By John Maginnis
Democrats were heartened some this week by news that state Sen. Rob Marionneaux of Livonia is mulling over getting into the governor's race.
A veteran lawmaker now term-limited, Marionneaux is hardly a household name outside of Pointe Coupee Parish, despite his persistent attempts in the previous legislative session to repeal the personal income tax.
At this point, Democrats will take, if not a serious rival to Gov. Bobby Jindal, at least a respectable opponent to receive the support of the built-in opposition to the incumbent and to drive turnout to benefit other Democrats running for other offices, particularly the Legislature.
For lack of a governor's race, the attention of the political class, who already are looking ahead to life after Jindal, is moving down ballot to the other statewide offices. For them, this election is more about the next one, in 2015.
The most consequential contest this fall more likely will be for lieutenant governor, the winner of which has the pole position to run for governor next time, perhaps even as governor, should the current one move on early. The likelihood of Jindal winning a second term is greater than of his finishing it. The obvious option, though not the only, is for him to run for the U.S. Senate in 2014 against Mary Landrieu, assuming she seeks a fourth term.
Given that, it is a bit surprising that Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne has not drawn more challengers besides Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, a fellow Republican.
Beyond the following he won from lacerating BP and federal officials during the Gulf oil spill,
Nungesser hopes to draw support from the GOP right wing, which has never been satisfied that Dardenne is conservative enough, but which has failed twice to beat him in statewide elections.
In a departure from the usual strategy of an incumbent, Dardenne has begun working over Nungesser early, twice criticizing statements he has made, while signaling more to come. Besides keeping Billy down, Dardenne seems also to be sending a message about what awaits anyone else thinking about getting into the race.
The buzz about Natural Resources Secretary Scott Angelle running for that or secretary of state has faded. He has the ambition and he's tight with the governor, but, with a large family to support, running for an office that pays less than his current government job might not be his best career move.
Public service would cause little sacrifice for businessman John Georges, who has put $10 million into a campaign account for "any statewide office," according to his report.
The Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat spent heavily to lose badly in runs for governor in 2007 and for mayor of New Orleans in 2010. He likely would find Dardenne to be no easier a target. The fainthearted might know when to quit, but, with the money Georges has to burn, the itch dies hard.
Secretary of state is the only other office holding much promise for candidates seeking a future. Having succeeded Dardenne, Tom Schedler, a Slidell Republican, is running for a full term, though he is far less known statewide than his main challenger so far, Democrat Caroline Fayard.
The 33-year-old attorney with deep family pockets ran a creditable race for lieutenant governor last year, but still was buried in a Dardenne landslide. Now she needs to win something to maintain her status as the Democrats' next best hope.
Her prospects for doing so appeared better before Speaker of the House Jim Tucker began looking for a statewide berth to land after term limits. The Jefferson Parish Republican, a former investment analyst, would really like to be state treasurer. But John Kennedy is staying in place there, from where he will probably run for governor in four years, when Tucker can run for treasurer.
By their day-to-day responsibilities, the offices of lieutenant governor and secretary of state are but a notch above cabinet positions. Yet, expect to hear the candidates for those posts repeating the old cliche‚ that this election is about the future. That it will be: theirs.