ISSUE 1,127

The Countdown: 

18 days until next the next state campaign finance report is due…

37 days until early voting…

57 days until the primary…

207 days until the 2018 regular session…

The Rundown:

An exclusive preview of 26 legislative races… Donors on both sides thinking differently about party affiliations for 2019… House and Senate contenders already being recruited… An updated term limits list… Villere steering clear of chair election… A super PAC bump for Kennedy… Four potential names for that federal judgeship in Alexandria… A fighting shot for Wendy Vitter… Regional breakdowns for the treasurer candidates… “Throwback Thursday” with David Duke and Edwin Edwards… “Graphically Told” with Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy… “Field Notes” about Louisiana judges and why they're avoiding social media… The EWE/JBE “They Said It” special edition… Plus more!

BY JEREMY ALFORD — AUGUST 17, 2017 — ISSUE NO. 1,127

FILLING SEATS

With 51 term-limited lawmakers, elections are starting early

While state legislators have become more partisan over the last few election cycles, the people and special interests that have bankrolled their campaigns in the past aren’t necessarily heading in the same direction. Those organizations and personalities, however, are starting to play in legislative races earlier than ever, based on more than a dozen interviews conducted this week with some of Louisiana’s top election influencers.

There are four primary reasons why pre-election activities are being moved up the calendar:

1.) At least 35 percent of the entire Legislature will be turning over. The most significant impact could be in the Senate, which will lose at least 41 percent of its members, or 16 out of 39 — a figure that comes dangerously close to a majority in the upper chamber. The House is slated for a 33 percent loss (35 out of 105) due to term limits, but that figure could climb as representatives run for Senate seats instead of re-election.

2.) Fundraising needs to start earlier or, better yet, never stop. Large super PACs have become the norm in Louisiana, even for legislative elections — and they’re making it more difficult for some of the smaller association PACs to bring in the same cash they’ve enjoyed in previous cycles.

3.) There’s a very real recruitment effort underway by both Republican-minded and Democratic-leaning groups. Decision-makers have finally grown weary of having to pick from a list of qualifiers. They’d rather influence who actually qualifies.

4.) The next crop of legislators will be charged with steering the redistricting process, which occurs every 10 years. Members of Congress, judges and other elected officials will all be traveling to the Capitol in 2021 to protect their district lines. But not before special interests try to elect the legislators to draw them.

CONSERVATIVES MORE FOCUSED

The early action is surprising considering there are still 786 days to go until the Oct. 12, 2019, primary elections. And there’s not much of a balance to it all — in fact, most of that early action can only be found on the right.

That’s the side of the state’s political spectrum where a coalition of conservative committees and associations has been meeting regularly. Their shared goal is to have choice candidates in nearly every legislative race. Those at the table include the Louisiana Committee For a Republican Majority; Louisiana Association of Business and Industry; Louisiana Chemical Association; Associated Builders and Contractors; and Louisiana Oil and Gas Association. Other outfits, like the Louisiana Federation For Children, are brought into the mix as well on occasion.

While these organizations have worked together on a variety of issues over the years, they’ve never collectively prepared this early for an election fight. Part of that has to do with an ongoing recruitment process that is seeking to place a larger on consistent conservative votes inside the rails — as compared to making decisions based solely on party affiliations.

It represents a different line of thinking on the right side of the lobbying corps. Instead of looking only for Republican candidates for each race, some of those involved with the drive are more interested in finding contenders who can comfortably carry a conservative label. After all, a Democratic or no-party legislator who votes with business and industry 100 percent of the time is much more valuable than a lifelong Republican who takes similar stances only half the time.

Part of this early push is being fueled by suspicions that Democrats will arrive prepared and organized for the 2019 cycle. Right now, though, the landscape doesn’t exactly look like that. Whereas those in the working group mentioned above are prepared to serve as a clearinghouse for conservative dollars in 2019, no such operation exists yet on the left.

But that’ll change, possibly sooner than later. The House Democratic Caucus is working on donor pitches and is said to have an impressive prospect list. Plus there’s speculation that the deep-pocketed plaintiff attorneys who helped Gov. John Bel Edwards get elected in 2015 may have more freedom (read: resources) to dip into legislative races. That’s because hopes are high on the left that the Democratic Governors Association will fly south with bags of cash to defend Edwards in the next cycle. National Democrats, more than anything else, want to make sure the governor remains the governor for the redistricting process — just in case his veto pen is needed.

There are also a handful of Democratic players and donors who, sort of like some of their GOP counterparts, are having informal discussions about the potential value in supporting moderate Republicans. Assuming Edwards is granted a second term, a more moderate Legislature would be a true gift. There are some models out there Democrats could follow. For example, a similar effort in Kentucky recently produced enough moderate Republican legislators to override the far-right side of the party.

