The Tuesday Tracker, Sponsored by Harris, DeVille & Associates

February 5, 2019 — Issue No. 174

By Jeremy Alford (JJA@LaPolitics.com

Mitch Rabalais
 (Mitch@LaPolitics.com)


ROLL CALL

Gubernatorial campaigns are heating up… John Bel Edwards defends his record… Eddie Rispone goes on the offensive… Ralph Abraham seeks counsel… John Fleming & Sharon Hewitt are waiting in the wings… Bob Mann is on the POD…Clancy DuBos talks Jefferson and Crescent City politics… Woody Jenkins & Ronald Reagan are our political history… John Kennedy and othershave been spotted… 


THE COUNTDOWN

18 days until the special elections in HD12, HD47, HD18, HD 26, HD 27, HD 62 and HD 17… 62 days until the start of the regular session… 182 days until qualifying opens… 249 days until the primary elections… 284 days until the runoff elections… 342 days left in the term…


An Update on the Big Race

Digital ads, a former governor, Hayride op-eds and final decisions

  • JBE: Gov. John Bel Edwards, fresh off of his own Washington Mardi Gras fundraiser, dropped the first digital commercials of the 2019 governor’s campaign Monday, a pair of 15- and 30-second spots touting the state’s economic status during his time in office. “We’re moving in the right direction,” the governor says in the video, “but we’ve still got work to do.” A campaign spokesperson said that the “statewide” spot is the first in a series dubbed “Better Off.” The goal is to compare the governor’s record to his predecessor, Bobby Jindal.
  • DOC: Congressman Ralph Abraham took a break from his Monday campaign schedule and stopped in Franklin for an hour-long visit with former Gov. Mike Foster. “We had a great visit,” Foster told LaPolitics. “I was a very impressed with Dr. Abraham. He is a doctor, a veterinarian and a pilot. He certainly seems to be in it for the right reasons.” Contacted for comment, Abraham added, “I went there to bend his ear and get his counsel. He is certainly very knowledgeable about all things political.” The candidate said he discussed the ins and outs of campaigning as well as some policy issues with the former governor. Foster added that he doesn’t plan to offer an endorsement, but will be closely following the race.
  • FAST EDDIE: Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone has waded into the growing battle over the state’s industrial tax exemption program. Over the weekend, Rispone penned an op-ed in The Hayride, taking issue with Edwards’ 2016 executive order that gave greater control over ITEP to local bodies. “You see, with a stroke of his pen back in 2016, Governor Edwards issued a politically-motivated executive order that threw our state’s economy into chaos,” Rispone wrote. 
  • THE OTHERS: Insiders close to former Congressman John Fleming say that he will be making a final decision on the race “very soon.” Sen. Sharon Hewitt, meanwhile, is still on our list of maybe-candidates.

SON OF A PREACHER MAN

Bob Mann is up next on the podcast

For our latest episode of The LaPolitics Report podcast, longtime Bayou State politico and LSU professor Bob Mann sat down for an in-depth interview about his career in newsrooms, on Capitol Hill and in the classroom. 

In an entertaining and revealing discussion, Mann spoke about his early political experiences (as a Republican, no less, for Dave Treen) and the path that eventually took him through the offices of Russell Long, John Breaux and Kathleen Blanco

Mann also provided his early thoughts on the 2019 governor’s race and what may be ahead for the candidates, although he avoided an outright prediction. “I learned last time not to make any predictions,” he said. “I’ve never been happier to be wrong about something than I was about that race.” 

Plus we get a congressional update from Adams & Reese’s Zach Butterworth and look back on ads from the career of former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu


A message from Harris, DeVille & Associates   

SOWELA and Chemical Industry Provides Opportunity in Lake Charles

HDA client Louisiana Chemical Association recently released a video about SOWELA Technical Community College graduate Jeremie Fontenot. Fontenot talks about the education he received at SOWELA, his new job at Sasol and the wealth of opportunity for him and others thanks to the chemical industry in Lake Charles. Click here to view the video.


The Clancy Q&A

LaPolitics: One of the most talked about races this fall will be the one for Jefferson Parish’s presidency. How has Cynthia Lee-Sheng’s entry altered this campaign’s landscape? 

Clancy DuBos: Cynthia Lee Sheng is a game changer. She proved that when she won her first race for council in a special election in 2008. When you combine her personal popularity with the fact that women are winning more and more elections nowadays, plus the Yenni scandal, it’s easy to see how she starts out as a co-favorite with former Parish President John Young. Speaking of Young, he insists he’s running — and he polls well — but rumors persist that he will drop down to an at-large council race. We’ll see. Meanwhile, two other factors loom large in that race: (1) whether Mike Yenni runs; and (2) which candidate will capture the large bloc of votes in Kenner. I’m told Kenner officials plan to coalesce behind a candidate who they think will serve the interests of Louisiana’s eighth largest city. This race is going to be very interesting to watch.

