The Baton Rouge Business Report has something we heard a rumor about last week, namely that state sen. Rick Ward, a Democrat from Port Allen, is now a Republican from Port Allen…
Like his colleagues, Ward says he decided to make the switch because he has increasingly felt like “the Democratic Party has left me behind … and my views are more aligned with a more conservative party, which is the Republican Party.” Though Ward’s district is majority Democrat, he says he believes most of his constituents are philosophically conservative and would support his move. “With everything that has happened in the past few weeks, like the IRS [investigating conservative groups] and the basic disregard for the principles of democracy, I think a majority of my district would agree with me.”
LABI would probably differ with Ward’s characterization of his views being aligned with a more conservative party. It scored him as a 33 percent for the 2013 legislative session, which ranked him 29th out of 39 state senators. Ward’s cumulative LABI score is 62, as he scored a 70 in 2012. That 62 percent ranks him 25th among the 39 Senators.
Which means from LABI’s perspective Ward would be joining the Dale Erdeys, Bob Kostelkas, John Smiths and Johnathan Perrys of the world as among the more egregious RINO’s in the Senate. Kostelka is done after the 2015 elections due to term limits.
The Louisiana Family Forum has a lot better opinion of Ward than does LABI. LFF’s 2013 scorecard isn’t out yet, but in 2012 Ward was one of 12 members of the Senate who scored 100. One of the other two was Elbert Guillory, who switched to Republican in May.
Naturally the state GOP gave good reviews to Ward’s switch…
“We are excited to have Senator Ward join the Republican Party,” said LAGOP Executive Director Jason Doré. “Louisiana’s Democratic Party is losing members at an alarming rate, one that suggests they are completely out of touch with the values of Louisiana residents. Senator Ward has a conservative voting record in the state senate that is on par with many of his colleagues who are lifelong Republicans. He has stood up for life, education reform, fiscal responsibility and the Second Amendment. He’ll fit in well with the members of the LAGOP.”
The thing you need to understand about Ward’s party switch is that this is about the race for Bill Cassidy’s U.S. House seat next year. With Cassidy vacating that seat to run against Mary Landrieu for the Senate, there is a massive vacuum out there.
We’ve covered the first significant entry in that race; namely, Paul Dietzel. Dietzel is the grandson of the 1958 national championship-winning LSU football coach and later LSU athletic director of the same name, and despite being of the tender age of 27 he’s posted some nice accomplishments in business and technology.
Dietzel’s achilles heel so far is his age and the fact he’s never been a political candidate before. He’s out shaking the trees for campaign funds at the moment and the results aren’t bad – in the second quarter of 2013 Dietzel managed to raise $57,000, $50,000 of which he’s put in a war chest.
But Ward, who already has some connections in place to prepare for the congressional run – namely, veteran Baton Rouge consultant Roy Fletcher and Oklahoma-based pollster Chris Wilson, both of whom were expected to be on board for another state senator Dan Claitor in the latter’s prospective campaign which apparently isn’t going to happen now – can’t beat Dietzel up for being too young. Ward is all of 31 years old. And while he got elected to the state senate two years ago at 29, that race was a relatively easy 70-30 romp over a little-known opponent. In other words, Ward isn’t a much more battle-tested politician than Dietzel is.
Dietzel is likely, while this race remains between himself and Ward, to position himself as the conservative with the Port Allen state senator as the closet lib. But either way, there will be two young, attractive and upcoming Republican pols in the early field for Cassidy’s seat.
In the meantime, look for Ward to spend the next year burnishing his new conservative credentials in preparation for the race while Fletcher ramps up the messaging in an effort to make Dietzel unelectable and consolidate a two-man race, at least for the Republican votes in the primary until a Democrat emerges.