THE WATCH LIST

HD15/HOFFMANN/OPEN: Ouachita Parish Police Juror Scotty Robinson, who is an insurance agent, is looking at the seat.

HD19/CHANEY/OPEN: East Carroll Parish Police Jury President Lee Denny intends to be on the ballot, as does Sen. Francis Thompson.

HD20/PYLANT/INCUMBENT: Catahoula Parish Police Juror Judy Duhon is shopping around for consulting help and starting her campaign. Rep. Steve Pylant is expected to seek re-election.

HD21/ANDERS/OPEN: Former Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland could jump back into politics as a candidate for this open seat.

HD22/BROWN/INCUMBENT: Contractor and small businessman John Stephens has said he will be running again. Rep. Terry Brown is expected to seek-re-election.

HD 32/HILL/OPEN: Rep. Dorothy Sue Hill’s 2015 challenger, contractor and Police Juror Biscuit Smith, is getting ready for the 2019 cycle. Rep. Hill’s son, attorney Craig Ray Hill, is likewise looking at running for the seat his father previously held and that his mother has occupied since 1991.

HD38/LEBAS/OPEN: Local politicos are trying to convince Sen. Eric LaFleur to run, but nothing is official. Turkey Creek Mayor Heather Cloud may also be a potential candidate.

HD39/EMERSON/INCUMBENT: Former Democratic Rep. Bobby Badon told those gathered at a Christmas party last year that he would be running. Speculation also remains for former Rep. Stephen Ortego, who lost the seat to the incumbent. Rep. Julie Emerson is expected to seek-re-election.

HD48/BARRAS/OPEN: Beau Beaullieu, a partner in CoSource Financial Group, is running and has been making the rounds at legislative events. Iberia Parish Councilman Ricky Gonsoulin, a sugarcane farmer, is telling supporters that he will run too.

HD50/JONES/OPEN: Librarian and former educator Allison Jones, the daughter of Rep. Sam Jones, is being urged by community activists to qualify.

HD58/PRICE/SPECIAL: Some PAC money appears to be making its way toward Miguel D. Aubert of Vacherie. The Capitol’s old-timers still fondly recall the candidate’s father, former Rep. Elton Aubert. Ken Brass, the vice chairman of the St. James Parish Council, is another candidate worth tracking. Also running are Adrienne Ricard Conish and Alsie Dunbar.

HD77/SCHRODER/SPECIAL: The business lobby is giving a close look to both retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness and Covington City Councilman Mark Wright. Both would be solid votes for that corner of the ideological spectrum, so it may come down to personalities and poll positions. The wild card is Lisa Condrey Ward, who has no party affiliation. She has the backing of St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister. Casey Revere, a justice of the peace, is also running.

HD83/BILLIOT/OPEN: Senate President John Alario has said he has not ruled out running for this seat.

SD8/ALARIO/OPEN: Rep. Pat Connick is already fundraising and will be on the ballot. (Senate President John Alario is one of the people helping Connick raise money.)

SD9/APPEL/OPEN: Rep. Cameron Henry is running and is raising money. The big question mark is Rep. Neil Abramson, who is being urged to consider the seat.

SD10/MARTINY/OPEN: Rep. Kirk Talbot will be a candidate and he has secured Brent Barksdale to do his Senate campaign’s consulting and media.

SD11/DONAHUE/OPEN: Rep. Reid Falconer is said to be considering the contest. Additionally, retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness is worth keeping an eye on, depending on how his bid in the special election in HD 77 goes this fall.

SD13/ERDEY/OPEN: Rep. Rogers Pope is said to be forming a campaign.

SD16/CLAITOR/OPEN: Rep. Franklin Foil comes out of the gate as the early favorite, although some politicos are trying to get Ryan Theriot to run. Theriot was a standout at LSU who later played shortstop and second base for the Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers and Giants. Businessman Scott McKnight, who ran for the post last cycle, could always take another swing as well. There has also been some talk about attorney Gordon McKernan looking at the Senate seat, but it doesn’t appear serious. (For now.)

SD20/CHABERT/OPEN: Mike Fesi, who ran for the seat last cycle, is said to be thinking about another bid. From the House, keep an eye on Rep. Tanner Magee. Others said to be looking at the race (from a distance) include former Reps. Damon Baldone and Lenar Whitney.

SD25/MORRISH/OPEN: Rep. Mark Abraham has been encouraged to run, but there has been no official word yet from his camp. Homebuilder and Iraqi War veteran Jody Guidry is interested in the Senate seat too.

SD28/LAFLEUR/OPEN: Rep. Bernard LeBas could end up being a candidate.

SD34/THOMPSON/OPEN: Rep. Katrina Jackson is often mentioned as a likely candidate and some locals haven’t yet ruled out Rep. Bubba Chaney.

