News, Notes And Video From Around The Louisiana Election Scene

Since it’s Friday, and since we have a lot of election-related items which by themselves might not rate their own post but shouldn’t go unmentioned, we figured we’d just throw out a post-Halloween grab bag of those for your perusal and edification.

First, it seems like our take on Wednesday’s gubernatorial debate, which was that while Eddie Rispone didn’t particularly win on substance but rather on tone thanks to John Bel Edwards’ unhinged and nasty performance, is largely accepted wisdom at this point. At least, Dan Fagan thought so, too. Great minds think alike, and so on.

One item about Wednesday’s debate we didn’t touch on before, but a number of folks we talked to did pick up on it, was a mistake Edwards made in asking Rispone a question. He brought up some statistics on a gender wage gap in Louisiana and how the state is one of the worst in the country with women supposedly making just 69 percent of what men make, and demanded to know what Rispone would do about that.

It’s the kind of question one of the media questioners would have been expected to ask of Rispone, rather than Edwards. Because to the extent the wage gap is a real thing – it isn’t, really, as it’s explained largely by the fact most of the higher-paying jobs in Louisiana’s economy happen to be in industries women don’t even want to work in, like petrochemical, construction and oil and gas – then it would seem to speak to Edwards’ failure as governor rather than anything Rispone ought to be held accountable for.

Here was what one poster on the TigerDroppings political board (yes, yes, but we thought this was well said) had to say about the exchange…

I about fell out my chair.

Edwards cites stats that La. is last in equal pay for women, and asks Rispone what he plans to do about it.

How often do you hear an incumbent enumerate a problem during his term of [office] and challenge his opponent to fix it?

And then when challenged about high insurance rates and La. being second to highest, Edwards defended the status quo and said he opposed the law to fix the problem because the legislation was being pushed by the insurance industry.

I’ll buy that, but we are still second to highest, and our governor has no solution. All he’s done is use his power and influence to keep the status quo.

Rispone’s response was that he didn’t see a wage gap in his company or his industry, and more or less left it at that.

There was a good bit of internal debate over President Trump’s trip to Louisiana next Wednesday before the location was settled as Monroe. One camp wanted to bring the president to Shreveport so that he could trail in Robert Mills as someone he’d be able to help in his runoff with Ryan Gatti, but that got outvoted in favor of the opportunity to tie Ralph Abraham and Rispone together in front of the heart of Abraham’s support base.

And there is reason to believe Mills is going to be OK without having Trump stump for him. He was at 48 percent in the primary, we understand he’d beefed up his ground game and his messaging is getting even sharper – for example, there’s this…

Gatti increasingly sounds a paranoid and manic note. For example, there was the vituperative op-ed he wrote in the Bossier Press yesterday doubling down on his claim that Mills was a ringer dropped into the district by out-of-town business interests, something which clearly isn’t a big deal to the voters even if it were true; Mills has deep roots in the district, and most Bossier people you talk to don’t take quite so provincial an attitude about their representation in the state legislature. If they did you wouldn’t see things like Alan Seabaugh being invited to speak at various groups on the other side of the Red River from the district he represents in the House.

It just has the feel of a race that has already been decided, though those out-of-town business groups are only doubling down in their support for Mills to make sure Gatti goes away.

One reason for the intensity of the support for Mills is the continuing backlash against trial lawyers in all these elections around the state. From the reaction to plaintiff attorneys covering practically every billboard and local commercial spot in the state to the sky-high car insurance rates to the oil and gas industry fleeing amid coastal lawsuits, it seems to be resonating with the public.

And there is a lot of money and messaging flowing against trial lawyers as a result. For example, here’s a PAC ad on the subject we thought was fairly well done, from an outfit called the Sunshine Coalition…

This trend is playing into the Supreme Court race in suburban New Orleans, where Will Crain and Hans Liljeberg are in a runoff. Liljeberg has the backing of the trial bar and particularly coastal lawsuit instigator John Carmouche and his pals, which has made him the target of business groups backing Crain, and then there’s this bombshell from the Republican State Leadership Committee just clobbering Liljeberg.

Back to the governor’s race, there is a criticism of Rispone that the Edwards crowd, which includes the state’s legacy media, continues to level – namely that Rispone hasn’t provided a detailed plan to crank Louisiana’s economy up to match that of the state’s neighbors. That’s a bit rich coming from Edwards, who continues to sing happy songs about how great the state is doing as though the status quo indicates some sort of accomplishment, but it might be a matter of concern as a factor preventing Rispone from consolidating support.

Perhaps some of the answer to that can come from the state’s legislators. For example, here was Rep. Philip Devillier a couple of days ago in a Facebook video talking about the issue of jobs, the econmy and outmigration…

Another legislator, Dodie Horton, addressed a false story being put out by Edwards’ camp about how Rispone was going to steal pension money from cops and firemen, which is the kind of scaremongering that happens when you talk about calling a constitutional convention.

And here’s Rep. Tony Bacala talking about those same rumors…

Additionally, a number of legislators from the Northshore area have jumped on Edwards for what’s being characterized as vindictiveness where it comes to capital outlay spending in St. Tammany Parish…

Today, current and former members of the St. Tammany Parish Legislative Delegation, including Sen. Beth Mizell, Sen. Sharon Hewitt, Sen. Jack Donahue, Rep. Kevin Pearson, Rep. Mary Dubuisson, Rep. Mark Wright, Rep. Paul Hollis, Rep.-Elect Larry Frieman, and Rep.-Elect Robert Owen, joined by former Rep. (now Treasurer) John Schroder and former Rep. Tim Burns, issued a joint statement in which they accuse Gov. John Bel Edwards of making politically motivated cuts to highway and safety projects in St. Tammany, on top of an $11 million cut of funding for the St. Tammany arts district and his veto of $9 million for a Slidell flood protection levee. The legislators claim these cuts were made because of their opposition to the governor’s excessive tax increases.

According to official records of the Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), highway funding in St. Tammany Parish declined significantly during Edwards term of office. This is troubling since St. Tammany has long been considered a donor parish in terms of motor fuel and state funds. Further, DOTD has been slow to react to dangerous highway hazards in St. Tammany. After the tragic May 2018 accident at I-12 and Highway 21, DOTD initially claimed it would not fund the much-needed I-12 widening. DOTD finally agreed to fund the project after the Parish obtained $25 million in funds.

In 2016, Gov. Edwards also rescinded funds for the following St. Tammany projects:

 Capital improvements to the Washington/St. Tammany Regional Medical Center
 The University Square Learning Center
 The Madisonville Bulkhead
 Abita Springs Water and Sewer Lines
 Mandeville Police Classroom Addition
 Mandeville Water Tower Construction

The Delegation believes Edwards has put politics over public safety and has acted in a vindictive way against St. Tammany.

“As a newer member of the House, it has been extremely disappointing to see St. Tammany receive far less funding under Gov. Edwards, especially given the economic contribution we make to the state,” Wright said. “As we near another pivotal election, we all think it’s important our constituents know the consequences and the issues at stake for our community.”

The legislature is beginning to turn into a repository for good messaging from the Republican side. We’ll find out whether that can move votes in Rispone’s direction even if the campaign isn’t fully able to dispel some of the negatives Edwards is trying to spin at him.

Speaking of messaging help for Rispone, there was this earlier today…

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