Today, Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser made what everyone knew was coming official – he’s running for Lieutenant Governor.
And in doing so, Nungesser signaled that he believes his race against incumbent Jay Dardenne is actually a race for the state’s top job.
Nungesser’s statement of announcement didn’t sound much like he was interested in the job description of the Lt. Gov. position…
“Louisianans need a Lt. Governor who has real world experience creating jobs and a track record of standing up and doing what is best for our state,” said Nungesser. “Louisiana needs a fighter who has been tested and delivered real results with the proven courage to stand up to large corporations, the federal government or whoever is standing in the way of doing what is right for our state and our people. Our state’s $9 billion tourism industry deserves a champion who will roll up his sleeves and work with the taxicab drivers, bartenders, restaurant owners and tourism professionals to find real world solutions to improve the industry and create jobs. We don’t need a career politician who thinks the solution to our problems is to use more of our hard earned tax dollars to line the pockets of Madison Avenue advertising executives. Louisiana needs help from leaders who won’t back down until Louisiana is the state it can and should be and that is why I am announcing my candidacy for Lt. Governor.”
Sure, there’s a throw-in about the shiny-pants folks on Madison Avenue and an insinuation that Dardenne is wasting money on advertising for the state, which will probably be a bone of contention between the two candidates as the race progresses. But most of the campaign release focuses on a fairly wide political agenda that sounds like something a Lieutenant Governor would need a promotion to implement…
- Ensuring that the BP money is used to restore those affected by the oil spill.
- Making sure the federal government expedites the permitting process and the EPA allows for a five year permit so the oil and gas industry – the backbone of Louisiana’s economy – is never shut down again and we can act responsibly to restore our coasts.
- Protecting taxpayers so we can streamline government and reduce its costs to allow for true reform within our tax system.
- Working to recruit new business and industry to Louisiana to create jobs and put people back to work.
- Revive the Louisiana tourism industry by effectively selling Louisiana and encouraging visitors to see and stay in destinations throughout the entire state.
The fifth point in that plan has to do with the job he’s running for. The first four? Not exactly.
Nungesser is no dummy. He’s well aware that the Lt. Governor job is built off culture and tourism and not an enormous amount else. So this opening volley is about trying to define the race in as general terms as possible – essentially giving Louisiana folks an excuse to reward him for being the street fighter on TV hammering BP and the federal government during the oil spill. Nungesser clearly figures that the iron is hot and it’s a smart move for him to strike this year.
But as the Lt. Governor he’s not a great fit for the job. The second-in-command gig is set up to be more of an ambassador of the state, and the ass-kicking, truth-telling portly guy from down in Plaquemines isn’t exactly what you’d conjure up at Central Casting to fill it.
Unless, of course, you believe the stories that Gov. Bobby Jindal isn’t long for his current gig.
Rumors have been flying since 2008 that Jindal’s national ambitions will find purchase sooner rather than later. He’s not on anybody’s list as a vice presidential candidate just now – the buzz in national Republican circles at present is about how terrific Michele Bachmann would be for that job, for example – but as a potential cabinet secretary should the GOP nominee unseat President Obama Jindal looks like a decent bet. There are also stories indicating Jindal will make a run at Mary Landrieu’s Senate seat when it comes open in 2014, though that’s more speculative since Jindal might have a good bit of competition from a few up-and-coming members of the state’s Congressional delegation (Bill Cassidy, Steve Scalise and John Fleming being particularly hot names in connection with that race).
And if Jindal were to hop on any of those opportunities – there is even a theory being floated that he could make a surprise late bid for the White House after winning re-election in November, which seems thoroughly implausible – whoever wins the Lt. Governor race this fall gets to move into that mansion on I-110.
Nungesser, who has a lot closer relationship with the Jindal camp than does Dardenne, would be a more natural successor.
But while today was Billy’s day, the Dardenne camp did manage to throw some water on his announcement with a new web ad – in which Nungesser endorses Dardenne.
That was a robocall the Plaquemines Parish President made for Dardenne to run in Belle Chasse and nearby areas when the latter was head-to-head with Democrat Caroline Fayard in last year’s special election to replace Mitch Landrieu. It’s not exactly damning, considering that both Dardenne and Nungesser would likely endorse each other in, say, a runoff with a Democrat were one to get into the race, but it does make for a bit of an embarrassment on Billy’s big day.
And it’s a signal that this will be an entertaining campaign to follow – particularly given Nungesser’s announcement, which indicates that for him the Lt. Governor job is about a lot more than just pushing tourists into taxicabs at the airport.