State Democratic Party officials are talking a good game about the gubernatorial election coming up in less than three months, but Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal appears to be a shoo-in at this point.
Jindal won in the primary in 2007, picking up 54 percent of the vote and carrying 60 of 64 parishes.
A miracle candidate could surface between now and the Oct. 22 primary, but the odds are extremely long. And even if the impossible happens, how do you defeat a governor who has been campaigning for re-election since he first took office in 2008 and who already has $8.8 million to spend?
Tara Hollis, a teacher and a Democrat from Haynesville, is the only other announced candidate for governor. She has $953 in the bank.
State Sen. Rob Marionneaux’s name keeps coming up, but he admits it would take between $5 million and $7 million for a Democrat to wage an effective challenge to Jindal.
Marionneaux, D-Livonia, said he won’t enter the race if polls show Jindal is virtually unbeatable.
John Georges, a New Orleans businessman who ran for governor four years ago, put up $10 million of his own money but wouldn’t say which office he might be seeking. That loan has since been canceled, and there is a zero balance in his campaign account.
Candidates whose campaign accounts are based on too much of their own money seldom do well. When citizens contribute to a candidate, their vote at the polls almost always follows.
Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne had that advantage over Democrat Caroline Fayard when he won a special election to replace New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Much of Fayard’s campaign account came from the state Democratic Party and personal funds.
Dardenne already has one announced opponent in his re-election bid. He is Billy Nungesser, president of Plaquemines Parish who made national headlines during the BP oil spill.
Nungesser has twice as much money as Dardenne at this point, but half of his $1 million is his own money. Dardenne has $524,000, and all of it came from donors.
In addition to Jindal, three of the other six statewide elected officials seem destined for re-election. State Treasurer John Kennedy has $1.9 million to spend in his effort to win a fourth term. Jim Donelon, state insurance commissioner, has over $619,000 in his campaign account. Mike Strain, state agriculture commissioner, has over $431,000, and he is popular with the constituents he serves.
Tom Schedler, secretary of state, could have a half-dozen challengers. He moved up to his current job after Dardenne stepped down to become lieutenant governor.
Those who have either announced or been mentioned as secretary of state candidates are Fayard, state Rep. Walker Hines, R-New Orleans, Scott Angelle, secretary of the state Department of Natural Resources, and Speaker of the House Jim Tucker, RTerrytown.
State Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, recently turned Republican, could be challenged by state Senate President Joel Chaisson, D-Destrehan, and former U.S. Rep. Anh Joseph Cao, R-New Orleans.
Chaisson and Tucker are termlimited in the Legislature.
The political guessing games will end when candidates qualify Sept. 6-8.
Legislators will also be elected Oct. 22, and it appears a number in Southwest Louisiana may not have serious opposition.
Former state Rep. Ronnie Johns, R-Sulphur, is seeking the state Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Willie Mount, D-Lake Charles, who is term-limited. Mount has announced plans to run for Calcasieu Parish tax assessor.
Johns has no announced opposition at this point. The same is true of state Sen. Dan “Blade” Morrish, R-Jennings. Morrish isn’t term-limited until 2020.
Sen. John Smith, R-Leesville, represents Beauregard, Vernon and 26 voting precincts in Calcasieu Parish. He has two announced candidates so far — former state Sen. James David Cain, R-Dry Creek, and Terry Fowler, a Democrat from Gillis in Calcasieu Parish.
Some state representatives from Southwest Louisiana have no announced opposition so far, but that could change by the time qualifying ends Sept. 8. They are Reps. Mike Danahay, D-Sulphur; A.B. Franklin, D-Lake Charles; Brett Geymann, R-Moss Bluff; Johnny Guinn, R-Jennings; Bob Hensgens, R-Abbeville; and Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles.
Speaker’s job open
If Kleckley is re-elected as expected, he will be a serious candidate for speaker of the House. No one from Calcasieu Parish has ever held that job.
Cameron Parish has had two speakers. George W. Carter had the job for one year in 1871. Samuel P. Henry held the post twice (1888-92 and 1896-1900). John Fournet of Jeff Davis Parish was speaker from 1928-32. He later became lieutenant governor and chief justice of the state Supreme Court.
Others seeking the speaker’s job next year are Reps. Jeff Arnold, D-Algiers; Hunter Greene, R-Baton Rouge; Erich Ponti, R-Baton Rouge; and Joel Robideaux, I-Lafayette, who is now serving as speaker pro-tem, the No. 2 job in the House.
The fall election campaigns should be in high gear about six weeks from now. Parishwide officials will also be running again, along with police jurors.
Statewide voter turnout was 46 percent in 2007, which means less than half of the registered voters picked our public officials. I can remember when the turnout for a governor’s election would reach 75 percent. In Calcasieu, the turnout in 2007 was a miserable 38.8 percent, worst in this corner of the state.
Can’t we do better in 2011?
Jim Beam, the retired editor of the Lake Charles American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or [email protected].