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Opinion: Controversy over special election

With Republican state Rep. Jeff Thompson being elected in the primary to a Bossier-Webster District Judgeship, it means that a special election will have to be held in House District 8 to replace him.
It is not surprising, therefore, that controversy has already raised its ugly head in the Bossier district. Three potential candidates have already said they will seek the state House seat.
They are Bossier Police Jury President Doug Rimmer, retired fireman Duke Lowrie, and attorney Mike Johnson.  Al three are Republicans.
There have been calls for Thompson to resign his seat immediately so a special election could be held.  But the fact is that there are six other similar situations  in the state where legislators are running for other offices.
In most of those, the results won’t be decided until December 5, the runoff date.  In Shreveport, Democratic state Rep. Patrick Williams, who is running for mayor, falls into that category.
If a state legislator eventually loses, he or she still maintains their legislative seat since those elections are not until next year.  If he or she wins, the term of the new office won’t begin until January 1, 2015.
So the Secretary of State and House Speaker Chuck Kleckley are trying to coordinate things.  That means that a state legislator elected to another office in the primary will not be required to resign until after the December 5 runoff.
At that point, legislators who won another office would be asked to submit a letter of resignation to trigger a special election with qualifying in January, the primary in February and the general election on March  28, a regularly scheduled election in Louisiana.
Thompson, who is receiving pressure to resign now, told the Fax-Net that he is still doing the job as state legislator and will not immediately resign and leave the district without representation.  And  he made a point of saying that he has not resigned his legislative committee positions, as some political factions have erroneously reported.
“I will comply with the plan put forth by Speaker Kleckley and the Louisiana Secretary of State,” Thompson said.  He takes office as judge on January 1.

Landrieu nears 50%

Usually, a poll conducted on the U.S. Senate race by a conservative entity is not good news for incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, who is seeking a fourth six-year term.
Not so in the case of a recent survey by the Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF). It describes itself “as a grassroots organization dedicated to electing strong conservative leaders to the United States Senate. We do not support liberal Republicans and we’re not affiliated with the Republican Party or any of its campaign committees.”
Two significant developments emerged from SCF’s poll.  They are:
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rob Maness is surging and gaining ground on Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, the GOP’s anointed candidate in the race.  The polls shows Cassidy with 32% and Maness at 16%.
Ken Cuccinelli II, president of SCF said, “Colonel Maness is surging because the establishment Republican in the race, Congressman Bill Cassidy, is an uninspiring candidate who offers no real choice over Democrat Senator Mary Landrieu.”
The other significant development revealed that Landrieu is nearing 50% in a runoff scenario with both Maness and Cassidy.
In the survey question about all three candidates, Landrieu had 43%, while Cassidy had 32% and Maness 16%..
But in head-to-head match-ups, it was good news for the Landrieu camp.  Maness, according to the SCF survey runs a better race against the incumbent than does Cassidy.
Against Cassidy, the result was Landrieu 49%, Cassidy 43%, and Undecided 8%. Against Maness, the result was Landrieu 48%, Maness 44%, and 8% undecided. Cuccinelli noted that in March, Maness had 3% support.  It rose to 8% by June and now has doubled to 16% in less than two months.
For transparency, it must be pointed out that SCF has endorsed Maness in the U.S. Senate race.  But the fact that its poll shows Landrieu with support as high as 49% is indeed significant.

Much ado about…

In a related U.S. Senate race development, Maness and others are challenging Landrieu’s residency, saying she lives in Washington, D.C. and not Louisiana.
Landrieu listed the home of her parents in New Orleans as her official Louisiana address.
It appears to some political analysts that the two Republican candidates may be in desperation mode with the incumbent senator near 50% in the polls if they are pursuing such an issue.
I would like to insert my personal opinion here.  Having served for 27 years on Capitol  Hill, I understand the residency issue.  I kept my personal residency in Louisiana, which allowed me to vote in the state, and listed the address of my parents.
The problem facing many members of Congress is this: Do you bring your wife and kids to D.C. where you can be with your family on a daily basis, or do you leave them in your home state and get to see them only on weekends?
Members of Congress make $174,000 a year.  If they are not wealthy, it is financially difficult to maintain two residences – one in their home state and one in D.C., where the cost-of-living is high.
Some members who leave the wife and kids back home actually live in their office.  One, I remember, slept in his car.  They use the gym facilities for showering and other needs.
Those members who choose to bring their wife and kids to D.C. often use a relative’s address back home as their official state residence.
The Louisiana Secretary of State’s office said it does not, under state law, make a ruling on residency.  The validity of a residency, if challenged, would be determined by a state court.
A similar situation existed recently in Kansas where U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, a Republican, was accused of not having a residence in his home state.  Roberts won and the challenge was disallowed.
The whole issue is much ado about nothing.  If the Republicans do find a judge willing to uphold the challenge, it would certainly be appealed and could eventually wind up where the Senate makes the decision.
Landrieu has been down that road before when Republican opponent Woody Jenkins challenged her election in 1996.  The Senate ruled in Landrieu’s favor. 
Let’s get on to more serious issues, such as why Cassidy is refusing to participate in the many forums scheduled around the state.

Lou Gehrig Burnett is a seasoned veteran of national and local politics. He publishes Fax-Net Update, a weekly political newsletter.

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