Freedom to Pray Act brings Landrieu closer to the right

Special to the Herald-Guide
August 09, 2013 at 10:59 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

By Jeremy Alford and John Maginnis

Sen. Mary Landrieu’s politics aren’t usually aligned with the Christian Right, but her Freedom to Pray Act does bring her one step closer. It was filed in reaction to a Young Marines Program in north Louisiana that was stripped of Department of Justice money because of voluntary prayer and the mention of God in the program, a pet project of Bossier Parish Sheriff Julian Whittington.

She got a boost recently when influential Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill prohibiting the feds from withholding or revoking funds from such programs.

But things have gotten political pretty quickly. Republican Reps. Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge and John Fleming of Shreveport have released a joint statement saying the bill is “redundant and doesn’t advance the issue.” Sen. David Vitter is supportive of their remarks as well.

For Cassidy, Landrieu’s re-election opponent next year, it’s also a chance for him to cozy up to the faithful wing of the Louisiana electorate as well.

“We don’t need redundant laws or more government or political posturing, we need to abide by the laws already enshrined by our Founding Fathers,” said Cassidy.Power broker or candidate?Former Congressman Jeff Landry is emerging as the Cajun power broker, if not a candidate, in the Baton Rouge-based 6th District race. He lost his bid for the 3rd Congressional District against Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette.

Could Landry, a Republican, stand for election in his third different district in as many cycles? He said friends in D.C. keep reminding him that it’s “right next door,” though others would place his New Iberia home further down the block from the Baton Rouge-based district, which extends into Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes.

Possibly more telling, though, are his intentions to begin raising money soon to influence the 6th District race through a Super PAC, Restore Our Republic, which he is connected to in every possible way.

“I’m not trying right now for any particular seat, but I am on a mission,” he said, referencing overreaches of the federal government and protecting the constitution.

First up for the Super PAC is an organized alligator hunt, just like the one recently announced by the Super PAC backing U.S. Sen. David Vitter, a Republican from Metairie.

One of Landry’s D.C. friends, Vitter was supportive of Landry when he faced off against Boustany last year.

If anything keeps Landry off the congressional ballot, it might be his young son, J.T. The former congressman has said repeatedly that his son would prefer him to be in Louisiana and not far away on the Hill.

Closer to home, Landry maintains an interest in running for attorney general in 2015, stating that he likes the idea of the office’s state responsibilities intersecting with federal issues.

Open red(stick) seatWhether or not Jeff Landry seeks the Baton Rouge-based congressional seat, others are starting their campaigns for what figures to be the state’s lone open congressional election next year, to replace Congressman Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, who is challenging Sen. Mary Landrieu, a New Orleans Democrat.

Just two months after switching to the Republican party, state Sen. Rick Ward, 31, of Maringouin has filed federal fundraising papers as a candidate in the 6th Congressional District.   

Geographically, his Senate District 17 covers much of the same rural area represented by his father, District Attorney Ricky Ward of the 18th Judicial District.

Entrepreneur Paul Dietzel, 27, has filed his federal paperwork as well and reported raising $57,000 in the second quarter. He received $2,600 from Boysie Bollinger and $5,200 from famous LSU alum Lod Cook. Dietzel is the founder of Anedot, a firm that helps institutions and candidates raise money online. He has already started grassroots campaigning, he said, by deploying volunteers to knock on doors and tell voters he is running.

In the 2011 redistricting session, over a third of the 32 percent black registration in the 6th District was moved into the 2nd District to keep it majority African-American. They were replaced mostly by white voters in Lafourche, Terrebonne and St. Charles parishes, which now comprise 14 percent of the electorate.

East Baton Rouge Parish still anchors the district with 40 percent of voters, with an additional 28 percent in nearby Livingston and Ascension parishes.     Auditor not finished with tax commissionAs if its recent report on the Tax Commission wasn’t enough to shake up the political landscape, officials with the Legislative Auditor’s Office are saying they’ll eventually launch a follow-up on the issue. Within the next few months, but not in the current quarter, the office will readdress their original findings and gauge the commission’s responses.  

But Nicole Edmonson, the Legislative Auditor’s director of performance services, said what form it will all take — whether as reporting requirements, another audit and/or something else entirely — is unknown.

“We don’t have that completely worked out yet,” she said. “That’s something that we’re talking to the legislative auditor (Daryl Purpera) about right now.”

That kind of persistence could be credited for the tame verbal lashing Gov. Bobby Jindal’s press team gave the commission in the wake of unfriendly press coverage, saying it should “ensure any deficiencies pointed out by the auditor are corrected.” Jindal has taken a beating on the issue as well, since he appoints the five-member commission.

In response, commission officials say they are in the process of making changes.

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