Lieutenant Governor: Old ticket-style politics worth a shot

By Jeremy Alford & Mitch Rabalais

Candidates for governor and lieutenant governor should consider running for office together on an old-fashioned ticket, and next year’s incumbents should be watching their backs for a very particular reason, according to Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, who recently sat down for a taping of LaPolitics’ CAPITOL GAINS talk show.

In the forthcoming episode, Nungesser discusses his relationship with Gov. John Bel Edwards, explains why tourism dollars are becoming more difficult to secure from the government and he offers up a tiny history lesson on the Pentagon Barracks in Baton Rouge.

On the topic of elections, Nungesser predicted that more term-limited lawmakers than expected will ultimately run for other offices next year, rather than simply go home.

“There’s fifty-plus people term-limited out,” said Nungesser. “There’ll be a lot of people in a lot of different races looking for a new spot to land. So I think everybody statewide, and a lot of parish and other local officials will see a lot of competition that, before term limits, they would have stayed put. But now, they’re going to be moving around looking for a new opportunity.”

Like his predecessors, Nungesser said he’d love to expand the scope of responsibilities for the position in which he serves. But in order to accomplish anything meaningful, such as brokering economic development projects or tax incentives, he added, a sitting lieutenant governor would need the enthusiastic assistance of a sitting governor.

While Nungesser does comment on his relationship with Edwards, he was discussing statewide offices more broadly in this instance — and that’s when the lieutenant governor floated a novel and ancient idea.

“To get the most bang for your buck, you’ve got to have that good work relationship with the governor,” he said. “So maybe it’s time to talk about running as a ticket again.”

That’s a nod to the so-called olden days of Louisiana politics, when candidates for top offices would pool their resources, promote their shared tickets to voters and either win or lose as a team.

The Brothers Long — Huey and Earl — practiced this method, which played a visible role in Louisiana politics throughout most of the last century.

“For many years, since Jimmy Fitzmorris, the lieutenant governor and the governor didn’t always have the best relationship even though they were with the same party,” Nungesser said. “And that’s not good for Louisiana. You can’t do your job and not work with the rest of the statewide elected officials.”

So is Nungesser ready to run on a ticket in 2019? Not exactly, he replied laughing.

“But I think you’re probably going to see a ticket run — Republicans with Democrats,” he said, adding it was more of a guess than the distribution of insider information.

Political History: LBJ’s true feelings about Shreveport

When late U.S. Sen. Russell Long learned that the White House had killed an appropriations line item for a Shreveport post office, which was his own personal pet project, the Louisiana lawmaker picked up the phone and called his fellow Democrat, then-President Lyndon B. Johnson.

It was January 1965 and Long was eager to bring new federal jobs and money into the north Louisiana city. Johnson was a president with a purpose, known for his domineering personality and brash political style. The men had been freshmen senators together, they were old friends and they both knew that all politics were local.

The resulting exchange, secretly recorded by Johnson from the Oval Office, is now housed and maintained by the University of Virginia’s Miller Center.

After exchanging pleasantries, Long explained his predicament and Shreveport’s needs. The president, fresh off of the largest electoral victory in American history and days away from his second inauguration, was not in a conciliatory mood.

Johnson stated clearly that the removal of the post office project was made out of political animosity. Despite winning 44 states the previous fall, he had lost Louisiana to Barry Goldwater by a wide margin.

Caddo Parish, in particular, had been a hotbed of anti-Johnson sentiment — and somehow, some way, word had gotten back to Johnson and it stuck in his craw.

“Those are some of the meanest, most vicious people in the United States,” Johnson told Long during their phone call. “Now you help those folks that vote for you and stay with you. You don’t reward Shreveport.”

Long tried to reason with the president, saying, “I told those people I was going to get it for them.”

The president was undeterred. He would be happy to approve federal projects in Louisiana to help the senator politically, he told Long, but anything in Shreveport was out of the question.

When Long mentioned job losses at Barksdale Air Force Base, the commander-in-chief said he was considering shutting down the whole installation. Frustrated, Long started pleading before LBJ cut him off.

“I know your daddy must be turning over in his grave,” Johnson said, referring to former Gov. Huey P. Long and bringing the conversation to a close. “He didn’t reward people that way.”

They Said It

“Thank God.”

—Lafourche Parish Risk Manager Brent Abadie, after his parish council voted unanimously against appointing him to be parish finance director, in The Houma Courier

“If they can save the pigs, they can save the shrimp.”

—Grand Isle Mayor David Camardelle, comparing foreign seafood to President Donald Trump’s plan to give U.S. farmers $12 billion in emergency relief, in The Times-Picayune

“I got a glimpse of what hell looks like.”

—State Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles, on this year’s special sessions, in The American Press


About Jeremy Alford 227 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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