SD35/FANNIN/INCUMBENT: Should this seat become open, and there are no indications that it will, Rep. Jay Morris’ supporters like the possibility of him getting into the race. Plus Sen. Jim Fannin’s 2015 opponent, Stewart Cathey, is said to be eager for another bite at the electoral apple.

SD 36/GATTI/INCUMBENT: The recent defeat of Sen. Ryan Gatti’s brother, Robert Gatti, in a HD 8 special election could draw opponents to the freshman senator — even a possible challenge from Rep. Raymond Crews, who is quickly becoming a favorite of the business lobby. Sen. Gatti is expected to run for re-election.

SD38/MILKOVICH/INCUMBENT: Rep. Alan Seabaugh is giving serious consideration to challenging Sen. John Milkovich, who is expected to run for re-election.

Have a name or a race that was left off? Get it on LaPolitics’ WATCH LIST right now by emailing the info to JJA@LaPolitics.com.

The following message is brought to you by The Picard Group

GO SHARKS!

Before Southside High School in Youngsville opened its doors this August, nearly 50 years had passed since a new high school was built in Lafayette Parish. Back then, the city of Youngsville was still a village — much different from the thriving community it is now with nearly 700 students enrolled in the city’s first public high school.

“The growth in Youngsville has been so rapid in the time I’ve been in office,” said Mayor Ken Ritter. “We’ve tried to shift the paradigm to be about quality and not quantity and the school will help define our community.”

That community has already been identifying with Southside. With sports beginning ahead of the first day of class and parents enthusiastic to be part of the school’s first class of students, the Southside spirit is strong with Sharks apparel on just about every corner! The school is considered marvelously modern, built around a new way of learning, driven by technology.

The visuals alone differ from any other…

Visit The Picard Group’s sponsored page on the LaPolitics site for the rest of this story.

VILLERE MUM ON CHAIR ELECTION

There are a handful of chairman candidates asking for the support of members of the Republican State Central Committee, but it’s unlikely that any of them will gain the backing of Roger Villere, the outgoing state chair.

“At this point, no, I’m not getting involved,” Villere said in an interview earlier today. “Everyone who is running is a good friend of mine.”

And running the hardest at this very moment are longtime party activist Charlie Buckels of Lafayette, New Orleans attorney Louis Gurvich and Baton Rouge consultant Scott Wilfong. But with the election scheduled for March of next year, more competition is probably on the way.

The two other names to watch the closest both come from the state House. Reps. Julie Emerson and Barry Ivey are said to be seriously considering the contest. Scott McKnight and Derek Babcock have likewise been mentioned as possible candidates.

SUPER PAC BUMP FOR KENNEDY

The Conservative Louisiana PAC went live with a statewide digital ad buy this morning that offers up a “thank you” to U.S. Sen. John Kennedy.

As reported by LaPolitics during Washington Mardi Gras, the super PAC was specifically created to support the senator. Whether that means his 2022 Senate re-election (when Kennedy reaches age 70) or the 2019 governor’s race (the senator hasn’t even hinted at it) is a fun question to ponder. And the new digital spot has only provoked more speculation.

To be certain, Kennedy has the right kind of super PAC team supporting him if he’s going to pursue the Governor’s Mansion. PAC director Kyle Ruckert and treasurer Charlie Spies directly influenced the related case law in Louisiana that allows for such independent activities. With the Fund For Louisiana’s Future they also created a nationally-recognized model in 2015 for transferring federal campaign dollars to a state campaign account. Which is exactly what Kennedy would need if he were a candidate for governor and not just a sitting U.S. senator. (If you want to learn more about the Conservative Louisiana PAC you’re in luck. The group now has a website, Facebook page and Twitter account.)

ABOUT ALEX’S FEDERAL JUDGESHIP 

More names are beginning to surface for the Alexandria-based federal judgeship.

The most surprising may be Jimmy Faircloth, who served as executive counsel for former Gov. Bobby Jindal. But he’s definitely not alone in the running.

Bradley Drell, who is the son of Judge Dee Drell, is in the mix as well. Judge Drell is moving to senior status in the fall, which will in turn create the vacancy everyone is waiting on in Alexandria.

Other possibilities, according to locals, include Greg Upton, a partner at Gold Weems, and Judge Greg Beard of the 9th Judicial District.

U.S. Sen. John Kennedy will be taking the lead on the nomination process in Washington.

VITTER’S FIGHTING SHOT

A number of sources tell LaPolitics that U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy is about five or so weeks away from moving forward with the name of Wendy Vitter in the Eastern District.

While she is best known for being the wife of a former U.S. senator, Vitter has a bio that stands on its own. She began her law career as a prosecutor for former New Orleans District Attorney Harry Connick Sr. Within three years of being hired she earned the job of chief of trials, an important supervisory position in the DA’s office. She also prosecuted Louisiana’s first DNA-based murder case.

