It Doesn’t Look Like Louisiana Democrats Want To Run For Anything Anymore

Qualifying for this fall’s statewide elections is next week, and there are often surprises to be found when candidates line up to run.

But this year the lines don’t look very long, and they’re particularly devoid of Democrats. At the top of the ticket that’s especially true, since state senator Rob Marionneaux hasn’t done much to push the gubernatorial run he’s been bandying about for the last month since releasing the results of a rather comic push-poll on the race last week.

John Maginnis’ column this week indicates that the party which gave Louisiana Huey Long, Jimmy Davis and Edwin Edwards will apparently settle on, as its standard bearer, Haynesville schoolteacher Tara Hollis.

If Marionneaux doesn’t run, the Democratic Party could do worse than to embrace Ms. Hollis and to put her forward as the decent, public-spirited, principled opponent to the course Jindal and the Republicans have set for the state. For half of the money they would have to raise to be serious about Marionneaux, with Hollis they could make a statement of conscience of what the party stands for and against. That would not change the outcome, and elections are not about making statements. Yet, with little expense and no expectations, Democrats would have in the schoolteacher as good an anyone-but-Bobby candidate as they can get this year, for it is not their year.

Not their year, indeed.

Not only is Hollis, with her gripey Facebook page and her empty campaign account, the only Democrat candidate for governor – she might just be the only Democrat candidate of any note in any of the statewide races.

Consider that there has been absolutely zero word of a Democrat running against Mike Strain for Agriculture Commissioner or Jim Donelon for Insurance Commissioner. There has similarly been zero word of a Democrat running against Treasurer John Kennedy, who has a reported $2 million in the bank. And in the Lieutenant Governor’s race there has been no word of a Democrat entering into the picture as a third option against Billy Nungesser or incumbent Jay Dardenne.

The two races in which it was rumored Democrats would make serious runs were Secretary of State and Attorney General. But recent developments indicate those runs won’t be forthcoming.

Jeremy Alford, writing at the Baton Rouge Business Report, notes that Caroline Fayard’s much-discussed candidacy for the Secretary of State race is looking less likely as time goes by.

New Orleans attorney Carolyn Fayard is on the ropes, too. She has reportedly been eyeing the race for secretary of state and deposited a $21,000 personal loan into her campaign account during the first quarter. Interim Secretary of State Tom Schedler has put up $150,000 of his own money to seek the job full-time, and House Speaker Jim Tucker says he plans eventually to raise in excess of $1 million for his bid for the same office. Party sources say both Fayard and Marionneaux are faltering a bit as a GOP sweep during the fall elections becomes more likely.

We’re told from various sources that Fayard’s camp has begun to recognize her stock as a candidate has been burned by the ethics case against her failed Lt. Governor campaign last year, in which she was caught laundering money from her father to her campaign through the state Democrat Party in contravention of elections law. While Fayard did manage to get the proceeding sealed by a court order so that the press generated by that official investigation wouldn’t destroy any chance at a political future, it’s clear that were she to get into a statewide race this year the attacks from both Jim Tucker and Tom Schedler on her would be staggering. Fayard touted a poll which had her leading Tucker 36-34 on her website a couple of weeks ago, but it’s virtually assured that any vote Schedler would get in a primary would go to Tucker in a runoff – so Fayard’s 36 percent is probably more of a ceiling than a floor. That’s why there has been little or no buzz about a Fayard run of late.

Less attention has been given to the Attorney General’s race, though for months the word has been that the highest-profile Democrat at the state capitol, term-limited Senate President Joel Chaisson, would enter the race. But yesterday that proved not to be in the works, as Chaisson is settling for a fait accompli special election race as District Attorney in St. Charles Parish

Veteran St. Charles Parish District Attorney Harry Morel Jr. has submitted his resignation papers effective next May 31, and the leading candidate to succeed him is state Senate President Joel Chaisson of Destrehan. The two men are political allies.

Chaisson, a Democrat who is term limited in the Louisiana Senate, had been considering a run for statewide office this October — possibly lieutenant governor or secretary of state. Morel’s resignation changes all that — and it could have profound impact on other statewide races as well.

Chaisson, 50, has long let it be known that he wanted to succeed Morel if the incumbent DA ever stepped down, and today’s announcement probably cements Chaisson’s immediate political plans.

Morel has been the DA in St. Charles Parish (the 29th Judicial District) for more than three decades. His initial election came after a bruising campaign, but since then he has had no opposition through five election cycles. Morel said in a press release that he is resigning in order to help his daughter Michele run for district judge.

“I intend to actively campaign for my daughter in her judicial race, and I do not want my continuing service as district attorney, should she be elected judge, to become an issue in her campaign,” Morel’s statement said.

Chaisson’s last campaign finance report indicated he had $139,000 on hand. That’s not a lot of money for a statewide race, though it’s a fortune to run for a DA job in St. Charles Parish. Probably enough to head off any opposition, one might think.

It’s clear based on the direction of things that right now, Louisiana Democrats just aren’t interested in competing in this fall’s elections outside of the safe races. That ought to be remembered as they carp from the sidelines over the next four years.



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