From PSC comes political moves, possible match-ups

While the Public Service Commission very rarely creates the kind of election drama seen in statewide and legislative races, a few personalities are pointing for other offices and contested seats may soon be on a ballot heading your way.

The PSC is an independent regulatory agency that oversees public utilities and motor carriers. Each generation has found that a PSC seat can be a steppingstone to higher office, like governor — such was the case for Kathleen Blanco, Jimmie Davis, Huey Long and John McKeithen.

The question now is who might be the next PSC member to move on to greener political pastures.

With a well-defined field for the fall’s U.S. Senate race shaping up, it’s a lingering question for Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta of Metairie, in the PSC’s 1st District.

In a recent interview Skrmetta said he is very close to making a final decision on whether he will become a candidate. He said July should arrive with him leaning one way or another.

If he gets in, Skrmetta’s candidacy will add a new wrinkle to capturing southeast Louisiana for the U.S. Senate contenders.

It’ll also create an interesting situation for the political action committees and individuals who traditionally give money to PSC members — that is, those donors will be getting leaned on heavily.

In addition to having Skremetta’s U.S. Senate bid, Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell of Elm Grove, from the 5th District, is in the same race and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle of Breaux Bridge, from the PSC’s 2nd District, is running in the 3rd Congressional District. Plus there are two incumbents, Commissioners Lambert Boissiere of New Orleans and Clyde Holloway of Forest Hill, up for re-election this fall. They represent the PSC’s 3rd and 4th districts, respectively.

Holloway may already have a challenger in the 4th District. Community activists and donors are encouraging Mary Werner of Lake Charles to run against him.

Werner is the CEO of Sweet Lake Land and Oil Company and North American Land Company. Werner is also the daughter of Buddy Leach, the former chairman of the Louisiana Democratic Party and one-time congressman.

If Angelle wins in the 3rd Congressional District in the fall, Rep. Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette, said she may make a go at the PSC’s 2nd District.

“I’m thinking about it,” said Landry.

If the special election is even needed, others seriously looking at the potential contest are Dr. Craig C. Greene of Baton Rouge, an orthopaedic surgeon; former Rep. Joe Harrison of Napoleonville; and Baton Rouge Metro Councilman Joel Boe.

Meanwhile, Rep. Julie Emerson, R-Carencro, has said she is keeping her options open, but focusing more on her House district.

Administration splits with unions on bill

On the final day of the second special session last week it went largely overlooked that Gov. John Bel Edwards signed into law HB 887, despite appeals from the teachers unions to veto it.

It’s an independent move from a governor who has always been so closely linked to the groups.

The bill from Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, paves the way for a new charter called THRIVE Academy that will operate autonomously in Baton Rouge with oversight from the Legislature.

It passed the House and Senate during the regular session with overwhelming support.

Les Landon, spokesperson for the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and School Employees, said opponents may have waited too late to lobby the bill.

“We believe it’s bad policy and will be monitoring it,” Landon said. “But we can’t fault the governor for signing something that had so much support.”State GOP gets its dayin courtOral arguments were scheduled last week for the challenge by the Republican Party of Louisiana to provisions of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law that, the party argues, “disadvantage state political parties as compared to super PACs.”

PAC stands for political action committees.

Executive Director Jason Doré, who is spearheading the effort, said the challenged provisions prevent state political parties from using state-regulated contributions for traditional party activities, even if the activities involve communications done with no candidate coordination. Politico Magazine is calling the case “The Next Citizens United,” referring to the groundbreaking U.S. Supreme Court case that gave super PACs the ability to collect unlimited donations.

That would certainly be the big takeaway for the state party with this legal challenge.

The oral arguments on summary judgment were to be before a special three-judge court, from which direct appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court are allowed.Richmond, Scalise taketo diamondU.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Jefferson and Congressman Cedric Richmond of New Orleans represented Louisiana once again last week at the annual Congressional Baseball Game.

The game pits the Democrats against the Senate.

For anyone who follows the annual game, you know that Richmond, a heck of a pitcher, usually walks away with a bit of the glory. But this year it was Scalise, who was part of the first GOP win in seven years.

Before last night, Richmond had a 5-0 record with 45 strikeouts. But for this year’s showing, he gave up six runs and was described by The Hill’s game coverage as “shaky.”We’ll see what happens next year. Richmond’s time on the mound definitely isn’t over.They Said It“When I said the word ‘unconstitutional,’ the lights went out in here. I would count that as an endorsement.”

—Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, who was at the mic when a brief blackout darkened the Capitol on the final evening of the recent special session“My head hurts.”

—Sen. Bret Allain, a few hours before the special session adjourned


About Jeremy Alford 211 Articles
Jeremy Alford is an independent journalist and the co-author of LONG SHOT, which recounts Louisiana's 2015 race for governor. His bylines appear regularly in The New York Times and he has served as an on-camera analyst for CNN, FOX News, MSNBC and C-SPAN.

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