By Jeremy Alford & Mitch Rabalais
We haven’t heard the last of U.S. Sen. John Kennedy’s appeals to the state Parole Board, according to his spokesperson.
The board voted last month to deny a temporary medical furlough for an Angola inmate who was eligible for treatment outside of the prison, due to last year’s criminal justice overhaul.
Kennedy personally petitioned the board and asked its members not to give inmate Clyde Gibbens an “undeserved gift.”
The letter was another installment in Kennedy’s ongoing criticisms of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ 2017 reform package.
So is Kennedy planning to keep track of the other cases coming before the Parole Board, particularly those connected to last year’s criminal justice reforms?
“Absolutely,” said Michelle Millhollon, Kennedy’s communications director, “especially violent offenders who stand to benefit from the governor’s early release program.”
Baton Rouge businessman and Republican donor Lane Grigsby is convening a group of “heavy hitters” to tackle a long-range strategy for a constitutional convention.
Operating under the name Convention Coalition 2020, the group’s mission is said to be in the early stages.
Some of the team players include former U.S. Sen. David Vitter, consultant Kyle Ruckert, Gordon Reese of Innovative Advertising and two former figureheads from the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, Dan Juneau and Ginger Sawyer.
Reese said Grigsby has a multi-year vision that will stretch beyond this year and the next.
“Lane is extremely enthusiastic about this effort and he’s very engaged,” said Reese. “The reason he’s doing this is because he thinks the system is broken and antiquated. It’s locked up and nothing is getting done. He’s doing this to move Louisiana forward.”
The coalition is closely monitoring several bills in the ongoing regular session and more details — as in other partners and a policy path forward — are expected soon.
List of secretary
If you want to know who may run next year for secretary of state — the incumbent, Tom Schedler, bowed out after being targeted in a sexual harassment lawsuit — look no further than the Louisiana Legislature.
Rep. Scott Simon, R-Abita Springs, is among the latest contenders seriously considering the contest.
An architect, Simon was formerly chairman of the House Health and Welfare Committee. He also has a compelling personal story — Simon legislates and lives much of his life from a wheelchair.
While working as an elevator repairman in 1995, a drilling rig used to create holes for hydraulic elevator shafts suddenly broke and fell on Simon. It crushed his vertebrae and severed his spinal cord, rendering him a paraplegic. Married with five children at the time, Simon coupled his recovery with a college degree and, eventually, a career in politics.
Further up the leadership chain, House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, said during the most recent episode of LaPolitics’ Capitol Gains talk show that he’s being encouraged to run.
“It’s not necessarily something that I’m not interested in, but it just wasn’t on the radar until the last couple of weeks,” Barras said. “I’m not ruling it out.”
Rep. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge, a well-known pastor in the Red Stick region, said he’s being encouraged to run for secretary of state next year as well.
Asked if he had made up his mind yet, Pastor Edmonds said, “It’s hard to make up your mind sometimes.”
Others looking at the race include Rep. Paul Hollis, R-Mandeville; Sen. Gerald Long, R-Winnfield; Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner; Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe; and LSU Board of Supervisors Member Mary Leach Werner, a Democrat.
Political History: Before she won, Blanco lost
Kathleen Babineaux Blanco owns the distinction of serving as Louisiana’s only female governor. But she didn’t land the job on her first try.
Her inaugural attempt at the state’s premier elected job came in 1991, when she serving on the Public Service Commission. Blanco jumped into a crowded primary field that included a rather colorful cast.
Then-Gov. Buddy Roemer had incumbency on his side, but, in some ways, so did former Gov. Edwin Edwards, who wanted nothing more than to end up in a runoff with then-Rep. David Duke, the klan wizard whose seating in the state House had been objected to just a few years earlier.
Also in the mix were late Congressman Clyde Holloway and two mayors of note, including now-Rep. Sam Jones of Franklin, who would go on to work in Blanco’s administration beginning in 2004, and Kenner’s Aaron Broussard, who would one day plead guilty as Jefferson Parish president to felony counts related to bribes and a government job for his girlfriend.
Not only was Blanco the lone female candidate in the race, she was the first woman to run for governor since Lucille May Grace in 1952. Blanco did not shy away from the gender issue, telling the crowd at her announcement speech in Lafayette, “I am a mother. Mothers are the people who say no to the most important special interests in our lives, our children.”
Despite her efforts, Blanco did not get much support in the early polls and her base was mostly limited to her hometown of Lafayette and its suburbs. She made qualifying, but ran short on money and, within weeks, she withdrew.
Later reflecting on the 1991 race, Blanco said, “I wasn’t ready politically.”
But 12 years later, she would be.
They Said It
“Size does matter.”
—Rep. Jerome Zeringue, R-Houma, commenting on his legislation that would have changed the acceptable size of certain oysters for raw consumption.
“I run a mortuary and I’ve been driving a hearse all my life, basically… I used to go and pick up wine and go back to Grambling and sell it out the hearse.”
—Sen. Greg Tarver, D-Shreveport, during a debate over alcohol deliveries.ß