Next year’s U.S. Senate race revving up already

With senior U.S. Sen. David Vitter running for governor, and leading the polling and fundraising wars, three high-octane Republican politicians are already sounding like likely candidates, including Congressmen Charles Boustany and John Fleming and state Treasurer John Kennedy.

The biggest news of late comes out of the Kennedy camp. His top aide of 18 years, deputy treasurer Jason Redmond, is leaving his position with the treasury and has filed documents with the Federal Election Commission to form the Louisiana Proud super PAC.

So far it’s the first independent expenditure committee for the next cycle that could raise unlimited amounts of money and spend it to promote, or demonize, candidates.

Contacted for comment, Redmond said, “It will be actively involved in the 2016 elections.”

As for whether it’s specifically for a Kennedy Senate bid, he added, “I can’t say right now.”

Redmond had created Watchdog PAC in the spring, saying at the time it might become a vehicle to promote policy issues important to Kennedy.

As for Fleming, he has been reminding donors that any cash they hand over right now can be used to back a possible Senate run in 2016. He has also started spending campaign money with media strategist Brabender Cox, one of the original hands that helped Vitter first claim his Senate seat.

Boustany is telling crowds he’s eyeing the Senate too. The Lafayette Republican recently hired as his general consultant Justin Brasell, who has managed campaigns for U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton, Mitch McConnell and John Thrune.

Brasell confirmed he’s gearing up to potentially run another one in Louisiana this fall.

Of course, Vitter could change all that should he lose his quest to capture the governorship. That’s because Boustany and Fleming have suggested they may not run if Vitter seeks re-election to the Senate. But a Vitter defeat for governor won’t bode well for a re-election push just a year later, maybe prompting Boustany and Fleming to run anyway.

Fleming’s latest campaign finance report filed with the FEC in July shows $742,000 raised in the second quarter with $2 million in the bank. Boustany raised a quarterly best of $708,000 and has $1.1 million cash on hand.

Kennedy, meanwhile, has $3.5 million in his state account as of late April with re-election in the fall against no or just token opposition.

Kennedy cannot use the state account to run for the U.S. Senate, but he could possibly donate to a super PAC that’s supportive of his efforts — similar to what Vitter has done with his federal account and the Fund

For Louisiana’s Future super PAC. Kennedy, opposition or not in October, could also choose to spend some of the dough on a massive media buy to remind voters about his brand.

Then there’s the authority Vitter would have, as governor, to appoint his successor, who would be viewed as an early favorite for the Senate seat in 2016 unless Vitter makes them promise not to run. It seems everyone around the political quilting circle in Louisiana has an opinion about what Vitter would do under such circumstances.

But few know for certain.

Could congressional races open up too?

If Congressmen Charles Boustany and John Fleming run for the U.S. Senate next year, the 3rd and 4th districts, respectively, would become open seats.

Already there’s a lot of momentum in the Lafayette-Lake Charles-anchored district.

“I’m gearing up for what I believe will be an open seat. I’m in. I am running,” said state Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles. “I’ve already started meeting with folks across the district and I’m building an organization.”

Also mentioned as a possibility is Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel, who is term limited and recently endorsed, along with Boustany, U.S. Sen. David Vitter for governor.

In northwest Louisiana’s 4th Congressional District, Caddo Assistant District Attorney Jason Brown is telling people he’s interested. Additionally, a quiet buzz is building about the possibility of Mike Reese, a Leesville businessman and leader of the community advocacy group Fort Polk Progress, who describes himself as a moderate Republican.

A wildcard produced by the rumor mill is former Shreveport mayor and one-time state legislator Cedric Glover, who has also been mentioned as a potential state Senate candidate.

Are more session lawsuits possible?

Potential litigation based on legislation passed this year was an often-quoted topic of conversation this session. So far one lawsuit has been filed to challenge a resolution passed by the House and Senate, but some aren’t convinced that the trips to the courthouse are over.

“I think it’s too early to tell,” said Stephen Waguespack, president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry. “I think there are other folks who are looking at it right now. I would not be surprised to see more. After the first hearings others might decide to follow suit.”

The Louisiana Chemical Association has filed for a declaratory judgment in Baton Rouge asking a state district court to declare the tax hike in HCR 8 as unconstitutional.

That’s the measure that suspends for one year the .97 percent sales tax exemption business and industry enjoy on utilities.

LCA argues the Legislature did not obtain the constitutionally required two-thirds vote. House Clerk Butch Speer has said he expects the Legislature to win the case.Business and industry questioned the vote threshold of other tax bills this session as well and criticized another as double taxation.

 

About Jeremy Alford 201 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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