At a speech at the Baton Rouge Press Club today, Louisiana Speaker of the House Jim Tucker, a Republican from Terrytown, announced that he’s entering the wide-open race for Secretary of State this fall.
“We have about $300,000 in the bank and the ability to raise a lot more money,” Tucker told the Baton Rouge Advocate this morning.
Tucker has had an up-and-down runup to today’s announcement, coming from a rough legislative session in which he clashed often with Gov. Bobby Jindal, a fellow Republican, on budgetary and tax issues and most notably on the question of a proposed University Medical Center complex in New Orleans. Tucker, Sen. David Vitter and State Treasurer John Kennedy presented a plan for a significantly cheaper facility than the one pushed by Jindal and the LSU system, and though that issue isn’t completely germane to the Secretary of State’s race it might well be part of the conversation.
But no sooner did the word leak out that Tucker was officially getting into the race but the incumbent Tom Schedler laid into the Speaker, referencing the controversial 2008 legislative pay raise that Tucker helped to champion through the House before Jindal ultimately killed it with the threat of a veto.
“Elections are about choices,” said Schedler. “The voters will be faced with what I believe is an easy choice. Since taking office, I have saved taxpayers money, made it easier for small businesses to get up and running and proposed legislation that reduces the number of special elections to save time and money.
“On the other hand, it seems that this latest move by Representative Tucker will be his plan for getting the pay raise he always wanted. As the architect of the legislative pay raise fiasco, Speaker Tucker tried to double his salary.
“Thankfully, the people of Louisiana and Gov. Jindal saw it differently. I’m running for the right reason: to do the job of Secretary of State. I’m not looking for a title or a pay raise.”
Tucker’s camp will likely counter that he was never going to personally take the pay raise. It’s a bad issue for him nonetheless. And Schedler is probably going to beat him to death with it.
The question is what issue Tucker is going to use. That probably depends on the rest of the field; as of right now Walker Hines, the ex-Democrat state representative from New Orleans who switched parties over the holidays in advance of announcing a run, is the only other contender. And currently, the rumor mill says that Secretary of Natural Resources Scott Angelle – who has been thinking about getting into the race and has been considered something of an 800-pound gorilla in the room – is not getting in after all. Why? Get this – Angelle is reportedly in line to take over for Timmy Teepell as Jindal’s chief of staff for the second term, which could be interesting.
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.
So if it’s a Tucker-Schedler-Hines race, the most important issue in this election probably favors Schedler. Specifically, the fact that the Justice Department, the NAACP and ACORN are all suing the state of Louisiana for lack of vigor in registering welfare recipients to vote – this despite the fact that Louisiana ranks fourth in the nation in voter registration among its adult residents (two of the three states above the Sportsman’s Paradise allow voter registration on Election Day). Schedler has become more and more outspoken about the case in recent days, which indicates that he might be consolidating his hold on the issue as the guy who’s standing up to Eric Holder and the Hard Left as they attack him for running honest elections in the state.
There really isn’t any way for Tucker or Hines to maneuver on that issue, seeing as both of them are Republicans. If you take Eric Holder’s position and criticize Schedler, it’s unlikely to mobilize the black vote on your side anyway since you’re not a Democrat, and then you get the benefit of having 60 percent of the electorate look at you as the Obama candidate. You could say you’d fight DOJ and the NAACP harder than Schedler, but it would take some doing not to sound like a dope in doing so.
Tucker is going to need a compelling issue to combat the double pay raise/DOJ suit whammy Schedler has aimed at him. If this is in fact going to be a three-way race with no Democrats in it, he’ll need to get creative.
UPDATE: And then this dropped on the internet today…
UPDATE #2: Tucker didn’t show his hand with respect to what he’s going to run on at the speech today…
Tucker ended weeks of speculation on his political future by telling the Press Club of Baton Rouge that he will be a candidate and wants to work to ensure the integrity of the state election process and restore some of the budget cuts that have forced incumbent Secretary of State Tom Schedler to cut hours of operation and some personnel at the state’s regional museums.
Tucker, who pushed for a pay raise for lawmakers in 2008, said the issue is now a “red herring. … At the end of the day we made a mistake to make it effective” in the same term with legislators who enacted it. Tucker said the Legislature proposed, and the public passed, a constitutional amendment that bars any pay raise lawmakers approve for themselves from taking effect until after the next election.
That’s pretty thin. Either he thinks that he’s got enough money coming this way that he can bury Schedler with it, in which case the smart thing to do is to assume the mantle of frontrunner and say as little as possible, or he’s not ready to lay out his campaign. But running for Secretary of State on a platform of spending more money isn’t really a winner. We’ll have to see which way this goes.