On the Nov. 8 ballot in Louisiana there will be 63 different candidates running in seven federal races for the U.S House and Senate, meaning voters will have plenty of names to choose from — possibly more than any other time in recent history.
In the U.S. Senate race alone 24 candidates qualified last week hoping to succeed senior Sen. David Vitter. That’s more than any other U.S. Senate race hosted by Louisiana since at least 1980.
There were 16 candidates running in 2010 to oppose Vitter’s re-election, which was the first balloting to follow the revelation about the so-called D.C. Madam controversy. Before that, in 1996, 15 candidates qualified in the race to replace retiring Sen. J. Bennett Johnston, a contest that former Sen. Mary Landrieu won.
Twenty-four candidates are difficult to manage from almost every perspective, even by the standards of Louisiana politics, said Martin P. Johnson, an LSU political science professor and the Kevin P. Reilly chair at the Manship School of Mass Communication.
“What a problem for pollsters,” Johnson said with a laugh. “I’m sure you want as many people as possible in those assessments, but what a challenge.
It could be worse, he added; in 2003 in California the recall ballot for then-Gov. Gray Davis resulted in 135 candidates qualifying, including movie icon Arnold Schwarzenegger, an adult film star, a pornography publisher, unemployed actor Gary Coleman, a state senator and a cast of others.
Louisiana’s U.S. Senate race won’t be as crowded, but the 24 qualifications do send an early message that no single, competitive candidate has their respective base solidified yet, Johnson said.
“A big part of this is that there’s not a clear answer to the who big powerhouse will be in the future and there’s a lot of political ambition out there,” he said.
The list of notables is large and includes Congressman Charles Boustany, Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, former Congressman Joseph Cao, former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke, attorney Caroline Fayard, Congressman John Fleming, former state legislator Troy Hebert, Treasurer John Kennedy, retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness, New Orleans businessman Abhay Patel and Acadiana oil executive Joshua Pellerin — to name just 11 from the 24-person field.
On a smaller ballot, the leading candidates would be pushing for a large share of the electorate to make it to the runoff, but with the primary votes being split up among so many different names the margins will be much tighter.
“The folks who end up in the runoff will presumably have percentages in the low 20s,” said Johnson.
The two open seats in the U.S. House delegation has drawn a large number of contenders as well — 12 in the Acadiana-based 3rd Congressional District, to replace Boustany, and eight in northwest Louisiana’s 4th Congressional District, to replace Fleming.
No member of Louisiana’s House delegation will be running unopposed this fall. All of the four incumbents seeking re-election have fielded challengers.
Business eyes task force
Dan Borné, president of the Louisiana Chemical Association, told the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge last week that he believes business and industry will collectively pay for $3 billion in additional taxes over the next three years due to recent legislative actions.
He also hinted that a tax reform task force could guide what happens in the future on this front.
But what comes next is truly the big question.
“What is certain is the uncertainty about whether these taxes will be modified, extended or increased as the state approaches another fiscal cliff not that far down the road,” Borné said.
He said new business investments are at risk and that Texas could be the big winner.
“Texas knows that when the investment incentives are at parity, Texas wins,” he said. “Sure we have the river, but Texas has scale that mocks every other industrial area in the United States. Texas’ chemical output is more than California and Louisiana combined.”
One path forward for the business lobby in general, Borné suggested, is to make sure it has a seat and a voice in the task force process that will yield a set of recommendations in September for next year’s fiscal reform session of the Louisiana Legislature.
“It’s not only important to do this,” he said. “It’s absolutely necessary if we want to reverse the impact of the serious and negative change in Louisiana’s business climate.”
TV buys have started in congressional race
Just like he did in last year’s race for governor, where he was narrowly squeezed out of the runoff, Pubic Service Commissioner Scott Angelle became the first candidate in the 3rd Congressional District last week to go up on television with a paid campaign commercial.
Running in the Acadiana region that the 3rd District encompasses, the spot is now in it’s second and final week on TV.
It’s called “Back The Badge” and has a personal appeal direct to the camera from the candidate. The spot focuses on the recent police shootings in Baton Rouge, which is outside the congressional district.
“Yes sir and yes ma’am,” Angelle says on camera in the commercial. “That’s how I was raised to talk to police officers. They risk their lives everyday to protect our families. They deserve our respect and our support.”
They Said It
“(Former Congressman) Rodney Alexander got me a pass; I felt like I snuck in. This time I’m speaking.”
—“Duck Dynasty” star Willie Robertson, comparing the 2012 GOP convention to the one that was held last week
“I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father.”
—U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a former presidential candidate, saying he wouldn’t endorse Donald Trump “like a servile puppy,” in The Associated Press