Having reviewed the implications of financial reporting for Louisiana statewide candidates’ chances for the governor’s and attorney general’s contests, it’s time to review the last of the hotly contested races to date, lieutenant governor. (It’s unlikely strong challengers will emerge to battle incumbents for the jobs of Secretary of State, Commissioner of Insurance, and Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry, and add to this list of competitive races Treasurer if incumbent John Kennedy chooses not to run for governor.)
State Sen. Elbert Guillory, a Republican, clearly rests on the back foot, reporting a less than zero balance. While adept at social media campaigning and able to rely upon the historical ability of black candidates to operate with a high voter per dollar rate, two factors will crimp his chances going forward, both having to do with his opponents.
One is that Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden not only is black as well, and therefore Guillory has no advantage over him with that considerable segment of the statewide vote, but also and unlike Guillory is a Democrat. That alone makes Guillory’s job tough because he could be competitive with those voters with resources to back his message, but he obviously doesn’t have the money at this point. Holden doesn’t have much either, cribbing off his local office account to have around only $30,000, but black Democrat candidates have the highest voter per dollar potential and he won’t need to raise a large amount to make a runoff – if he were the only black in the race. As long as Guillory continues in it, he’ll need to do somewhat better to get there.
Better, but not on the order of the two white Republicans, former candidate and past Plaquemines Parish Pres. Billy Nungesser and Jefferson Parish Pres. John Young, with the former topping the $2 million mark and the latter not that far from it. Either could claim to have the more impressive performance: Nungesser has around $400,000 more but Young’s total raised about equals the amount Nungesser financed himself, even as Young’s came over many years in public office and the two raised roughly the same amount from others in 2014.
They comprise the second reason Guillory faces a problematic quest, both having more than enough resources to squeeze out the presently penuriously-campaigning state senator among Republican and conservative voters. All together, expecting that Holden will pick up the fundraising pace as chronic Democrat donors open up their wallets, these figures reinforce the conventional wisdom that Holden should hang onto enough black voters with non-black liberals to make the runoff against one of the big-spending Republicans as the pair carves up most of the conservative and Republican vote, with Guillory low on gas floundering to get enough of these voters to add to some black support to make it instead.
Perhaps recognizing that he needs an edge, Nungesser has revived his strategy from his 2011 attempt, which has worked well for Republicans in Louisiana for national and statewide offices, trying to make the contest one about ideology and ideas. Case in point, in a recent speech he talked of doing away with the state income tax, even as the office he seeks has nothing to do with those kinds of matters – or much of anything ideological, as it is the most issueless of all statewide elected offices in those terms, with the official portfolio consisting of overseeing tourism matters.
That strategy didn’t work well enough in 2011, not only because ideology has little to do with the office, but also because he faced another major Republican competitor, the incumbent Jay Dardennewho will abandon the office in an attempt for governor this year. When a clear contrast can be made, almost by definition meaning the main opposition from which one seeks to differentiate has to be a Democrat, the strategy has proven effective.
And the value of such an approach diminished further precisely because the major issue of the office is managerial competence, leaving partisanship in the minds of most as adequate to capture the ideological component that for them only matters when partisanships are not the same between a pair of candidates. So it means nothing when your major competitor for the slice of the electorate that can get you to a runoff against a candidate from another party is of your party.
However, Nungesser is trying to create an extension to salvage the ideology matters approach by arguing as lieutenant governor he could form a policy-making team with the governor – and the leading candidate for the top job at this point, Sen. David Vitter, did give his support to Nungesser last time, but whether that came because his opponent then was Dardenne who Vitter correctly figured would run for governor now building on reelection momentum or whether Vitter endorsed out of genuine fraternity with Nungesser is another matter. But no governor would share policy-making power with anybody voluntarily, so this ploy for support by Nungesser rings hollow.
Perhaps the best way to differentiate comes in pledging superior management of the culture, recreation, and tourism portfolio, such as in money-saving efforts through privatization. While Nungesser’s approach failed to defeat an incumbent also of the GOP, this time the member of the same party that is his major competitor is not an incumbent, so whether this makes a difference remains to be seen. Regardless, the battle to see who gains traction over who, Nungesser vs. Young with the winner between them likely the next lieutenant governor, should turn out as the most fascinating part of the campaign, and the finance numbers to date confirm that.