By Robert Mann
“I advise anyone who thinks he knows something about politics to go down to Louisiana and take a postgraduate course.” --Texas U.S. Sen. Tom Connally, 1932.
If you are obsessed with politics, Louisiana is the place for you – especially over the next four years.
In that time, Louisiana voters will choose a new governor and elect (or re-elect) two U.S.
Yes, it is early.
Yes, no one should forget the horrible consequences of letting Bobby Jindal run wild through the next two years. We needn’t look past that to consider the next step. The Governor’s mansion is the most powerful office in the State of Louisiana. The wide-ranging powers emanating from the Capitol’s forth floor control nearly every aspect of Government through direct, or through fiscal, levers. Every Mayor, Police Juror, and Sheriff bow before the all powerful dictates of the Louisiana Governor. By virtue of history and tradition, he controls the legislature, which means he controls the purse. He sets the agenda, constructs the model budget and heavily influences the capital outlay to build new infrastructure for which local officials cut ribbons. Moreover, the Governor makes over 1700 direct appointments to boards and commissions all over the state. These range from the benign to the highly sought-after LSU board or Board of Regents spots.
No one person makes more impact on our daily lives in Louisiana than the Governor. And that’s why the next Governor is so important. We cannot get this one wrong.
Mitch Landrieu is the Democrats best hope to be Governor in 2015.
With all due respect to Rep. John Bel Edwards, we don’t see another viable candidate. By all accounts, his reign as Mayor of New Orleans has been spectacularly successful. If you’ve visited the city recently like we have, you’ll note it is alight with improvements. Mitch continues to be very popular to a broad swath of New Orleanians as well.
More importantly, we know Mitch Landrieu has already shown he can be a fundraising powerhouse. According to the Times-Picayune, Mitch has raised over $1.6m since he won the New Orleans Mayor’s race in 2010. Let’s see how he compares to other statewide potentials:
|Campaign finance reports for 2012|
|Gov. Bobby Jindal||$1,301,483.46||$1,420,185.06||$3,793,100.76|
|Treasurer John Kennedy||$579,503.14||$151,688.66||$2,333,570.49|
|New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu||$756,102.78||$259,517.73||$1,009,716.04|
|Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne||$831,325.56||$161,278.52||$717,825.45|
|Attorney General Buddy Caldwell||$17,410.01||$68,939.71||$406,557.48|
|Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain||$351,606.92||$116,180.01||$235,426.91|
(from the Times-Picayune)
As we can see here, there’s only one official that is eligible to run for Governor in 2015 that has more money on hand than Mitch Landrieu. That’s Treasurer John Kennedy, who Mitch’s sister Mary spanked in the 2008 US Senate race.
So, we know that Mitch Landrieu is well-financed, how does he look electorally against statewide foes?
Back in 2007, Mitch was running for reelection for Lt. Governor, the State’s cultural ambassador and leader of the office of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. Here are those results:
|Lieutenant Governor 2007
All 3967 precincts reporting
Click here for Results by Parish
|Gary J. Beard (R)||10.55%||130876|
|Norris “Spanky” Gros, Jr. (N)||1.29%||15965|
|Thomas D. Kates (N)||1.25%||15555|
|“Sammy” Kershaw (R)||30.30%||375727|
|“Mitch” Landrieu (D)||56.60%||701887|
Country music star Sammy Kershaw couldn’t keep Mitch from winning in the primary, with 701887 votes. Hmm, how many votes did the multi-million dollar campaign of Bobby Jindal garner that year in the primary?
|“Bobby” Jindal (R)||53.88%||699275|
Sure, it’s not apples to apples. But the simple fact that Democrat Mitch Landrieu won 2000 more votes than the political “rising star” Bobby Jindal earned is sizable. Remember, Jindal was seen as less of a partisan figure back then, and many Democrats considered his candidacy a page-turner. Jindal was considered an “ethics champ” with pragmatic, technocratic governing philosophies focused on results. Of course, from day 1, he largely abandoned this philosophy and became a screeching partisan conservative focused only on his ambition for even higher office. Under these circumstances, the fact that Mitch Landrieu still roughly equaled Jindal despite his party “disadvantage” and the moribund status of the Democratic Party in 2007 (not to mention the still persistent Katrina displacement of African-American voters in the Landrieu’s New Orleans stronghold) means one very clear thing: Mitch Landrieu has continued to maintain a strong statewide popularity that makes him extremely competitive in ways that other Democrats are not.
