Louisiana Republicans Need To Win Two Of These Three Races This Fall

A few developments over the past couple of days have made for some interesting discussions in electoral circles around the state and particularly in the Baton Rouge area. We’re in a position to have some potentially hot races when at one point that wasn’t likely.

The most curious of those developments involved the Public Service Commission seat based in Baton Rouge and Lafayette…

Louisiana Public Service Commissioner for District 2 Craig Greene announced Wednesday that he will not be seeking reelection.

In a June 19 statement, Greene said, “When you know, you know. For almost a decade, I’ve worked hard to keep a watchful eye on our utility providers, holding them accountable to keep prices affordable for the many families in our community struggling to get by.”

Greene was elected as the LPSC representative to the Organization of MISO States after he served as Chairman of the Public Service Commission in 2021 and served on the Louisiana Legislative Advisory Task Force on Economic Recovery during the pandemic, according to his webpage.

Greene’s term will come to an end in January 2025.

A whole lot of discussion had been ongoing behind the scenes in GOP circles about Greene, as he had all but switched sides on the Public Service Commission and thrown in with the two Democrats, Foster Campbell and Davante Lewis. Nobody had stepped forward to challenge him, and his exit from the race anyway was a surprise.

Former state representative Scott McKnight, who ran last year for state treasurer and came in third behind John Fleming and Dustin Granger, has now jumped into the PSC race…

McKnight was positioned as the “moderate” Republican in the treasurer’s race last year, but that isn’t really his record. He was one of the more conservative members of the House in the previous term, and as a business guy there is good reason to believe he won’t indulge in the leftist fantasy Green New Deal stuff Greene dabbled in toward the end of his term.

But there was another bit of talk about that PSC race.

Which was that Garret Graves was looking at that seat as well.

The Sixth District congressional seat Graves currently represents, a district which is going away thanks to redistricting and will become a majority-black district this fall, is pretty similar geographically to Greene’s PSC seat.

And Graves won re-election in that district in 2022 with 80 percent of the vote.

Which would indicate he’d likely win easily if he ran for the PSC seat as the rumors suggest he might.

Running for the Public Service Commission would make some sense for Graves. He’s got a reputation as a policy nerd, and you have to be a policy nerd of the first magnitude to want to deal with the in-the-weeds regulatory issues you work on as a PSC member.

So maybe it’s plausible that he’d get in. It would be a hard-luck item for McKnight if Graves were to run, though.

But the PSC race is only one of three seats up for grabs, and if the GOP is going to be the dominant political party in the state – it is, but it has to assert that dominance – candidates are needed in that new Sixth District and, as we noted earlier this week, the Baton Rouge mayor’s race.

As of right now those two aren’t going Republican. This can’t hold.

We think Graves for mayor of Baton Rouge is all but a sure victory, and it would be a home run for the city. It wouldn’t be terrible for Graves, either; he actually might reverse the city’s decline as mayor and in so doing make himself the Rudy Giuliani of Baton Rouge.

Sharon Weston Broome is going to lose re-election to someone this fall; that’s obvious. As of the last campaign finance report, she has less than $300,000 in the bank, which is an incredibly low number for a two-term incumbent.

But right now, Broome is set to lose to Ted James, who is the laziest politician in Louisiana and even further left than Broome is. James would accelerate Baton Rouge’s decline. Somebody has to at least disrupt this frightening scenario. Graves would blow it away.

But what if Graves ran for PSC instead? What then?

Scott McKnight is then the likely draft choice.

Meanwhile, somebody needs to run in the new 6th District, even though that’s a heavy lift. Mike Johnson, as House Speaker, can’t have one of his Louisiana seats go by the boards without at least putting up a fight for it.

But can it be won?

We’ve vacillated on that subject, and most lately we said it was unwinnable. And it probably is if the dynamic is that you’re trying to run a Republican straight-up against Cleo Fields in a district tailor-made for him.

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But if there was another Democrat in the race, like perhaps somebody from Shreveport or better yet a black female, that dynamic could shift to produce a runoff in December.

And if that were to happen you’d go from a high-turnout primary to a very low-turnout runoff in which anything could happen.

But you’ve got to have someone more prominent than Fields to get in. Who’s that going to be?

There was some talk that freshman state senator Caleb Kleinpeter, whose district is mostly the west side of the Baton Rouge metro area, could get in. That doesn’t look like it’ll happen as of now.

Greene could do it, and Greene might actually have the ability to compete for some black votes if he did. But Greene makes seven figures as an orthopedic surgeon and he wouldn’t be able to do that anymore if he was in Congress (not that members of Congress are particularly stymied in their efforts to make money; just look how well Nancy Pelosi has done!).

We had a fun thought, which was that maybe Alan Seabaugh, whose state senate district starts in Shreveport and billows out into central Louisiana as it runs in a generally southeastern direction and who is a long-standing friend and confidant of Johnson’s, could get in.

Could Seabaugh beat Fields? It would be an uphill battle. But Seabaugh outworked Mike McConathy and almost a million dollars in trial lawyer money to win a 54-46 victory in a 10-parish spread-out district last year. Find a black Democrat to dilute Fields’ support and perhaps create some havoc on the other side, and things could get interesting.

And meanwhile, it’s more or less a free shot for Seabaugh. He doesn’t come up for re-election until 2027. This race could also be a bit of a preview for him in terms of running a federal race; he’s rumored to be thinking about running for Bill Cassidy’s Senate seat in 2026. He’d get a bit of a head start on that if he ran for Congress, he’d have the ability to do some campaigning in Baton Rouge and build a base there, and he’d pick up both name recognition and some fundraising contacts as well.

The question is whether he’d want to go through a massive campaign effort two years in a row, with this one likely resulting in a moral victory rather than a real one.

He’d have to be addicted to running for office to do that.

But somebody has to run for the 6th District. That can’t just be conceded. Neither can the Baton Rouge mayor’s race. We need candidates to step forward, and soon.

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