Tea Party Of Louisiana Has A Messaging Problem – Or Maybe A Personnel Problem

Last night we ran with a post on a release sent out by the Tea Party of Louisiana calling for Louisiana House Speaker Jim Tucker’s resignation over the cigarette tax renewal situation.

As it turns out, the version of the release we got wasn’t the official one. The official release got caught in a spam filter. Chris Comeaux, who’s a somewhat controversial member of TPOL’s board and who is also attempting to make a career for himself as a political consultant, was the sender of the one we received.

Comeaux’s version, which went out about 45 minutes earlier than the official, said this…

Both chambers of the Louisiana Legislature have passed House Bill 591, which renews a 4-cent cigarette tax first enacted in 2000. At the time, the tax was said only to be temporary. Governor Jindal has said that HB 591 represents an actual tax increase and that he will veto it

Conversely, House Speaker Jim Tucker(R) was quoted in the Baton Rouge Advocate on May 20th: “I intend to vote for it [the tax] because I don’t want to reduce taxes on cigarettes”. According to several sources, the Speaker has been working behind the scenes to rally seventy house members to override the Governor’s veto.

The Tea Party of Louisiana demands that Jim Tucker resign as Speaker of the house.

“It is unbelievable that a republican Speaker of the House would be working hard to renew a tax,” said Bob Reid, spokesman for the Tea Party of Louisiana. “We have worked very hard over the last year to give republicans majorities in both chambers. To think that they would use these majorities to raise taxes is just unspeakable,” added Reid.

“The entire Louisiana legislature seems to be devoid of conservative leadership, in both chambers,” said Reid. “We cannot wait for fall elections to find new leadership in the House. We need new leadership right now and that’s why we are demanding Jim Tucker step down as Speaker,” added Reid.

Tucker has also been criticized for giving control of the budgeting process back to the democrats, despite republicans gaining control of both chambers earlier this year.

“The people of Louisiana want conservative leadership in the state legislature. We are tired of tax-and-spend liberals who don’t understand the limited role of government set forth in the Constitution,” said Reid.

Jim Tucker will be term limited at the end of this session. He is rumored to be running for Secretary of State and in need of support from democrats to win statewide office.

But though he represented himself as the press agent for TPOL, Comeaux has no such responsibility with that organization. As of right now TPOL’s only spokesman is Bob Reid. And the official press release Reid sent out 45 minutes after Comeaux’s version read a bit differently…

Both chambers of the Louisiana Legislature have passed House Bill 591, which renews a 4-cent cigarette tax first enacted in 2000. At the time, the tax was said only to be temporary. Governor Jindal has said that HB 591 represents an actual tax increase and that he will veto it.

Conversely, House Speaker Jim Tucker was quoted in the Baton Rouge Advocate on May 20th: “I intend to vote for it [the tax] because I don’t want to reduce taxes on cigarettes…” According to several sources, the Speaker has been working behind the scenes to rally seventy house members to override the Governor’s veto. Reid stated, “This is what we do not need from any Republican let alone the leadership.” Reid asked, “Do we have the same type of Republican Leadership problem in Louisiana as we have in Congress?”

“It is unbelievable that a Republican Speaker of the House would be working hard to renew a tax,” said Bob Reid, spokesman for the Tea Party of Louisiana. “We have worked very hard over the last year to give republicans majorities in both chambers. To think that they would use these majorities to raise taxes is just unspeakable,” added Reid.

“The entire Louisiana legislature seems to be devoid of conservative leadership, in both chambers,” said Reid. “We look at this as a test case for any Legislator who supports this including Speaker Tucker,” added Reid.

Tucker has also been criticized for giving control of the budgeting process back to the democrats, despite republicans gaining control of both chambers earlier this year. Reid emphasized, “We demand that Speaker Tucker seriously rethink his position and actions.”

“The people of Louisiana want conservative leadership in the state legislature. We are tired of tax-and-spend liberals and their RINO co-conspirators who don’t understand the limited role of government set forth in the Constitution,” said Reid.

