Mike Johnson Grabs LABI’s NORTHPAC Endorsement

This might be a bit less significant than it would appear, since at the moment Johnson doesn’t have a challenger in the Feb. 21 special election for the House District 8 seat vacated by Rep. Jeff Thompson’s election as judge, but it does point to something interesting.

A press release…

NORTHPAC, a political action committee of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), has announced its endorsement of candidate Mike Johnson in the upcoming House District 8 special election to replace Rep. Jeff Thompson (R-Benton) who was recently elected unopposed to the 26th Judicial District Court.

“With more than 15 years experience of serving the Louisiana Legislature as an attorney, consultant and author of many landmark pieces of legislation, Mike Johnson’s legislative experience and conservative principles will represent House District 8 admirably,” NORTHPAC Chair Terry Baugh said. “District 8 residents are fortunate to have him step up to fill this seat.”

As a LSU Law School alumnus and nationally known constitutional attorney, Johnson has dedicated his career to defending fundamental freedoms and traditional values cherished by the people of Northwest Louisiana.

He is a partner at Kitchens Law Firm in Bossier City and serves as the president of Freedom Guard, a nonprofit that provides strategic counsel, litigation and education services free of charge.

“Mike understands the plight of the small business owner because he has owned a small business himself, just like his parents and grandparents. We believe he will be a strong voice for the business community and become a leader in the Louisiana House of Representatives,” Brian Landry, executive director of NORTHPAC said.

“I am grateful to have the endorsement of NORTHPAC and the support of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry,” said Johnson.  “I am committed to doing all we can to support the business community in our state, because that is how we ultimately ensure greater opportunity for all people. Louisiana can do better in its efforts to encourage the growth and vitality of the private sector, and I look forward to helping lead that charge.”

A special election for House District 8 is set for Feb. 21, with a runoff if needed on March 28. Qualifying begins Jan. 7.

Johnson, a constitutional lawyer and once-in-a-while contributor to The Hayride, has always been seen as two things – first, as a potential superstar in the Louisiana legislature owing to his legal acumen, and second, as more or less a shoo-in for the District 8 seat.

But there had been some buzz nonetheless that Johnson’s opposition to Common Core would put him at odds with many in the business community and the folks at LABI, which has embraced Common Core as a vehicle to drag Louisiana’s public schools up from the bottom of the national rankings and perhaps help create a more functional workforce capable of filling the jobs the $100 billion in expected industrial capital investment into Louisiana over the next few years will create.

That LABI is endorsing Johnson anyway indicates one of three things. They either think he’s too good to pass up regardless of the Common Core stuff, they recognize he’s very likely to win regardless of the NORTHPAC endorsement or there is some movement within the pro-Common Core crowd along the lines of finding some way of getting better standards passed without sustaining the political liability Common Core has increasingly become among the voters.

The third possibility is the interesting one. We’ve heard a great deal of concern that if Common Core is the end-all, be-all issue in next year’s statewide election cycle and the voters are fired up to throw out pro-Common Core politicians in the legislature, the result might well be that some quality conservatives in the House and Senate (of which there are not many, despite the presence of a Republican majority) could go down to defeat at the hands of some political opportunists who might well have genuinely stupid ideas on more substantive issues. Without naming names, we’ve already seen that the Louisiana legislature is fertile ground for such people.

And so Common Core is becoming something of a hill to die on, or not die on, for the state’s business community. There has been discussion, we’ve heard, along the lines of whether it’s better to skin the educational-improvement cat a different way and not be hit with the political backlash inherent in voter perception (accurate or not) that Common Core is merely another tool for federal control in the classroom.

You’ve already seen Gov. Jindal abandon Common Core on that basis, and last week he declared it a “bait and switch.” And Sen. David Vitter, the favorite in the polls to take over for Jindal in the governor’s mansion in next year’s elections, has done a similar about-face on the issue for similar reasons. When the two most prominent politicians in the state – both of whom are generally in lock-step with LABI from a philosophical standpoint – have gone from pro-Common Core advocates to vociferous opponents, it isn’t hard to see which way the wind is blowing.

And therefore, Common Core opposition, like that Johnson has espoused, is no longer objectionable to LABI. Particularly given that Johnson has expressed a willingness to act as a peacemaker and honest broker on the issue.

Don’t be surprised if there isn’t an effort made either in advance of next spring’s legislative session or while it’s happening to get Common Core off the table. Don’t be surprised if something isn’t agreed upon to come up with a set of standards which insulates Louisiana from federal control and doesn’t mandate a curriculum parents object to.

But it remains a very dangerous issue, because the internecine Republican warfare on Common Core hits upon a national theme which has become very powerful – the grassroots conservative activists vs. the big-money Chamber of Commerce go-along crowd. Nothing has the potential to bring down Louisiana’s governing Republican majority than the inability of the two groups to work together on state and local issues.

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