Monday, January 22, 2007

The cat's outta the leaky bag

One of the worst kept secrets of this young century is now official...Bobby Jindal will take a second shot at Louisiana's governor's chair. His announcement, "After much prayer and consultation with my wife..." indicates he will not begin the long and arduous campaign until this summer because "...people grow weary of the barrage of charges and counter charges." Amen to that one, brother.
Jindal also says he wants to avoid the "...D.C.-style politics with mudslinging, and instead focus on solving the problems that our state faces." That, of course, is a hope which will only partially be realized. There most likely will not be the D.C.-style politics, complete with mudslinging. Instead, we can look forward to good ol' fashioned Louisiana-style politics and the accompanying mudhauling and dumping which is an integral part of the game we citizens have come to love and enjoy.
With Jindal's "official" announcement comes a couple of questions which will be answered in the pertnear future; will state Sen. Walter Boasso continue to dip his toe into the political waters and become another Republican in the race for Gov. Kathleen Blanco's redocrated office, and will an as-yet undecided term-limited Democrat decide to switch parties and get into the race. If so, will that heretofore unidentified do so just to toss a monkey wrench into the well-oiled Republican state machine? That is, according to the southern rumor mill, a very distinct possibility. Names, of course, are being withheld.
Another question making the rounds now that Jindal has declared is whether or not his candidacy will chase off a couple of high profile Democrats who are allegedly being courted to enter the race despite the fact that Blanco is the party's incumbent (an interesting fact in itself...that members of her own party might be considering taking a shot at the governorship). We continue to hear that John Breaux, former U.S. Senator and current mega-bucks-earning lobbyist, is the preferred choice of some high-ranking Dems in the state, and that U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon is being urged to consider jumping into the race. That may make good conversation, but don't look for either to pull the trigger.
And there's one more Democrat out there who would dearly love to get into the governor's race, but don't look for state Treasurer John Kennedy to make that move. There are still vibes that Kennedy would switch to the Republican party (if asked) and challenge Blanco, but he will not make that switch to take on Jindal. Instead, watch Kennedy's body language when the time comes to decide which R will slug it out with our senior U.S. Senator, Mary Landrieu. Kennedy just may be the party's banner carrier.
Back to Jindal...he's polling mightily against Blanco, and even tossing prospective (?) candidate Foster Campbell into the mix doesn't knock Jindal below 56 percent. A Campbell candidacy does, though, take Blanco from a disappointing mid-30s rating to roughly 31 percent. That, friends, does not bode well for the incumbent.
It's still a long time until we go to the polls. Until then, we're going to be bombarded with claims and rebuttals, credit taking and blame assigning. Here's hoping Louisiana voters do a little background check on all the candidates. If we listen to the campaign stump language, we're gonna be more confused that Edwin Edwards at sentencing time, and almost as disappointed.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Discipline in District 4?

One of the oldest adages in politics reminds potential candidates to maintain their discipline at all times. After all, the sage reminds us, discipline is an indicator of leadership qualities. Well, discipline has to be one of the things on Calvin Lester's mind as the race to replace now Mayor Cedric Glover in House District 4 unfolds. Unfortunately, the discipline Lester faces could ring a deathknell to his fledgling campaign.
Before the ink had dried on Lester's announcement speech, word came from the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board that the group is recommending his license to practice law be suspended for three years. That recommendation now goes to the state Supreme Court for action, and the Court usually follows the guidelines set by the board unless mitigating circumstances are shown. In this case, it appears there is no wiggle room for the recently re-elected city councilman. Lester is accused of failing to disperse money from his clients to pay certain expenses following settlements. To be fair, his explanations for failure to do so did not meet the smell test either to the casual observer or to the several members of the disciplinary board.
Lester already has been barred from practicing law in federal court, a punishment handed down without challenge from the Shreveport attorney.
Other problems faced by the District 4 candidate have been well documented, including a case involving the state ethics committee. If timing is everything in the political arena, the timing of this latest episode could not have been worse. Lester had to be considered one of, if not the, frontrunner in the campaign which will end at the polls on Feb. 24. He is one of four individuals running to fill Glover's unexpired term, and none of the other three candidates should be considered a patsy. Included among the opposition is Larry Ferdinand (an experienced politico with existing ties in Baton Rouge), Reginald Johnson and Patrick Williams, themselves no political neophytes and hard workers to boot. Lester already faced a pretty tough battle, but he was generally considered one half of a runoff picture in the district. This latest news may have put the kabosh on his plans.
Some folks in the prognosticating business are saying Lester may have found a final nail in the coffin of his political ambitions, while others are pointing to the resurrection of Joe Shyne's career and the reelection of William Jefferson as evidence that the black community seems willing to forgive some indiscretions among its political leaders. Still others are saying the roughly 30 percent of white registered voters in that district will most certainly turn its eyes to one of the other three candidates. If that's true, it leaves four candidates fighting for 66 percent of the black registered voters, while only three candidates can look with some hope toward that 30 or so percent of white voters.
Lester's biggest hope is that the Supreme Court won't hand down its discipline prior to Feb. 24. If it doesn't, he still may be considered a strong contender for a runoff spot. If, however, the Supremes do bring on the punishment, Lester's campaign may be shaken before it's stirred.
Whatever the circumstance, District 4 may be the first chance for Shreveport to prove that it isn't New Orleans, and its candidate with the problem is no William Jefferson. This one will be interesting to watch.