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Lieutenant governor post drawing wide interest

Special to the Herald-Guide -   Dec 05, 2013

With Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne expected to announce for governor—he already has a campaign website—the post he would vacate is attracting a large field of potential successors.

By John Maginnis and Jeremy Alford

Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden is dangling his cowboy hat above the ring, telling radio host Jim Engster recently he is “80 percent sure” he will run for the No. 2 office in 2015.

In 2004, Holden, who is African-American, beat Republican incumbent Bobby Simpson in a parish that had but 38 percent black registration at the time. His crossover appeal and ambassadorial style could give him the best shot of making history as the first black candidate to be elected statewide.

His appeal to Democrats is deepened by the African-American turnout he would help drive, which would in turn aid a Democratic candidate for governor. But he is hardly alone.Holden could have north Louisiana competition for the African-American vote if state Sen. Rick Gallot, D-Ruston, follows through on his interest. And state Sen. Elbert Guillory of Opelousas, who made history over the summer by switching parties to become the first black Republican state senator, might try for more.

We’ll see how things shape up in the next couple of years,” he told LaPolitics in an interview.

Things already are taking shape—and fast.

Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, who took 47 percent of the vote against Dardenne in 2011, held a kickoff party for his campaign last month. Fellow Republican, John Young, the popular president of Jefferson Parish, also is looking at the race.

Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle may be lowering his sights after pondering a run for governor, which is already drawing a crowded field of its own.

The most intriguing non-elected official on the radar is State Police Superintendent Mike Edmondson, who told WAFB-TV earlier this year he is “flattered” by the speculation, but only two years out from the contest, he said, “I’m committed to Gov. (Bobby) Jindal.”Senator leads in governor’s race pollAgainst the backdrop of Gov. Bobby Jindal reaching the end of his allowable terms and the state economy starting to slowly pick back up, a new statewide poll released before the holiday break shows U.S. Sen. David Vitter of Metairie atop a gubernatorial field dominated by Republicans.

In the developing race for governor in 2015, only the chairman of the Louisiana House Democratic Caucus represents the other side of the political spectrum. For now.

The 600-sample poll by Southern Media and Opinion Research was taken over six days beginning Nov. 6. It was funded by a group of private subscribers and has a 4 percent plus or minus margin of error.

The results have Vitter at 30 percent; Treasurer John Kennedy of Madisonville, 19 percent; Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne of Baton Rouge, 18 percent; state Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, 8 percent; and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle of Breaux Bridge, 2 percent.

Only Edwards has officially declared his candidacy. Dardenne, however, isn’t far behind.

While Republican candidates garnered 70 percent of the support in the survey, pollster Bernie Pinsonat predicted that Democratic numbers could grow as either Edwards becomes better known or a more recognizable Democrat gets in the race.

Vitter is buoyed by his strength among Republicans, with 78 percent approving of his job performance and 50 percent favoring him for governor.

Levee board lawsuit has majority supportIn the Southern Media poll, 50 percent of voters think the coastal damages lawsuit by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East against 97 oil and gas companies should continue. That’s compared to 36 percent who want it dropped and 14 percent who don’t know or won’t say.

Support for continuing the suit is strongest among black voters, with 70 percent in favor of pushing forward and 18 percent wanting it dropped. White voters are evenly split, at 42 percent for continuing the suit and 44 percent for backing off.

SMOR pollster Bernie Pinsonat acknowledged that a group supporting the lawsuit recently commissioned its own poll that revealed more favorable responses.

He said white voters in Louisiana traditionally dislike issues that benefit trial lawyers, which he is how the SMOR poll couched the question.

“Business owners are fearful of the guy next door being sued,” he added. “It might be his neighbor, but tomorrow it’ll be him.”Vitter working to clear the fieldIf there were any confusion who’s playing point on the 2014 U.S. Senate race for the Louisiana Republican Party, wonder no more. Junior Sen. David Vitter has become very serious about taking out his senior counterpart and is personally calling Republican hopefuls.

But not to welcome them to the fray. Rather, he’s asking them to step back to give Congressman Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge enough running room to tackle incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu in the open field.

The latest to get the call was state Rep. Paul Hollis, R-Mandeville, who’s considering putting his name on the ballot next year.

“Paul had a cordial and respectful telephone conversation with Sen. David Vitter,” a source close to the state representative said. “The senator expressed his concerns about the importance of electing a Republican in 2014. Paul assured Sen. Vitter that if he ran, the campaign’s focus would be on offering voters an alternative to Mary Landrieu, rather than criticizing the other candidates.”

A friend of Hollis’ said it’s still an “active decision” regarding whether or not he’ll enter next year’s race for the U.S. Senate. But the decision could come soon.

Vitter also reached out to state Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, before the north Louisiana lawmaker announced he would not crowd Cassidy and challenge Landrieu.

Republican Rob Maness, a retired Air Force colonel from Madisonville, is the only other announced GOP candidate thus far.They Said It“It’s something I’m still looking at, but I haven’t made any calls to the ‘Duck Dynasty’ guys yet.” —State Rep. Hunter Greene, R-Baton Rouge, on running for the 6th Congressional District and the strength of recent endorsements by members of the Robertson family“I’m not sweating this year.”—Chief legislative economist Greg Albrecht, on the state’s current financial trajectory.

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