Jim Tucker will be term limited at the end of this session. One must ask, why he would be so compromising?

Subtle differences, but they matter. The official release doesn’t repeat twice, including in a quote from Reid, a demand that Tucker step down. It also doesn’t suggest that Tucker is going to want Democrat support when he runs for Secretary of State this fall, which is an idiotic idea considering that Caroline Fayard is running for that spot and she is what passes for a bright light among Democrat politicians these days.

Reid’s release did contain a headline which read “TEA PARTY OF LOUISIANA CALLS FOR SPEAKER TUCKER’S RESIGNATION,” which he said was left in so as to get attention. I thought that was a sizable mistake when I first saw it and I still do; it definitely doesn’t fit Reid’s release which talks about the need for Tucker to change his mind on seeking an override of the veto.

I would have suggested something like “TEA PARTY OF LOUISIANA TO TUCKER: DON’T BETRAY CONSERVATIVE PRINCIPLES ON CIGARETTE TAX.” You’re still capturing attention, you’re putting the word out, and the media likely will pick it up, that there are key members of Tucker’s core constituency who question his adherence to fiscal conservatism and you’re offering a threat that if he does the wrong thing you’ll be working to oppose his Secretary of State bid this fall. But you’re also giving Tucker an out to avoid your wrath; he just has to do what you’re telling him you want him to do. When you say you want him to resign, he has no such out. You already declared war on him.

And from a Tea Party movement perspective, you don’t want Tucker out. First, it’s pointless for him to go now; in less than two weeks we’re at sine die and he’s term-limited anyway. He’s already going. You gain nothing by getting him out now.

And second, getting rid of Tucker now is really counterproductive. If he vanished into thin air tomorrow, the likely candidates to replace him would be Joel Robideaux, the registered independent who’s the Speaker Pro Tem, and Noble Ellington, the reformed Democrat who lost to Robideaux in the Pro Tem election a year or so ago. Neither one of those guys are exactly Michelle Bachmann or Rand Paul. But if Tucker went, and one of them managed to become the speaker, guess what happens next year after the elections? They show back up as the incumbent speaker and it’s going to be damn near impossible to get rid of them.

In the meantime, folks doing head counts are looking at a turnover of some 28-30 seats in the 105-member House. The vast – and I mean VAST – majority of those new people are going to be considerably more conservative than the people they’ll replace. Most people think we’re about to see white Democrats all but vanish from the House, and there are folks who will tell you there will be a good half-dozen current Republicans who will lose their seats to Tea Party types in the House – with another 3-4 going down in the Senate. Add in the term-limited, where open seats will almost certainly go to the most articulate conservatives running, and you’re looking at a House which no longer has a relatively conservative majority with 54 Republicans in it but now it’s a hard-core conservative House with 65 Republicans. Or 70.

Wouldn’t you want to pick a brand-new Speaker out of that group? I would imagine so. I’m thinking you want as clean a slate as possible where leadership positions are concerned, because you’re going to get a group of folks who will look a good bit like Texas’ legislature if things like incumbency and seniority aren’t in the way.

But while that’s a strategic and tactical issue which can be debated, what seems very apparent is that TPOL has a guy hanging around their organization who’s putting out unauthorized press releases making them look like fools. That ain’t good. It’s an indication, false though it may be, that they don’t have their act together and thus don’t have to be listened to. And considering the size of the sentiment in this state favorable to organizations like TPOL, they have a responsibility to represent that sentiment in a fashion which maximizes the influence of the movement at large.

Keeping Chris Comeaux around when he’s going off half-cocked and creating havoc is bad stuff. Comeaux is mucking up the works over there and damage is being done. If you can’t exercise some discipline in your organization’s message, nobody will take you seriously.

The guess is Tucker won’t. He’s going to press for that veto override and he’ll likely get it. And then TPOL is going to look like they’re not able to influence legislation. Given the state of the legacy media in Louisiana, that’s something more likely to get coverage than the original release – official or fraud – was.

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