The law was already in her blood to start with (her father was a well-known Louisiana attorney) but the decision to be a prosecutor in the infancy of her career was a particularly good fit. “The most important thing I thought I could ever do,” Vitter told LaPolitics in an earlier interview, “was to be a voice for victims who could not speak for themselves.”

Those watching the nomination process closely, and who are also supportive of Vitter, say they are “cautiously optimistic” about her chances.

REGIONAL READS FOR TREASURER

After losing an important endorsement in his corner of the state to a candidate from above I-10, Rep. John Schroder of Covington rebounded this week by securing the backing of the Greater New Orleans Republicans PAC.

It’s yet another chapter in the unfolding tale of which candidate for treasurer will capture the Big Easy and surrounding suburbs. Sen. Neil Riser of Columbia won the last round with an endorsement from the Orleans Parish GOP Executive Committee. The Jefferson PEC, meanwhile, decided to go with Schroder.

As such, the greater New Orleans region has become a battleground pitting Schroder against Riser. Schroder, for his part, will likely spend heavily in that media market. While it might sound like a low-yield situation for Schroder (putting all that cash behind commercials in a city filled with Democrats who are unlikely to vote for him) his campaign actually has to buy into the New Orleans media market to access his home base on the North Shore, where turnout is usually above average.

Riser’s team, meanwhile, is said to reaching out to the New Orleans politicos who are best known for putting money on the streets for get-out-the-vote activities. (Considering that New Orleans will probably have the highest turnout in the state, it’s an area none of the candidates want to ignore.)

LaPolitics subscribers are also reporting that Riser is making notable moves and gaining momentum in Lafayette and Lake Charles. As for the other smaller parishes in Acadiana, it’s still too early to tell. Much like Congressman Clay Higgins did in the lead-up to his surprise victory last year, Schroder appears to be hitting those outlying areas in Acadiana hard.

Closer to the Capitol, former commissioner of administration Angele Davis is hoping to galvanize her hometown of Baton Rouge and the nearby Florida Parishes. Coupled with outreach to moderate and Democratic voters, supporters believe it could be the foundation for a place in the runoff.

North Louisiana presents another interesting storyline. While the piney north is definitely Riser Country, local politicos say Schroder has been showing up and chasing endorsements and cash in Riser’s backyard. Regardless, it’s an area of the state where Riser could dump some serious cash, based on his own budget, especially in Monroe and Alexandria. (Television ad prices in the Shreveport market, which are usually on the high side, have a couple of the candidates questioning if they’ll even buy there.)

As for which region is the most important, that depends on the candidate. But the Baton Rouge, Lafayette and New Orleans media markets could collectively produce as much as 65 percent of the total votes in the primary election.

THROWBACK THURSDAY: DUKE & EDWARDS

With both David Duke and Edwin Edwards back in the news (the latter for his 90th birthday party and the former for being who he is), this seemed like a good time to pull a couple of their photos from the LaPolitics archives.

In the first image below you may have noticed that Duke was carrying a copy of The Times-Picayune. The headline reads “IT’S EDWARDS.” The edition was dated Nov. 17, 1991, which was the day after Edwards bested Duke for governor by 61.2 percent to 38.8 percent.

The following photograph of Edwards features the former governor in a Gris-Gris t-shirt. Gris-Gris was one of the publications that eventually led to the creation of LaPolitics Weekly by late founder John Maginnis.

GRAPHICALLY TOLD: CASSIDY & KENNEDY CASH

According to the Washington-based Center For Responsive Politics, Louisiana’s two U.S. senators together have raised more than $24.5 million since becoming candidates for the nation’s upper chamber.

That includes $17.3 million for Sen. Bill Cassidy, who was sworn in back in 2015, and $7.2 million for Kennedy, who took office in January. That’s a serious haul for Kennedy, a DC newbie who can already say he has raised 41 percent of Cassidy’s total take.

FIELD NOTES

— If you’ve noticed that Louisiana’s judges have become somewhat quiet across social media platforms recently you’re not alone. The state’s benchwarmers had an annual conference recently and were advised to limit their use of Facebook, Twitter and the like. Why? There’s a growing trend among litigants who are using social media to influence the court system.

— LaPolitics reported in last week’s issue that Rep. Alan Seabaugh is considering running against Sen. John Milkovich in Senate District 38. Since then Milkovich, who was contacted for the initial story, has offered this prepared statement in response: “Our core support is church folks and working families. The People of District 38 have some of the strongest foundational values of anyone in America: faith, family and hard work. Everything that's been achieved  on behalf of District 38, has been achieved with God's help and through the teamwork of the people of this district.”