LaPolitics: New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell has been pushing for the city to start receiving more revenue from the hospitality industry despite some opposition in Baton Rouge. Do you believe that she will ultimately be able to get the funding? 

DuBos: I don’t see the Legislature changing the present distribution formula for sales taxes on the New Orleans hospitality industry. The biggest players in New Orleans are state entities — the Morial Convention Center, and the Superdome and Arena. The big players in the Capitol oppose taking money from those entities. Leaders of the local hospitality industry have proposed a compromise — increasing the tax and giving that to the city. The mayor initially rejected that idea as insufficient, but the dialogue continues.  I think it’s possible some compromise may pass, but it likely won’t involve redirecting significant sums of money that presently go to the hospitality industry.

LaPolitics: You are somebody who has covered both state and city politics for a long time. Do you believe that both sides will be able to come to an agreement or that we will see more of the city vs. the state arguments that have marked these types of negotiations in the past? 

DuBos: I think every issue is unique. The old rural-vs-urban dynamic, which sometimes boils down to everyone-vs-New Orleans, is not as prevalent as it was 50 or 60 years ago, but it occasionally crops back up when an issue presents itself that pits the interests of cities (or New Orleans) against the interests of suburban and rural lawmakers. We saw this when the Harrah’s bill almost passed on the final day of the session last year. It died and got revived several times; in the end, it died because there was not enough money to satisfy everyone — and everyone wanted a piece of that pie. I think when there’s money to be divvied up, you’ll see those old tensions — and when there’s not enough money to divvy up, it’s worse.

LaPolitics: How would you rate the first year in office for Mayor Cantrell and the new City Council?

DuBos: The mayor has not made any major mistakes, and she has been fortunate in that she has not had to deal with any major crises other than the ones she inherited. New Orleans has had no major hurricanes, no floods and no tornadoes. That could change at almost any time, however. She’s focused on the Sewerage and Water Board fiasco, but she did well in appointing Ghassan Korban as the agency’s director. He’s an engineer, and he has quickly gained the respect of the council and the business community. She not overly political in her decision-making, and she engages well with voters. I think we have an excellent City Council. They are diverse yet united in how they approach tough decisions. They face a major challenge in the next few weeks regarding the new power plant in New Orleans East. The previous council approved the $210-million plant, but Entergy New Orleans really screwed up by paying actors to attend public hearings and feign support for the plant — which the council was going to approve anyway. Now there’s pressure to undo that approval, but that opens a can of ugly legal worms. Entergy has already spent more than $96 million on the new plant, which taxpayers could be stuck with paying if the council kills the plant now. This mess is entirely Entergy’s fault, but the stress has caused some pain among council members, two of whom were on the previous council and voted for the plant.  The grassroots organization Alliance for Affordable Energy is putting lots of pressure on council members to overturn approval of the plant, and we’ll see in the next two weeks if that happens. This is a major test of the council members’ individual and collective ability to navigate some turbulent political waters. By the way, Mayor Cantrell was on the previous council and voted for the plant during her transition period.


YOUR POLITICAL HISTORY

When Woody resigned for the Gipper 

The 1980 presidential election will always be remembered for the epic campaign that pitted incumbent President Jimmy Carter of Georgia against then-Governor Ronald Reagan of California. 

That presidential race was significant for Louisiana because it marked one of the few times in history that the Bayou State was a political battleground in a national election. Both campaigns spent considerable time, money and resources in the state, while the two candidates made sure to carve out time for personal appearances, rallies and fundraisers. 

According to press reports, by the time October came around, Reagan’s conservative message appeared to resonate with many voters, even though Carter had easily won Louisiana’s 10 electoral votes four years earlier. 

Seeing the shift, then-Rep. Woody Jenkins of Baton Rouge decided to make an orthodox political play. Jenkins, then a Democrat, had challenged incumbent U.S. Sen. Russell Long earlier in the year. While his candidacy forced Long to take up his first active campaign in years, Jenkins was handily defeated in the primary. 

With his own political advancement on hold, Jenkins called a press conference and announced that he was resigning his post as a Democratic National Committeeman, because he would be supporting Reagan in the presidential election. The announcement was surprising because despite some misgivings about Carter, the Louisiana Democrats, led by Long and former Gov. Edwin Edwards, were firmly in the Georgian’s camp. 

“For me to support Carter would be a case of extreme ‘party-itis’,” he told the reporters. “Carter offers no hope to strengthen the national defense, curb inflation. I weighed this carefully. I'm not one to come out for other parties.”

