Hines Is Out Of Secretary Of State Race; Fayard Appears To Be In

At this point there will be three candidates in the field for the most hotly contested of Louisiana’s statewide offices.

That’s because while incumbent Tom Schedler and House Speaker Jim Tucker, both Republicans, are publicly in the race news this week from two of the three other potential candidates has clarified the field.

State representative Walker Hines (R-New Orleans), who had raised nearly $200,000 in running what amounted to a fundraising campaign for the position, pulled out yesterday and said he won’t be seeking an office this fall at all. Hines had been a Democrat until late last year and announced a run for Secretary of State almost immediately after. But while he was able to pull from the New Orleans business community, Hines’ campaign suffered from the better-known and more veteran Schedler and Tucker getting into the race, and with both coming from the New Orleans area there isn’t a lot of oxygen for the 25-year old first-term state representative to breathe in the race.

But while Hines is out, Democrat Caroline Fayard is in.

Fayard’s efforts at the Secretary of State race have been questioned based on several unfavorable developments. As we reported on Monday

The other rumored player in the Secretary of State campaign is the Democrat, Caroline Fayard. She was supposed to get into the race and made statements to the effect that she was in; but after only raising $21,000 in the second quarter and subsequent statements that she “might” get into the race, it now looks like she might sit this one out. Fayard is ensnared in litigation with the state’s Board of Ethics over irregularities surrounding a money-laundering operation involving her father, the Louisiana Democrat Party and her failed 2010 campaign for Lieutenant Governor, with the potential for hefty fines to come from the BOE’s final dispensation of the cases, and the word on the street is she’s having doubts she can be viable with that hanging over her head. Fayard got a judge to seal the lawsuits she filed against the Ethics Board, which would presumably make for the possibility of a quiet settlement that doesn’t destroy her political viability.

Does that get done before qualifying closes in 30 days? Probably not. And if her situation with the Ethics Board isn’t resolved by Sept. 8, she’s out of the mix by any reasonable standard. With her goes any real chance of a Democrat making a runoff in a statewide race.

But on her website yesterday Fayard made the most unmistakable statement yet as to her intentions by posting a poll showing her as the frontrunner…

Despite a difficult political environment, there is real potential for a Democratic statewide victory in the 2011 race for Louisiana Secretary of State. Our survey of 700 likely voters in the October 2011 election shows a true toss-up between Democrat Caroline Fayard and Republican Jim Tucker. In a head-to-head match-up, Fayard leads Tucker (or similar candidate) 36 to 34 percent with 23 percent undecided. After allocating the undecided voters by party identification, Fayard maintains a 48 to 44 percent margin over Tucker. Unlike most recent statewide races in Louisiana—where Democrats faced nearly insurmountable circumstances – the 2011 Secretary of State’s race is quite winnable and will depend heavily on the candidates, their resources, and the quality of their campaigns.

The poll announcement doesn’t say who conducted it or more detailed information about the sample, and that lack of information has instructive value in itself.

First of all, Schedler wasn’t included in the poll. Why? He’s the incumbent and he’s been the announced candidate in the race longer than anyone else. He’s probably not as well known as Tucker or Fayard at this point but it also doesn’t follow that Schedler’s support is tucked into the 23 percent the poll says are undecided – if given a choice between Tucker and Fayard without Schedler there might be some centrist Democrats or even Republican voters who don’t like Tucker who’ll say they’re voting for Fayard but would opt for Schedler as a Republican alternative to the sometimes-controversial House Speaker.

And second, it’s something of a wild projection on Fayard’s part to assume that Democrat voters who refuse to count themselves as Fayard supporters when given an opportunity in the poll will go with her out of party identification. The state’s voter registration numbers have favored Democrats since Reconstruction and there is even today a smidgeon under 50 percent of the state’s total registered as Dems. And yet no Democrat has captured a majority of Louisiana voters since Mary Landrieu got 52 percent in her Senate re-election bid against John Kennedy in 2008.

What’s just as likely is that Fayard’s 36 percent would translate to a 40-42 percent ceiling once the Republican making the runoff is determined.

Still, that post on her site indicates a level of seriousness about running which was not in evidence based on her fundraising totals. She still has lots of trouble with the Ethics Board which most observers think will doom her candidacy.

But Fayard gives Louisiana Democrats their best – read: only – opportunity to date to get a statewide candidate into the November runoffs, and the state’s only opportunity to have a real conservative-vs-liberal debate on a statewide basis.

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