Tuesday, Jeremy Alford had an interesting story at LAPolitics.com about the governor’s race and the prospect of a second Democrat candidate in it.
The three – Kip Holden, Don Cravins and Rick Gallot.
While it’s unknown who is behind the recruitment effort, at least three well-known Democrats have been approached about running for governor. None of them appear to be jumping in.
“Any candidate who would engage in that sort of tactic right now would be a signal of the kind of leadership they would provide as governor, and it would be an extension of what we’re getting from the current administration,” [Gallot] said. “It’s a divide and conquer technique.”
The implication being that somebody out there is trying to recruit a black candidate as a ringer.
Without question, it would be a lifeline for Scott Angelle and/or Jay Dardenne to get a second Democrat in the race and preferably a second Democrat who is of sub-Saharan African descent. As we mentioned yesterday the electorate in Louisiana is essentially split three ways for the purposes of the governor’s race – David Vitter has a third, the Democrats have a third and in the final third can be found Jay Dardenne, Scott Angelle and the undecideds. Both of the two polls out on the race in the last two weeks more or less confirm that dynamic, regardless of what the critics of the polling methodology might say. And so if John Bel Edwards is the only Democrat in the race he’s going to make the runoff in all likelihood, and unless something significant happens to change the landscape Edwards will find Vitter waiting for him in the final round.
So if a Dardenne or Angelle – or their supporters working on the sly – can find a black Democrat willing to run, then it won’t take a showing in the mid-30’s to get to the runoff. It could be that if a second Democrat like a Gallot or Cravins or – who knows? Russell Honore? Marc Morial? Cedric Glover? Cleo Fields? – were to split off a big chunk of the black vote from Edwards, then a runoff spot could be had against Vitter with as little as, say, 25 percent of the vote. And Dardenne or Angelle might be able to beat Vitter by getting Democrats on board as part of his coalition.
Bear in mind that it doesn’t necessarily have to be a mean Republican out to split the Democrat vote. It could very easily be the idea of Democrats to do so.
First, a straight analysis of the race as is indicates that not only is it likely a Vitter-Edwards runoff but Edwards is likely going to get pounded in a head-to-head race by the state’s senior senator. The lion’s share of the “third third” of the electorate who currently favor Dardenne or Angelle will pull the lever for Vitter rather than Edwards, even though that might not be clear from current polling. Edwards’ campaign message is pretty standard Democrat fare, and while the GOP might be in decreasing esteem by the state’s electorate thanks to Bobby Jindal’s fall from grace of late there is little indication Democrat policies can carry a majority of the state’s voters against a Republican who can’t be tied to Jindal.
So if you’re a Democrat who doesn’t believe your party’s candidate can win, maybe what you’d rather do is find a Republican you can make a separate peace with and back him instead. Angelle, after all, was a Democrat not so long ago and served in Kathleen Blanco’s administration. And Dardenne has a reputation not only as a “reasonable” and moderate Republican but as a legitimately decent man with whom business can be done. Either could benefit from adding some Democrats to his electoral coalition and might perhaps agree to spread some patronage around.
In other words, half a loaf.
And there is another angle at play here, which is this – there is a very poorly-recognized racial divide between white Democrats and black Democrats in Louisiana. The two groups coexist when necessary, but the changing demographic nature of the Democrat electorate is altering the relationship between the two.
Because black Democrats now outnumber white Democrats both in terms of the votes they can bring to the table and the elected officials representing them.
It used to be that white Democrats could secure the cooperation of black Democrats by essentially saying “Look, you need to let us run candidates at the top of the ticket because we’re the ones who can get crossover votes from independents and centrist voters, and when we win we’ll make it worth your while by redistributing wealth and throwing patronage your way. You guys can’t get anybody elected outside of majority-black areas, so you need to leave the big-time to us.”
That’s how you got people like John Breaux and Charlie Melancon in office. And Kathleen Blanco. And Mary Landrieu. All of whom went out of their way to sound like Republican Lite in their campaign messaging despite a record of governance that was closer to Bernie Sanders if not Leon Trotsky.
But one by one, as the state’s voters began turning more conservative and whites commenced leaving the Democrat Party in droves, the Breauxs and Melancons and Blancos and Landrys started melting away. Some of them switched parties when they realized there was no future in being a blue-dog Democrat, others decided to vacate the scene and cash in as lobbyists or whatever, and others just got crushed on Election Day.
That old guard attempted to maintain control of the Democrat Party by getting Buddy Leach to write check after check to prop it up, and Leach got to be party chairman for a while as a result. But that arrangement didn’t last long, and it was no major surprise when Karen Carter Peterson led the coup to oust Leach and took the chair for herself.
And when Mary Landrieu was tossed out of office last fall, the old narrative about the necessity of white candidates with crossover appeal went with her. Now, Peterson and the other black Democrat politicos in the discussion will say that Louisiana isn’t likely to elect a Democrat of any stripe in a statewide election any time soon, so supplying white Democrats with foot soldiers is a sucker’s game. Instead, they’ll say that if elections can’t be won to supply political patronage the next best thing is who gets to control the campaign funds coming in from the unions and the trial lawyers and the national Democrat PACs and so forth, and why should white Democrats get to dole out that money when they’re a minority of the party and aren’t any more electable than black Democrats are?
It shouldn’t be a surprise if the people approaching a Gallot or Cravins or Honore or whoever aren’t the Dardennes and Angelles but in fact other black Democrats looking to make a bargain. Don’t be surprised if at some point you hear about a leverage operation afoot.
Because the future of the Louisiana Democrat Party is black candidates for major races. Make no mistake about it. You’re already seeing it with two of the other statewide races this fall, where Holden is the Dems’ candidate for Lieutenant Governor and Chris Tyson is their candidate for Secretary of State. Peterson said that the focus of the party will be on local politics in the immediate term, and what’s meant by that is consolidating machine politics in places where the electoral majority is black – Orleans Parish, Caddo Parish, the city of Monroe and increasingly East Baton Rouge Parish, for example. The effect of that is to build a bench of candidates for wider office who look a whole lot more like Kip Holden than John Bel Edwards.
So don’t assume that should a black Democrat end up in the race to split votes away from Edwards, it’s automatically Angelle’s doing, or Dardenne’s. There are other things going on behind the scenes.