— Next week is “Voter Registration Week” in Louisiana. Secretary of State Tom Schedler and registrars of voters will be conducting activities aimed at registering eligible citizens to vote. While there should be a lot of activity on the ground over the next week, don't forget that you can also do it all online in Louisiana.

— The U.S. Department of Education has approved Louisiana’s state education plan under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. It’s the product of a year-long effort.

— In related news, Education Superintendent John White received a positive evaluation from the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education this week during his annual review.

— Based on an exclusive story published by The Business Report, former Gov. Bobby Jindal has taken a job as the new operating adviser for Ares Management, a global investment firm based in Los Angeles.

THEY SAID IT: EDWARDS EDITION

If you missed the 90th birthday party of former Gov. Edwin Edwards this past weekend, then you missed an appearance by burlesque dancer Chris Owens and a speech by sitting Gov. John Bel Edwards. Here are some of the highlights:

“You know, when I heard I was going to be between Chris Owens and Edwin Edwards, I said, ‘For the love of God!’” —JBE’s opening sentence

“I’m gonna look like I’m 90 by the time I get out.” —JBE, on the number of special sessions this year and last

“I did not eat that cake once I found out that Chef Vitter made it.” —JBE, commenting on the culinary skills of Chef Drue Vitter (Not David Vitter) 

“Every time he ran he won with more votes than he had before. So the real purpose of me being here is… You don’t have any intentions of running in 2019 do you? Because if he’s not running in 2019 I feel pretty damn good about my chances.” —JBE, addressing the audience and EWE directly 

“I’ve been governor for 19 months. It just started that when I’m in a room and someone calls Gov. Edwards that I realize they’re talking to me.” —JBE

“For the members of the media who are asking me, ‘Why are you here?’ That is why I’m here. I am here to celebrate the birthday of Edwin W. Edwards, a four-term governor of the great state of Louisiana, who is still revered by many across this state. Those attributes I just talked about inspire me and guide the decisions that I make.” —JBE

“The graceful and dignified manner in which Edwin Edwards has handled the adversity that life has thrown at him toward the end, after he left the Governor’s Office, that too is remarkable. It is worthy of celebration as well.” —JBE, referring to EWE’s time in prison for a federal racketeering conviction

“Gov. Edwards, if it weren't for you this would be a nice, small and quiet event.” —EWE, to JBE

“During the campaign when people asked I told them he was my fourth cousin. After he got elected I told them he was my first cousin.” —EWE, on JBE

“If they're friends of mine tell them we’re good friends and close relatives. If they don’t like me, tell them, ‘I don't know the son-of-a-bitch.’ I was just joking, but he did it.” —EWE, on the advice he gave JBE for his 2015 campaign

“I woke up on my birthday, 90-years-old, and brought my four-year-old child to preschool. Now next time you meet someone like that tell me and I’ll show you some white black birds.” —EWE

“You not gonna believe this, but my mother in law is 40 years younger than I am. And we love each other.” —EWE

“Everywhere I go I’m with young people.” —EWE, reminding the audience that most folks never see 90

“I had a private audience with the Pope. I met with him and asked him to hear my confession. He declined because he said he'd only be in town for three days.” —EWE

FILLING SEATS

With 51 term-limited lawmakers, elections are starting early

While state legislators have become more partisan over the last few election cycles, the people and special interests that have bankrolled their campaigns in the past aren’t necessarily heading in the same direction. Those organizations and personalities, however, are starting to play in legislative races earlier than ever, based on more than a dozen interviews conducted this week with some of Louisiana’s top election influencers.

There are four primary reasons why pre-election activities are being moved up the calendar:

1.) At least 35 percent of the entire Legislature will be turning over. The most significant impact could be in the Senate, which will lose at least 41 percent of its members, or 16 out of 39 — a figure that comes dangerously close to a majority in the upper chamber. The House is slated for a 33 percent loss (35 out of 105) due to term limits, but that figure could climb as representatives run for Senate seats instead of re-election.

2.) Fundraising needs to start earlier or, better yet, never stop. Large super PACs have become the norm in Louisiana, even for legislative elections — and they’re making it more difficult for some of the smaller association PACs to bring in the same cash they’ve enjoyed in previous cycles.

3.) There’s a very real recruitment effort underway by both Republican-minded and Democratic-leaning groups. Decision-makers have finally grown weary of having to pick from a list of qualifiers. They’d rather influence who actually qualifies.

4.) The next crop of legislators will be charged with steering the redistricting process, which occurs every 10 years. Members of Congress, judges and other elected officials will all be traveling to the Capitol in 2021 to protect their district lines. But not before special interests try to elect the legislators to draw them.

CONSERVATIVES MORE FOCUSED

The early action is surprising considering there are still 786 days to go until the Oct. 12, 2019, primary elections. And there’s not much of a balance to it all — in fact, most of that early action can only be found on the right.

