouisianaGov at @BESE_LA meeting this morning, to urge support of a K-12 financing formula for next year that includes a $1,000 pay raise for teachers, a $500 raise for support workers and other block grant increases for districts. #lalege #lagov #laed” 

@JSODonoghue: ”.@AGJeffLandry says he would be happy to work with the Legislature on a new law that would help get executions moving. Staff is now saying a secrecy bill -- to keep the source of execution drugs secret -- would be a good start. #lalege #lagov” 

—The LSU Manship School’s annual John Breaux Symposium will be held on March 13. The theme of this year’s event is “Politicking While Female: The Political Life of Women.” Speakers include Sen. Beth Mizell, Rep. Julie Stokes, consultant Mary Patricia-Wray, Emerge Louisiana Executive Director Melanie Oubre, LABI’s Marie Centanni and EBR Metro Councilwoman Erika Green

—The Senate Judiciary committee has approved the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Greg Guidry to a vacant federal judgeship. If Guidry is approved by the full Senate on a floor vote, it would trigger an election in the Supreme Court’s First District. 

—Natchitoches Parish Sheriff Victor Jones announced his intentions to retire after five terms in office. 

—At a White House meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General, President Donald Trump recognized Attorney General Jeff Landry for his work with the group, calling the Bayou State’s AG “a friend of mine.” 

—Landry is also working with the Louisiana Hospital Association on a PSA campaign to fight opioid abuse.

—In the spirit of bipartisan Lenten penance, Sen. Dan Claitor will be tweeting (or saying) something nice about a member of the Democratic party everyday until Easter. 

—Gov. John Bel Edwards’ re-election campaign has unveiled their new website

Eddie Rispone’s gubernatorial campaign announced that they are starting to distribute signs and bumper stickers to supporters. 

—A poll in the Jefferson Parish’s presidents race has led to a dispute between Parish President Mike Yenni and pollster John Couvillon

—The Coastal Conservation Association’s Monroe chapter awarded their “2019 Legislative Champion” commendation to Sen. Francis Thompson

—Sen. Ryan Gatti and his law partner Emily Merckle were named as one of the top legal teams in the Shreveport-Bossier area by SB magazine. 

Pre-orders are being accepted for Bob Mann’s latest book, Becoming Ronald Reagan: The Rise of a Conservative Icon

—DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson will be speaking to the Baton Rouge Press Club at their weekly luncheon next Monday. 

—Orleans Parish Assessor Errol Williams told The Advocate that he does not believe that a proposed hotel that would be attached to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center would qualify for tax-exempt status. 

—Last week, Gambit’s Blake Pontchartrain took a deep dive on the unique history of LaPlace, hometown of the AP’s Melinda Deslatte

—Manship School Dean Martin Johnson was the guest coach for LSU Baseball’s Saturday doubleheader against Cal.

Luke Letlow, Congressman Ralph Abraham’s chief of staff, participated in a Dancing with the Louisiana Stars contest. LaPolitics has obtained videoFred Astaire ain’t got nothing on Luke. 

—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.

T H E   W A R   C H E S T   W A R

—Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser will be having a cocktail reception fundraiser at the Southern Hotel in Covington on Thursday. 

—Covington Mayor Mike Cooper, who is running for St. Tammany Parish President, will be having a fundraiser at Maison Lafitte in Mandeville on March 28.

N E W S   S H A P I N G   O U R   P O L I T I C S

The Times-Pic: “With the Louisiana Legislature convening in exactly one month, the first proposals focused on raising more money for New Orleans road and Sewerage & Water Board repairs have begun to take shape.” 

The Advocate: “If the Louisiana Legislature has a Don Quixote, he is Baton Rouge Rep. Steve Carter.” 

The Advocate: “Worried speed traps would hurt tourism Louisiana legislators and officials over the past dozen years have tried new laws, investigated police officers, even attempted shaming towns with flashing warning signs, all in hopes of tamping down the number of tickets written by small-town police officers.” 

Sports Illustrated: “Here in this place, LSU athletics and state politics are paired together like crawfish boils and beer kegs, synced to one another like jazz bands and Mardi Gras, woven like the purple and gold that drips from this place.” 

B E L T W A Y   B E A T

The biggest news on Capitol Hill this week is President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, which the White House presented to Congress Monday. According to reports, the nearly $4 trillion budget includes includes $8.6 billion earmarked for construction costs associated with a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. In addition, the Trump Administration is also calling for $2.7 trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years through changes to entitlement programs, student loans, federal retirements and the Postal Service. 

