The Secretary Of State’s Race Might Be Getting More Interesting Soon

While this fall’s statewide election cycle looks like it will be one of the more significant in recent history, that looks true more because of the potential implications of a Republican wave in the state legislature than in any of the statewide races. Democrats don’t seem to have credible candidates on offer for the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Treasurer or even Insurance or Agricultural Commissioner positions, and in some of those races the real drama appears to be coming courtesy of intraparty Republican races.

Caroline Fayard’s entry into the Secretary of State race, however, is the exception. That race appears to be the one standout in which the field is actually going to be crowded enough to produce a runoff. With incumbent Tom Schedler and state rep. Walker Hines already in the field and Speaker of the House Jim Tucker still a rumored participant, things might be getting even more interesting.

That’s because Department of Natural Resources Secretary (and former interim Lt. Governor) Scott Angelle looks like he’s finally about to get into the race.

John Maginnis, writing at the Baton Rouge Business Report Friday, noted Angelle’s prospective entry…

According to three sources who have talked to him this week, Natural Resources Secretary Scott Angelle is leaning strongly toward running for secretary of state this fall. The former St. Martin Parish president weighed that race against making a challenge to Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, who holds a more attractive office, but it would be a harder race to win. It grew harder on Saturday, when the Louisiana Sheriffs Association endorsed Dardenne. Winning secretary of state won’t be easy; but Angelle, a recently switched Republican, likes his geographic odds against four potential candidates from the New Orleans area: current Secretary of State Tom Schedler, Speaker of the House Jim Tucker (who says he is leaning toward running), Rep. Walker Hines, and the lone Democrat, Caroline Fayard.

Angelle has been considered the rising star in Louisiana politics since last summer, when he appeared at the Rally For Economic Survival in Lafayette and gave a spellbinding speech to protest the Obama administration’s offshore drilling moratorium. The speech was significant coming from a Democrat, which he was at the time, and also due to the fact Angelle had been Louisiana’s chief regulator of the oil industry – meaning that he was coming from a position of expertise that nobody in the president’s administration possessed – prior to his appointment as then-Lieutenant Governor.

Obviously, a guy who can make a speech like that is a big wheel in a statewide race, and as Maginnis notes Angelle has been the subject of speculation ever since. Many observers had written him off when he was silent through the first round of campaign announcements earlier this summer, though.

But getting into the race late like it appears he’s doing is sensible, for a couple of reasons.

First, Angelle isn’t a rich guy. He makes a pretty good living on his DNR salary, but he’s got five kids in private school – and that’s an ongoing expense which doesn’t lend itself too well to taking off six months from work to campaign for office. An August-September-October-November campaign is a significant hardship in and of itself.

But while his personal bank account might be a little thin, Angelle the politician isn’t broke. A February filing by Angelle with the state Board of Ethics indicated he was sitting on some $362,000 at that time, which is a pretty decent war chest to jump-start a campaign with. That sum wouldn’t likely be a larger figure than Tucker would have were he to get in (though at the same filing period Tucker showed $191,000 in his war chest), but it would be competitive. It would likely be competitive with Schedler and Hines as well.

Fayard would likely have more money than any of the Republicans, at least in the primary. It’s likely that would change once one of the GOP contenders emerged in the runoff with her, though. And an Angelle-Fayard runoff, if it happened, would likely be a matchup between the oil industry and the trial lawyers – which could be a fascinating race.

But the primary would be fascinating as well, because while Fayard would be the Democrats’ standard bearer, Angelle’s entry could make the Republican side of the ledger a test of strength among the state’s various GOP factions. Many believe Angelle to be Gov. Bobby Jindal’s man in the race should he get in, given that Jindal already appointed Angelle as Lt. Governor when Mitch Landrieu left that job last year to run for mayor of New Orleans. By that standard Schedler would be current Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne’s man, seeing as though he ascended to his current job when Dardenne vacated it to run in the special election against Fayard last year.

Hines doesn’t particularly represent a faction of the Republican Party, though he does have some support in the New Orleans business community. But Tucker, who is a friend of Sen. David Vitter, might well be the candidate of Vitter’s faction of the state GOP if he gets in – Vitter and the Speaker are known to have a friendly relationship.

There’s been a degree of discussion both here and elsewhere about the competition between Jindal and Vitter for supremacy as the state’s top political influence. If Angelle gets into the Secretary of State’s race, we might have the best test yet of that influence even though Jindal’s Victory Fund and Vitter’s Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority have indicated they would likely stay out of intraparty contests like this primary would be.

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