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Contenders emerge in race for top attorney
LA Politics notebook by Jeremy Alford and John Maginnis
Special to the Herald-Guide -   Jul 25, 2013

Potential challengers already have Attorney General Buddy Caldwell looking over his shoulder. But with more than $406,000 in the bank, the Democrat-turned-Republican can look toward his 2015 re-election bid with some confidence as well.

The latest contender is former Acadiana Congressman Jeff Landry of New Iberia. A favorite of the regional tea party movement, Landry said he likes the idea of being attorney general since the gig’s state responsibilities intersect with federal issues.

"Attorneys general across the country are making a big impact on pushing back against the overreach of the federal government," he said. "That has really caught my attention."

A former candidate for the Louisiana Senate, Landry, a Republican, has a state campaign finance account he zeroed out last year with a round of payments for consulting and campaign service fees.

Earlier this year, he established a new SuperPAC, Restore Our Republic, to back conservative congressional candidates in 2014. His said he plans to be especially involved in shaping the open-seat 6th Congressional District race in Louisiana—maybe even as a candidate.

Actively raising money for the attorney general race right now is 18th Judicial District assistant attorney Martin Maley, who recently switched to Republican. His private law firm, Maley, Comeaux and Falterman, has offices in Baton Rouge, Napoleonville, and Port Allen. Maley has made courthouse friends by organizing fundraisers for candidates for judicial offices, regardless of party or philosophy.

"I know how to raise a dollar," he said. "The question is can I do it for myself."

He said he has set up 13 fundraisers for the rest of the year, starting in his home town of Natchitoches.

Also said to be looking at the race is former assistant attorney general Burton Guidry and House Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger, D-New Orleans. Leger currently has more than $54,000 in his campaign kitty, but has likewise expressed interesting in running for speaker if re-elected.

In a somewhat related twist, Assistant Attorney General David Caldwell, 39, the head of the public corruption unit and the attorney general’s son, said he plans on offering his own name for the post of U.S. attorney for the Middle District, which was left vacant by the resignation last month of Don Cazayoux.

Sen. Mary Landrieu is taking names until Aug. 20 from those interested in the post, and will then interview prospects before making her recommendation to the president around Labor Day.

More Democratic defections expected

State Sen. Rick Ward of Maringouin is the latest Democratic state official to join the Louisiana Republican Party. He made the leap last week, on the heels of House Appropriations Chairman Jim Fannin of Jonesboro, who announced his switch just after Independence Day. Making headlines earlier this summer were African-American defectors Sen. Elbert Guillory of Opelousas and Central City Councilman Ralph Washington.

Ward, though, may not be the end of the line. Ross White, political director for the state GOP, said more will soon follow.

"We are in discussions with several conservative Democrats," he said. "We’re confident that they will be switching, but we don’t know when that will be yet."

Press reports mentioned that term-limited Fannin could be interested in running in 2015 for the state Senate seat to be vacated by the term-limited Sen. Bob Kostelka, R-Monroe. If so, he might need to change his address as well.

Jackson Parish, where Fannin lives, makes up only 10 percent of Senate District 35. With Ouachita Parish making up 50 percent, local observers consider Rep. Jay Morris, R-Monroe, a strong Senate prospect.

Blowback over assessments continue

The state’s largest business lobby is raising more red flags over a scathing report issued recently by the Legislative Auditor’s Office.

The audit, which targeted the state Tax Commission, found the five-member board that was appointed by Gov. Bobby Jindal approved more $118 million in assessment decreases and $10 million in increases submitted by parish tax assessors for business and residential properties for 2010 through 2012 without determining the accuracy of the new assessments.

There were numerous other findings as well, which the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry believes is evidence that the current administration has abandoned the reforms initiated under former Gov. Kathleen Blanco. LABI President Dan Juneau said the previous commission did audits of assessments around the state and sent assessment rolls back to local assessors when they were not doing their jobs properly.

"Some parishes have a reputation for fair and accurate assessments. Some do not. Why is it that in the parishes that are more lax in accurate assessment practices, the local governments that are dependent on property tax revenues don’t raise a ruckus about the situation?" Juneau asked. "All politics are local I guess."

Quotes from the quorum

"It’s very complex."

—Former Gov. Buddy Roemer to the New York Times, on how he came in third place in 1991 behind former Gov. Edwin Edwards, the subsequent victor, and David Duke, a pair the newspaper described as a "crook" and a "Klansman," respectively

"The lengths state government will go to keep things secret is appalling."

—Carl Redman, chairman of the Louisiana Press Association’s Freedom of Information Committee, to the Acadiana Press Club

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