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Opinion: Governor’s job up for grabs?


The Louisiana governor’s race will certainly take center stage in the 2015 election year.  Qualifying is September 8-10, and the primary election is October 24.
So far, four candidates have declared that they will seek the state’s top job – Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter, Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards, Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, and Republican Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle.
The four are viable candidates.  So how do they stack up with voters at this point in time?
Southern Media Opinion and Research (SMOR) of Baton Rouge conducted the latest poll on the race December 9-11,surveying 600 likely voters.
The results: Vitter 36%, Edwards 26%, Dardenne 19%, Angelle 3%, and Undecided 16%.
It’s a good bet others will enter the race.  Some of those being mentioned as potential candidates include Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy, New Orleans Democratic Mayor Mitch Landrieu, and Republican Burl Cain, Warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary, commonly known as Angola.
SMOR’s Bernie Pinsonat said that if Edwards is  the only Democrat on the ballot, he will likely make the runoff.  But he will face an uphill battle winning over white voters for the runoff, who show strong support for a Republican candidate.
Some other results of the poll:
*53% support Medicaid expansion through the federal Affordable Care Act.
*Gov. Bobby Jindal’s job approval rating is 41%.
*President Barack Obama’s job approval rating is 39%.
*The top three concerns of respondents were education/teachers, the state economy, and healthcare – in that order.

lou BurnettU.S. Senate race stats
Voting statistics on the U.S. Senate race where Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy defeated incumbent  Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu by a 54-46% margin are now available.
For the election, there were 2,985,731 persons registered to vote.  Of that total, 63.9% were white, 31.4% black, and 4.7% other races.
By party affiliation, 46.7% were Democrats, 27.7% Republicans, and 25.6% No Party/Other Party.
Here is a look at the stats:
Of 2,945,731 registered voters, 1,283,606 or 43.64% voted.
By Race
Of  1,883,715 white voters, 857,174 or 45.5% voted.
Of  924,188 black voters, 390,096 or 42.21% voted.
Of 137,828 other race voters, 38,336 or 27.81% voted.
By Gender
Of 1,328,473 registered males, 573,368 or 43.2% voted.
Of 1,616,578 registered females, 712.053 or 44% voted.
By Political Party
Of  1,375,027 registered Democrats, 646,159 or 47% voted.
Of 816,594 registered Republicans, 431,134 or 52.8% voted.
Of 754,110 registered No Party/Other Party voters, 208,313 or 27.6% voted.

4th Congressional District stats
Republican U.S. Rep. John Fleming of Minden, who represents the 4th Congressional District, which includes the parishes in northwest Louisiana, won a fourth two-year term in November, defeating Libertarian Randall Lord, 73-27%.
Here are the voting stats from that race:
There are 474,700 registered voters in the 4th Congressional District.  Of that total, 203,767 or 42.93% cast ballots in the election.
Of 296,348 white registered voters, 132,710 or 44.78% voted.
Of  159,951 black voters, 66,141 or 41.35%  voted.
Of 18,401 other race voters, 4,916 or 26.72%  voted.
Of  222,773  Democrats,  102,409  or  45.97%  voted.
Of  138,148  Republicans,  70,577  or  51.84%  voted.
Of 115,779 No Party/Other Party, 30,781 or  26.59% voted.
Speaking of Fleming, he has publicly said he is “very interested” in running for the U.S. Senate in 2016 if Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter is elected governor in 2015.
Fleming flirted with challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, but deferred to U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, who won the seat
If Vitter were to win the governor’s race in 2015 and step down from the Senate, the governor would be able to appoint his replacement.
According to Louisiana’s election code, if he steps down more than a year before the end of his term, the appointment would be temporary and a special election would have to be held.
But if Vitter leaves the U.S. Senate less than a year before the end of his term, the appointed senator would serve until the 2016 election.
Scalise’s slippery slope
It is a controversy the Republican Party did not need as it tries to woo more black and Hispanic voters to its philosophical side.
U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise of Metairie, who represents Louisiana’s First Congressional District, recently rose to power in the Republican-controlled U.S. House when he was elected Majority Whip, making him the third most powerful House member.
But he found some coal in his Christmas stocking when blogger Lamar White Jr. posted on his website, cenlamar.com, that Scalise, when he was a state representative in 2002, addressed an organization that was affiliated with neo-Nazi and former Klansman David Duke.
The address was to the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, known as EURO, at the Landmark Hotel in Metairie.
The revelation has created a firestorm of controversy around Scalise, who says he did not understand the nature of the group when he spoke to it.  So far, he has the support of the GOP leadership.
House  Speaker  John  Boehner  (R-Ohio)  has  pledged “full confidence” in Scalise, but did say that his speech to EURO was an “error in judgment.”
But the story refuses to go away, and the national news media is continuing to dig into Scalise’s past association with Duke.
For example, the conservative Boston Herald newspaper has called for Scalise to resign from his leadership position.  That call will likely grow louder as more information is revealed about Scalise’s relationship with Duke and some of Duke’s key allies and supporters.
It is reminiscent of what happened to Republican U.S. Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi in 2002 when he was Senate Minority Leader.  In a speech, he praised Strom Thurmond’s 1948 segregationist Dixiecrat bid for president.
The backlash was immediate. The ensuing controversy over his remarks resulted in Lott stepping down as Minority Leader in December 2002.  It left a unfavorable mark on his political career, and he resigned from the Senate in 2007.
Whether Scalise can survive the uproar remains to be seen.  Even some Democrats, such as U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, the African-American who represents the Second Congressional District, have vouched for Scalise, saying that he does believe Scalise has a racist bone in his body.


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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Sean Green is managing editor of the Bossier Press-Tribune.