That’s the side of the state’s political spectrum where a coalition of conservative committees and associations has been meeting regularly. Their shared goal is to have choice candidates in nearly every legislative race. Those at the table include the Louisiana Committee For a Republican Majority; Louisiana Association of Business and Industry; Louisiana Chemical Association; Associated Builders and Contractors; and Louisiana Oil and Gas Association. Other outfits, like the Louisiana Federation For Children, are brought into the mix as well on occasion.

While these organizations have worked together on a variety of issues over the years, they’ve never collectively prepared this early for an election fight. Part of that has to do with an ongoing recruitment process that is seeking to place a larger on consistent conservative votes inside the rails — as compared to making decisions based solely on party affiliations.

It represents a different line of thinking on the right side of the lobbying corps. Instead of looking only for Republican candidates for each race, some of those involved with the drive are more interested in finding contenders who can comfortably carry a conservative label. After all, a Democratic or no-party legislator who votes with business and industry 100 percent of the time is much more valuable than a lifelong Republican who takes similar stances only half the time.

Part of this early push is being fueled by suspicions that Democrats will arrive prepared and organized for the 2019 cycle. Right now, though, the landscape doesn’t exactly look like that. Whereas those in the working group mentioned above are prepared to serve as a clearinghouse for conservative dollars in 2019, no such operation exists yet on the left.

But that’ll change, possibly sooner than later. The House Democratic Caucus is working on donor pitches and is said to have an impressive prospect list. Plus there’s speculation that the deep-pocketed plaintiff attorneys who helped Gov. John Bel Edwards get elected in 2015 may have more freedom (read: resources) to dip into legislative races. That’s because hopes are high on the left that the Democratic Governors Association will fly south with bags of cash to defend Edwards in the next cycle. National Democrats, more than anything else, want to make sure the governor remains the governor for the redistricting process — just in case his veto pen is needed.

There are also a handful of Democratic players and donors who, sort of like some of their GOP counterparts, are having informal discussions about the potential value in supporting moderate Republicans. Assuming Edwards is granted a second term, a more moderate Legislature would be a true gift. There are some models out there Democrats could follow. For example, a similar effort in Kentucky recently produced enough moderate Republican legislators to override the far-right side of the party.

THE (INCOMPLETE) WATCH LIST

HD15/HOFFMANN/OPEN: Ouachita Parish Police Juror Scotty Robinson, who is an insurance agent, is looking at the seat.

HD19/CHANEY/OPEN: East Carroll Parish Police Jury President Lee Denny intends to be on the ballot, as does Sen. Francis Thompson.

HD20/PYLANT/INCUMBENT: Catahoula Parish Police Juror Judy Duhon is shopping around for consulting help and starting her campaign. Rep. Steve Pylant is expected to seek re-election.

HD21/ANDERS/OPEN: Former Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland could jump back into politics as a candidate for this open seat.

HD22/BROWN/INCUMBENT: Contractor and small businessman John Stephens has said he will be running again. Rep. Terry Brown is expected to seek-re-election.

HD 32/HILL/OPEN: Rep. Dorothy Sue Hill’s 2015 challenger, contractor and Police Juror Biscuit Smith, is getting ready for the 2019 cycle. Rep. Hill’s son, attorney Craig Ray Hill, is likewise looking at running for the seat his father previously held and that his mother has occupied since 1991.

HD38/LEBAS/OPEN: Local politicos are trying to convince Sen. Eric LaFleur to run, but nothing is official. Turkey Creek Mayor Heather Cloud may also be a potential candidate.

HD39/EMERSON/INCUMBENT: Former Democratic Rep. Bobby Badon told those gathered at a Christmas party last year that he would be running. Speculation also remains for former Rep. Stephen Ortego, who lost the seat to the incumbent. Rep. Julie Emerson is expected to seek-re-election.

HD48/BARRAS/OPEN: Beau Beaullieu, a partner in CoSource Financial Group, is running and has been making the rounds at legislative events. Iberia Parish Councilman Ricky Gonsoulin, a sugarcane farmer, is telling supporters that he will run too.

HD50/JONES/OPEN: Librarian and former educator Allison Jones, the daughter of Rep. Sam Jones, is being urged by community activists to qualify.

HD58/PRICE/SPECIAL: Some PAC money appears to be making its way toward Miguel D. Aubert of Vacherie. The Capitol’s old-timers still fondly recall the candidate’s father, former Rep. Elton Aubert. Ken Brass, the vice chairman of the St. James Parish Council, is another candidate worth tracking. Also running are Adrienne Ricard Conish and Alsie Dunbar.

HD77/SCHRODER/SPECIAL: The business lobby is giving a close look to both retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness and Covington City Councilman Mark Wright. Both would be solid votes for that corner of the ideological spectrum, so it may come down to personalities and poll positions. The wild card is Lisa Condrey Ward, who has no party affiliation. She has the backing of St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister. Casey Revere, a justice of the peace, is also running.