—As a member of the Senate Finance Committee and the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy will be participating in hearings on the budget this week. Cassidy also announced that he will be reintroducing the College Transparency Act, a bill designed to modernize the ways that colleges and universities report data. 

—U.S. Sen. John Kennedy appeared on CBS’ Face The Nation Sunday to discuss the FBI’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election and the investigations into President Trump

—Minority Whip Steve Scalise is working to garner support for a discharge petition for the anti-abortion Born-Alive Survivors Protection Act, attempting to circumnavigate the Democratic leadership’s opposition to the bill. Last week, Scalise co-authored an op-ed on the petition with U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma.  

—Amid multiple reports of factionalism and splits in the House Democratic Caucus, Assistant Majority Whip Cedric Richmond talked to The Washington Post about his attempts to reach out to freshman members. 

—RSC Chairman Mike Johnson led a group of members to the White House Thursday, where they met with President Trump in the Oval Office to discuss the Study Committee’s legislative goals. 

—Congressman Clay Higgins introduced the CBP Workload Staffing Model Act, a bill that would prioritize hiring practices for Customs and Border Patrol agents. 

—Congressman Ralph Abraham is partnering with Kennedy on a bill to crackdown on fraud in government assistance programs, requiring agencies to verify a recipient’s tax information. Both Abraham and Kennedy pointed to LDH’s handling of Medicare fraud as the catalyst for putting forward their legislation. 

—Congressman Garret Graves will be testifying before the House Financial Services Committee on flood protection and insurance affordability. Graves will also be speaking to a group of costal professionals this week about his work and legislation on restoration priorities. 


In Last Week’s LaPolitics Weekly

—NFIB is getting behind centralized sales tax collections 

—Rep. Tanner Magee talks about the sales tax bill 

—In the governor’s race, all eyes are on Acadiana 

Guy Cormier talks taking the reins at PJAL 

—Inside the Rails: a look at contested seats up in the Northeastern corner of the state

—HUD nominees and Mardi Gras signs in Jefferson Parish lead off our Field Notes segment 

—Congressman Clay Higgins talks arrests, boxes and Michael Cohen in our They Said It! feature

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Louisiana’s Chemical Industry: Providing Opportunities for Young Louisianians

As an employer of more than 29,100 Louisianians across 53 of the state’s 64 parishes, the chemical industry has maintained its ranking as the no. 1 producer of direct jobs in our state’s manufacturing sector. 

Since 2012, there have been $160 billion dollars worth of announcements in new chemical plants and expansions. If all of these projects come to fruition in Louisiana, there is estimated to be at least 19,055 jobs created for people across the state. 

As the industry continues to thrive in Louisiana, the demand for skilled workers needed will increase. However, receiving specialized training to pursue a career in the industry sometimes requires a different pathway than the traditional four-year college degree. Although not always emphasized, high school students have many options following graduation, including attending technical schools to prepare them for careers in the chemical industry. 

Jeremie Fontenot, a 2018 graduate of SOWELA Technical Community College and recent hire at Sasol, is one example of a young Louisianian who has benefited from the opportunities that technical colleges and the local industry provide for high school graduates. 

The two-year process technology (PTEC) degree Jeremie earned through SOWLEA’s technical program will be instrumental throughout his career as the industry strengthens both statewide and local economies.   

Learn more about Jeremie’s story here.

# H B D ,   T R A C K E R S !

—Tuesday, March 12: Natalie Isaacks and Lauren McKnight

—Wednesday, March 13: Former Congressman Joseph Cao, Rep. Valarie Hodges, Donald Hodge, Jessica Starns Debetaz and Phil Ranier 

—Thursday, March 14: Former Congressman Bill Jefferson, Mary Ann Sternberg, LeAnne Svigel Weill, Kaitlyn Trahan, Davante Lewis and Michael Trufant

—Friday, March 15: Jodee Niswanger Bruyninckx and Brett Dykes

—Saturday, March 16: Julia Barnhill Letlow and Chuck Perrodin

—Sunday, March 17: Fran Broussard, Preston Beard and Jan Bernard

—Monday, March 18: Erin Moore Cowser, Rich Lamb, Amelia Addison, Ravis Martinez and Greta Jones

W E D D I N G   B E L L S

—Louisiana Republican Party Executive Director Andrew Bautsch and his fiancée, Katie Thomas are set to exchange their vows this week. Our congratulations to the happy couple! 

Birthdays, anniversaries, birth announcements, you name it.

We want to know about your special day.

Send those dates to

Copyright © 2019

Jeremy Alford/Louisiana Political Review

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