We would have done this over the weekend, as in late Saturday night, but your author was deep into a novel-writing binge (my third book, Retribution, will be out early next year and I’m hustling to finish the first draft before Christmas) and out-of-pocket where Hayride stuff was concerned. As there weren’t too many surprises in the runoff elections Saturday, I figured we could wait until this morning for the after-action report.
In short, virtually everything that happened on Saturday could have been seen coming a mile away. But here are the key takeaways…
1. Louisiana’s Legislative Leadership Looks Like Losers
Why do we say that? Consider the fate of the lone constitutional amendment on the ballot, the one which would have given Gov. John Bel Edwards the leisure to appoint people domiciled outside the state of Louisiana to its higher education governing boards. Essentially this was an attempt by Edwards to broaden the universe of his political donors, and particularly to his Senate campaign, by allowing him to offer a couple of spots on the LSU Board of Supervisors to rich Texans like Jim Flores.
We ripped this stupid idea to shreds, and so did the LAGOP. It failed by a 76-24 margin; we don’t remember a constitutional amendment ever doing so poorly on a Louisiana ballot. Maybe there was one which did worse than 24 percent, but if so it surely escaped our notice.
Which begs the question: how did this dog with fleas ever make it through the Louisiana legislature? It was a bill brought by Democrat Sen. Cleo Fields, whose legislative reputation is hardly pristine, on Edwards’ behalf in the middle of the October special session the primary impetus of which was to reopen Louisiana from Edwards’ shutdowns. And yet the bill didn’t pick up a single “no” vote in either the Senate or the House.
We asked some of the legislators who normally make good votes why they didn’t rise up and kill this stinker before the voters had to, and what we were told was that the leadership in both houses strongly backed it as a “good government” move. Nobody bothered to vet the bill much; it just sailed through. Largely because it was a constitutional amendment, and passage of it wouldn’t actually make policy.
Legislative sessions are flurries of activity. That’s why it’s so important that legislative leadership actually does its job to step in and kill stupid bills that might otherwise sneak through in between the bills everyone is paying attention to.
In this case it looks like House Speaker Clay Schexnayder and Senate President Page Cortez were both not just asleep at the switch but actively engaged in pushing a stupid Democrat idea onto the voting public.
Great job, fellas. The wholesale rejection of this amendment makes the October special session officially a legislative null set. Three more years of this and people will wonder what the purpose of electing so many Republicans really was.
2. Baton Rouge Sinks Beneath The Waves
One of the things we talk about somewhat often here at The Hayride is the concept of Weaponized Governmental Failure. What we mean by that is the paradoxical fact that urban Democrat governance has evolved to the point where the more incompetent and destructive the leftists running a city become, the more assured they are of consolidating control.
Why is that? Because the people who will hold the governing class accountable aren’t the rich. The rich will always make a separate peace with incompetent or tyrannical rulers, and the things people want from governments – schools, roads, cops, etc. – the rich will buy for themselves. All you need to do for the rich is to let them know that for a small consideration here and there (otherwise known as a bribe), they can get special treatment to resolve whatever problems might arise in their businesses or neighborhoods.
And the poor certainly don’t hold the governing class accountable. For one thing, the poor are generally completely ignorant about what government can and can’t do. For another, the poor have zero standards for quality of life; most of the time, they don’t expect to have nice things (in a country like the United States of America, if your expectation and desire is to have nice things, you’ll generally find a way to get them), so the poor will generally take whatever the politicians will give them without complaint. And for a third thing, the poor are dependent on government, and that means they won’t bite the hand that feeds them.
No, in order to hold the ruling class accountable you need a middle class larger than the rich and the poor put together. And specifically, that middle class has to be overwhelmingly a private-sector middle class, or at least vote as a private-sector middle class.
For a long time, Baton Rouge had that, certainly in a way New Orleans did not. Black and white, Baton Rouge was a middle-class town full of small businesspeople, plant workers, blue collar folks and so on. Baton Rouge did have a lot of state employees, and with LSU and Southern in town Baton Rouge had a large contingent of university faculty and staff as well, but that didn’t overwhelm the huge middle class which dominated the city.
That’s no longer the case. For two decades the middle class has been decamping to Livingston and Ascension and other suburban parishes, and it’s now no longer possible for a candidate representing the middle class to win the mayor-president’s race in East Baton Rouge Parish.