HD83/BILLIOT/OPEN: Senate President John Alario has said he has not ruled out running for this seat.

SD8/ALARIO/OPEN: Rep. Pat Connick is already fundraising and will be on the ballot. (Senate President John Alario is one of the people helping Connick raise money.)

SD9/APPEL/OPEN: Rep. Cameron Henry is running and is raising money. The big question mark is Rep. Neil Abramson, who is being urged to consider the seat.

SD10/MARTINY/OPEN: Rep. Kirk Talbot will be a candidate and he has secured Brent Barksdale to do his Senate campaign’s consulting and media.

SD11/DONAHUE/OPEN: Rep. Reid Falconer is said to be considering the contest. Additionally, retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness is worth keeping an eye on, depending on how his bid in the special election in HD 77 goes this fall.

SD13/ERDEY/OPEN: Rep. Rogers Pope is said to be forming a campaign.

SD16/CLAITOR/OPEN: Rep. Franklin Foil comes out of the gate as the early favorite, although some politicos are trying to get Ryan Theriot to run. Theriot was a standout at LSU who later played shortstop and second base for the Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers and Giants. Businessman Scott McKnight, who ran for the post last cycle, could always take another swing as well. There has also been some talk about attorney Gordon McKernan looking at the Senate seat, but it doesn’t appear serious. (For now.)

SD20/CHABERT/OPEN: Mike Fesi, who ran for the seat last cycle, is said to be thinking about another bid. From the House, keep an eye on Rep. Tanner Magee. Others said to be looking at the race (from a distance) include former Reps. Damon Baldone and Lenar Whitney.

SD25/MORRISH/OPEN: Rep. Mark Abraham has been encouraged to run, but there has been no official word yet from his camp. Homebuilder and Iraqi War veteran Jody Guidry is interested in the Senate seat too.

SD28/LAFLEUR/OPEN: Rep. Bernard LeBas could end up being a candidate.

SD34/THOMPSON/OPEN: Rep. Katrina Jackson is often mentioned as a likely candidate and some locals haven’t yet ruled out Rep. Bubba Chaney.

SD35/FANNIN/INCUMBENT: Should this seat become open, and there are no indications that it will, Rep. Jay Morris’ supporters like the possibility of him getting into the race. Plus Sen. Jim Fannin’s 2015 opponent, Stewart Cathey, is said to be eager for another bite at the electoral apple.

SD 36/GATTI/INCUMBENT: The recent defeat of Sen. Ryan Gatti’s brother, Robert Gatti, in a HD 8 special election could draw opponents to the freshman senator — even a possible challenge from Rep. Raymond Crews, who is quickly becoming a favorite of the business lobby. Sen. Gatti is expected to run for re-election.

SD38/MILKOVICH/INCUMBENT: Rep. Alan Seabaugh is giving serious consideration to challenging Sen. John Milkovich, who is expected to run for re-election.

Have a name or a race that was left off? Get it on LaPolitics’ WATCH LIST right now by emailing the info to JJA@LaPolitics.com.

VILLERE MUM ON CHAIR ELECTION

There are a handful of chairman candidates asking for the support of members of the Republican State Central Committee, but it’s unlikely that any of them will gain the backing of Roger Villere, the outgoing state chair.

“At this point, no, I’m not getting involved,” Villere said in an interview earlier today. “Everyone who is running is a good friend of mine.”

And running the hardest at this very moment are longtime party activist Charlie Buckels of Lafayette, New Orleans attorney Louis Gurvich and Baton Rouge consultant Scott Wilfong. But with the election scheduled for March of next year, more competition is probably on the way.

The two other names to watch the closest both come from the state House. Reps. Julie Emerson and Barry Ivey are said to be seriously considering the contest. Scott McKnight and Derek Babcock have likewise been mentioned as possible candidates.

SUPER PAC BUMP FOR KENNEDY

The Conservative Louisiana PAC went live with a statewide digital ad buy this morning that offers up a “thank you” to U.S. Sen. John Kennedy.

As reported by LaPolitics during Washington Mardi Gras, the super PAC was specifically created to support the senator. Whether that means his 2022 Senate re-election (when Kennedy reaches age 70) or the 2019 governor’s race (the senator hasn’t even hinted at it) is a fun question to ponder. And the new digital spot has only provoked more speculation.

To be certain, Kennedy has the right kind of super PAC team supporting him if he’s going to pursue the Governor’s Mansion. PAC director Kyle Ruckert and treasurer Charlie Spies directly influenced the related case law in Louisiana that allows for such independent activities. With the Fund For Louisiana’s Future they also created a nationally-recognized model in 2015 for transferring federal campaign dollars to a state campaign account. Which is exactly what Kennedy would need if he were a candidate for governor and not just a sitting U.S. senator. (If you want to learn more about the Conservative Louisiana PAC you’re in luck. The group now has a website, Facebook page and Twitter account.)

