Louisiana’s political left hopes to steal some influence through upcoming elections for collective state executive organs.
First up comes a runoff election Dec. 5 for Public Service Commission District 1, with Republican incumbent Eric Skrmetta challenged by trial lawyer Democrat Allen Borne. The GOP holds a 3-2 advantage.
Skrmetta on the PSC has participated in an era that has seen Louisiana electricity rates paid (except in Orleans Parish, where the City Council regulates power provision) fall steeply relative to other states. He ran a lackadaisical campaign six years ago against an environmental leftist who qualified as a Republican, and only narrowly won reelection. This time, he ran more energetically and was rewarded by cruising into the runoff over some spirited competition.
Borne only recently got bitten by the election bug, having previously served as an Orleans party official and on the old dysfunctional Orleans Levee Board whose negligence during his time there helped swamp the city in 2005. He tilted unsuccessfully at Democrat state Sen. Karen Peterson’s reelection last year before leveraging that try – perhaps needing the salary with his profession being reined in by tort reform this summer – and his sole Democrat label in the contest into gathering a quarter of the vote, six percent behind Skrmetta.
With Republicans receiving 63 percent of the vote in the general election (although some supported by liberal interest), Borne stands little chance of winning and the GOP should retain its PSC majority. Liberals have a better shot at flipping the District 4 Board of Elementary and Secondary Education seat that Republican Tony Davis soon will vacate.
Davis tendered his resignation for Jan. 20, saying his day job made effective service difficult and might require a move out of states. He’s part of a 6-2 majority of elected members, but, more importantly than partisanship, he has been reliably part of a 7-4 education reform majority.
All BESE Republicans plus Democrat Kira Orange Jones were elected upon and pretty consistently have delivered a policy agenda that emphasizes parental choice and educational accountability. Only the other Democrat Preston Castille and the three appointed members by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards routinely have opposed that agenda.
With reform measures implemented two decades ago but accelerating in the past decade, Louisiana has seen some of the highest relative educational progress among the states but still ranks relatively low in absolute terms. At the same time, reform measures have threatened longtime vested interests that look for relief from leftist policy-makers that can blur party lines.
When Davis initially ran in 2015, he faced off against two opponents (one the appointed incumbent) who called themselves Republicans but exhibited hostility towards reform principles. Behind in the runoff, he narrowly defeated the incumbent. Last year, he was the only incumbent who didn’t face any opposition.
Still, the 2015 results may embolden anti-reformers to find candidates who term themselves Republicans to contest the race, which likely will occur Apr. 24. Reformers catch a break in that this will occur when Bossier City has its runoff elections, which may well have its at-large City Council contest still up for grabs and will attract voters in perhaps (competing with St. Tammany) the state’s most conservative parish.
Even if a conservative reformer didn’t get elected, reformers still would maintain a 6-5 majority. At the same time, bigger majorities always are preferred, because you never know what will happen.