Steve Carter was not the perfect candidate. He’s too old, he didn’t inspire a great deal of passion among his supporters and he jumped into the race just before qualifying rather than spend a year building a coalition, raising money and making a case for his vision of Baton Rouge. One could argue that but for the fact he had no money Matt Watson might have done better in Saturday’s runoff than Carter.
But here’s the reality. Steve Carter was more marketable than Bodi White was four years ago as a Republican candidate for mayor-president in Baton Rouge, and Steve Carter lost a 57-43 landslide to Sharon Weston Broome after the voters have had four years to see just how inarguably awful Broome is. That’s five points worse than White did, and Carter, whose brand is that he’s a moderate Republican much more sellable to the white Democrats and RINO Republicans in some of the tonier neighborhoods in Baton Rouge proper, should have been more competitive than White rather than less.
The obvious takeaway is that the outmigration from Baton Rouge over the last four years is draining away middle class voters to such an extent that Baton Rouge is no longer a competitive place. Baton Rouge is now lost. Weaponized Governmental Failure has set in, and every mayor-president in the city’s future will be a left-wing Democrat.
They’ll rule over a ruin, as Baton Rouge will look like Jackson soon, but they’ll rule. And that’s all they care about.
It was nice knowing you, Baton Rouge. Bye.
3. Letlow And Skrmetta Roll, As Expected
There was never any doubt that Eric Skrmetta was going to pummel Democrat challenger Allen Borne, given that Skrmetta’s Public Service Commission district tracks pretty closely with Steve Scalise’s congressional district; it’s heavily Republican and pretty conservative at that. Once Borne managed to crawl over the three Republican challengers to Skrmetta in the primary, Skrmetta got the runoff he wanted, and he blasted Borne by a 62-38 margin.
That’s good, because the PSC needs Skrmetta’s leadership. One of the few long-standing governmental successes Louisiana can boast about is its nationwide-low utility rates, something Skrmetta is directly responsible for because he does the work other GOP politicians don’t bother to do and he (1) holds utilities accountable to their ratepayers while (2) rejecting the stupid political giveaways to grifters like the solar panel companies so many other pols in positions like Skrmetta’s would accept. One of those solar panel retailers, a crooked company called PosiGen, spent well over a million dollars trying to beat Skrmetta and failed miserably.
So that was a good result. Another 62-38 victory, which was Luke Letlow’s trouncing of Lance Harris in the 5th District congressional runoff, is likewise a positive outcome.
It was always likely that Letlow was going to be the 5th District’s congressman. He had a very good campaign team and ran a near-perfect race, something which can be credited to his campaign manager – former LAGOP executive director Andrew Bautsch. But Letlow, who has been a longtime staffer for Republican officeholders including Bobby Jindal and Ralph Abraham, had been known around the state as a competent warrior for conservatism, and he had earned the trust of a lot of people well before he ran.
If there was a surprise, it was how smooth a transition he made from strategist-behind-the-scenes to candidate in front of the camera. Letlow pulled that off quite well, and his campaign had the look of a winner right from the beginning. Louisiana’s congressional delegation benefits greatly, as right now it might be the best it’s been in memory – and each of the Republicans in the delegation are quite young with a great deal of political life to them.
4. New Orleans Voters Don’t Know What They’re Doing, But They Aren’t Happy
Before Saturday’s runoff, New Orleans mayor LaToya Cantrell screamed that if voters in the Crescent City didn’t pass three tax renewals on the ballot she would have to lay off city workers. And the voters overwhelmingly, in rejecting those tax increases, said “Good.”
Especially when it came out that New Orleans has 540 city employees making six-figure incomes.
So now she says she’s “back to the drawing board.”
The results indicated that Cantrell’s re-election prospects are beginning to look dim. Voters have had it with her, and her endorsement appears to be poison. It certainly was for former judge Keva Landrum, her endorsed choice for District Attorney. Landrum was crushed 58-42 by City Councilman Jason Williams, who is currently under indictment for tax evasion.
That Williams would have won despite the indictment isn’t all that surprising. After all, Cantrell owes a ton of federal taxes as well and nobody seemed to care when she won. The notable piece here is that Cantrell’s choice had no chance, which is unusual. Most of the time New Orleans mayors have swung a big stick in city politics and have had a political machine to back it. LaToya appears to have the opposite.