ABOUT ALEX’S FEDERAL JUDGESHIP 

More names are beginning to surface for the Alexandria-based federal judgeship.

The most surprising may be Jimmy Faircloth, who served as executive counsel for former Gov. Bobby Jindal. But he’s definitely not alone in the running.

Bradley Drell, who is the son of Judge Dee Drell, is in the mix as well. Judge Drell is moving to senior status in the fall, which will in turn create the vacancy everyone is waiting on in Alexandria.

Other possibilities, according to locals, include Greg Upton, a partner at Gold Weems, and Judge Greg Beard of the 9th Judicial District.

U.S. Sen. John Kennedy will be taking the lead on the nomination process in Washington.

VITTER’S FIGHTING SHOT

A number of sources tell LaPolitics that U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy is about five or so weeks away from moving forward with the name of Wendy Vitter in the Eastern District.

While she is best known for being the wife of a former U.S. senator, Vitter has a bio that stands on its own. She began her law career as a prosecutor for former New Orleans District Attorney Harry Connick Sr. Within three years of being hired she earned the job of chief of trials, an important supervisory position in the DA’s office. She also prosecuted Louisiana’s first DNA-based murder case.

The law was already in her blood to start with (her father was a well-known Louisiana attorney) but the decision to be a prosecutor in the infancy of her career was a particularly good fit. “The most important thing I thought I could ever do,” Vitter told LaPolitics in an earlier interview, “was to be a voice for victims who could not speak for themselves.”

Those watching the nomination process closely, and who are also supportive of Vitter, say they are “cautiously optimistic” about her chances.

REGIONAL READS FOR TREASURER

After losing an important endorsement in his corner of the state to a candidate from above I-10, Rep. John Schroder of Covington rebounded this week by securing the backing of the Greater New Orleans Republicans PAC.

It’s yet another chapter in the unfolding tale of which candidate for treasurer will capture the Big Easy and surrounding suburbs. Sen. Neil Riser of Columbia won the last round with an endorsement from the Orleans Parish GOP Executive Committee. The Jefferson PEC, meanwhile, decided to go with Schroder.

As such, the greater New Orleans region has become a battleground pitting Schroder against Riser. Schroder, for his part, will likely spend heavily in that media market. While it might sound like a low-yield situation for Schroder (putting all that cash behind commercials in a city filled with Democrats who are unlikely to vote for him) his campaign actually has to buy into the New Orleans media market to access his home base on the North Shore, where turnout is usually above average.

Riser’s team, meanwhile, is said to reaching out to the New Orleans politicos who are best known for putting money on the streets for get-out-the-vote activities. (Considering that New Orleans will probably have the highest turnout in the state, it’s an area none of the candidates want to ignore.)

LaPolitics subscribers are also reporting that Riser is making notable moves and gaining momentum in Lafayette and Lake Charles. As for the other smaller parishes in Acadiana, it’s still too early to tell. Much like Congressman Clay Higgins did in the lead-up to his surprise victory last year, Schroder appears to be hitting those outlying areas in Acadiana hard.

Closer to the Capitol, former commissioner of administration Angele Davis is hoping to galvanize her hometown of Baton Rouge and the nearby Florida Parishes. Coupled with outreach to moderate and Democratic voters, supporters believe it could be the foundation for a place in the runoff.

North Louisiana presents another interesting storyline. While the piney north is definitely Riser Country, local politicos say Schroder has been showing up and chasing endorsements and cash in Riser’s backyard. Regardless, it’s an area of the state where Riser could dump some serious cash, based on his own budget, especially in Monroe and Alexandria. (Television ad prices in the Shreveport market, which are usually on the high side, have a couple of the candidates questioning if they’ll even buy there.)

As for which region is the most important, that depends on the candidate. But the Baton Rouge, Lafayette and New Orleans media markets could collectively produce as much as 65 percent of the total votes in the primary election.

THROWBACK THURSDAY: DUKE & EDWARDS

With both David Duke and Edwin Edwards back in the news (the latter for his 90th birthday party and the former for being who he is), this seemed like a good time to pull a couple of their photos from the LaPolitics archives.

In the first image below you may have noticed that Duke was carrying a copy of The Times-Picayune. The headline reads “IT’S EDWARDS.” The edition was dated Nov. 17, 1991, which was the day after Edwards bested Duke for governor by 61.2 percent to 38.8 percent.

The following photograph of Edwards features the former governor in a Gris-Gris t-shirt. Gris-Gris was one of the publications that eventually led to the creation of LaPolitics Weekly by late founder John Maginnis.