Jenkins was on the winning side, as Reagan carried nearly 52 percent of the vote in the Bayou State. (It would also not be the last time that Woody Jenkins would go against the wishes of his party’s leadership…)


Spotted…

  • U.S. Sen. John Kennedy was seen visiting with members of the Central Louisiana Chamber of Commerce on Capitol Hill. 
  • Sen. Sharon Hewitt was seen visiting the White House during Washington Mardi Gras…
  • Rep. Joe Marino was seen sharing a laugh with New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, Sen. Karen Carter Peterson and Rep. Royce Duplessis at WMG. 
  • New Orleans City Councilwoman Helena Moreno was seen hanging out with rapper Choppa at the Big Easy’s ‘Boycott Bowl’ party Sunday. 

Political Chatter…

  • Gov. John Bel Edwards is joining with other Democrats calling on Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam to resign over a scandal involving an offensive costume and photograph featured in his medical school yearbook. 
  • Gubernatorial candidate Eddie Rispone visited the Shreveport-Bossier area Tuesday and landed support (via Twitter) from Sen. Barrow Peacock.  
  • MSNBC’s Kasie DC show is out with another edition of their “Sen. John Kennedy Said What?” segment. 
  • Kennedy has invited Senate custodian Justina Pettway as his guest for President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech. 
  • DOTD officials say that tolls would only finance 17 percent of a new bridge across the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge. 
  • The Advocate is doubling the size of their Lafayette-based Acadiana newsroom. 
  • Rep. Julie Stokes says that she will introduce a resolution in the regular session asking the Legislature to formally send a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell over the outcome of the Saints-Rams game. 
  • LDH Secretary Rebekah Gee will be speaking to the Baton Rouge Press Club at their weekly luncheon Monday. 
  • 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

The War Chest War 

  • Speaker Taylor Barras and Senate President John Alario have scheduled their joint fundraiser for Feb. 11. 
  • Newly-elected Rep. Mary DuBuisson will be having a fundraiser on Feb. 12. It will be her first event since she won election to former Rep. Greg Cromer’s seat in December. 

News Shaping Our Politics 

  • The Advocate: “It was the hottest Superdome ticket in 10 years: Saints vs. Rams, with the winner advancing to the Super Bowl. Every Saints fan wanted to be at the Jan. 20 playoff game. And a select group of elected officials and political insiders got their wishes realized, for free, in the governor’s state-provided suite.” 
  • The Advocate: “Louisiana’s largest business lobby is pushing for changes to the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program in an effort to make it easier on companies seeking tax breaks, the latest push by business interests to defend the incentive program.” 
  • The News-Star: “Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe,  is ‘coming home' after his 24th year in the Louisiana State Legislature.” 

What you missed in the Weekly

—A candidate invasion, party-vators & 3,000 Politicos at Washington Mardi Gras 

—AG Jeff Landry hosts a fundraiser in a “presidential” location 

—A new trade association has been formed in Baton Rouge 

Bob Mann talks 2019 

—LSU’s Statehouse Bureau joins us for a look at what the governor’s race will cost candidates 

—Speaker Taylor Barras, Appropriations Chair Cameron Henry and Sheriff Joe Lopinto lead off our Field Notes! segment  

—Gov. John Bel Edwards and U.S. Bill Cassidy are talking parties, football and drunks in our They Said It! feature 

Get on the inside today with a subscription to LaPolitics Weekly! 


A message from Harris, DeVille & Associates 

Hire Local. Live Local. Buy Local.

Click here to view a video on HDA client Shintech’s chemical complex in Iberville Parish. This video is about Shintech’s philosophy, which is “hire local, live local and buy local.” Shintech prides itself on being a good neighbor and a good citizen in Louisiana. Watch the video and you’ll see what we mean.


#HBD Trackers 

— Tuesday, Feb. 5: Rachel Foreman and First Lady Donna Edwards

— Wednesday, Feb. 6: Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, Laura Veazey, Stephen Waguespack, Kellee Hennessy, Tom Fitzmorris and Cindy Edmonds

— Thursday, Feb. 7: Rep. Truck Gisclair, late Congresswoman Catherine S. Long (1924), Neal Kirby and Cassie Felder

— Friday, Feb. 8: Treasurer John Schroder and Jason Redmond

— Saturday, Feb. 9: Lauren Rachel, Christopher Edward Warner and Chris Warner

— Sunday, Feb. 10: Rep. Barbara Norton, Andrew Ganucheau, Tim Schroder, Nial Patel, Keli Williams, John Cummins, Jason Dore, Paul Dietzel and Ricky Gonsoulin

— Monday, Feb. 11: Dawn Starns, Matt Breaux, Pamela Matassa and Jennifer Treadway


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Copyright © 2019

Jeremy Alford/Louisiana Political Review

All rights reserved.

Tuesday Tracker

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