Flash-forward to today. Let’s go to the polling! From PPP earlier this month:
Louisiana could have a fun race for Governor in 2015. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu is seen pretty positively statewide, with 49% of voters rating him favorably to 26% with an unfavorable opinion. In a hypothetical contest with Senator David Vitter, who has a 46/38 approval rating, the two would be tied at 44%. Landrieu would have a slight edge over Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne at 44-42. If Landrieu decided to run it appears that it would be a competitive race.
Well then. Let’s review. That’s Vitter 44%, Landrieu 44%. Before the campaigns. Considering how Red Louisiana has become (although it might be trending in the other direction). Even Vitter’s own polling firm can’t soup the numbers to make Mitch noncompetitive:
The Magellan poll, conducted Oct. 2 through Oct. 4 with 2,682 likely voters covered a number of topics, including presidential, congressional and gubernatorial elections. The margin of error is 1.9 percent… 31.1% picked Vitter; 29.4% picked Landrieu; and 16.7 percent were undecided or wanted none of the choices.
Two ties. Looks very interesting, doesn’t it?
Once the natural disaster that is the Jindal Administration is done rolling through, we’ll need a thorough cleansing, followed by a long slog to attempt to repair the Jindal-sized crater we’ll be situated in. From what we understand, this sounds eerily like the situation Mayor Landrieu found when he arrived in New Orleans in 2010. Like Ray Nagin before him, Bobby Jindal will have served two terms full of promised-reform and certified-incompetence. Another clean up job for Mitch. But one voters seem at least willing to consider handing over to New Orleans’ Mayor.
Don’t look now, but the 2015 Governor’s race is over. David Vitter is your new Governor. And the little shop of horrors that is the 4th floor of the capitol just got a new haunt.
Wait, you say it can be true? It’s only 2012? And People actually have to vote on these things? Three years from now?
We won’t spoil the fun.
David Vitter’s pollster conducted an extensive, although strangely weighted, poll to confirm their own suspicious. Diaper Dave is just killing it. Says his own pollster, John Diez:
Magellan principal John Diez, who released the poll, moved to Baton Rouge in 2006 to become executive director of Vitter’s Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority. The committee’s website still listed Diez as executive director Monday.
But, the kicker is that Vitter DENIES that he has anything to do with this poll. Starting off with the lying early, huh Diaper Dave? From the office of one of Congress’ “Most Corrupt Members,”:
Vitter’s spokesman, Luke Bolar, said the senator neither backed nor funded the poll.
Laughable. Surely he couldn’t fund it, creating a paper trail and such. But “backing it”? That’s a wide berth of semantic yardage. But let’s move on.
Here are the top lines: (and now to the video tape…)
LA-GOV: 2015 – If the election was being held today, for whom would you vote if the
candidates were DAVID VITTER, REPUBLICAN, MITCH LANDRIEU DEMOCRAT; JAY DARDENNE, REPUBLICAN; JOHN KENNEDY, REPUBLICAN; MIKE STRAIN, REPUBLICAN and JOHN GEORGES, DEMOCRAT?
- DAVID VITTER 31.1%
- MITCH LANDRIEU 29.4%
- JAY DARDENNE 6.5%
- JOHN KENNEDY 7.2%
- MIKE STRAIN 3.1%
- JOHN GEORGES 6.0%
- UND/SOMEONE ELSE 16.7%
So, an open primary full of big money candidates (Georges spent a small fortune on his 2007 Governor’s race, and his 2010 Mayor’s race in New Orleans), David Vitter runs within the margin of error with Mitch Landrieu. That can’t be considered a “win,” can it? That bodes well for Mitchell, and therefore, for Democrats.
We’ll deal with the strange poll sampling later, but suffice to say, these are good numbers for Mitchell.
And still thinking ahead to the 2015 election for Governor in Louisiana. 8. If the election was being held today, for whom would you vote if the candidates were DAVID VITTER, REPUBLICAN and MITCH LANDRIEU DEMOCRAT?
- DAVID VITTER 45.2%
- MITCH LANDRIEU 39.8%
- UNDECIDED 15.0%
So, a +5 margin in a head to head? Great for Diaper Dave, right? Hmmm, maybe not so much. Cenlamar does a little digging:
Magellan’s poll is fraught with disastrous flaws: It severely oversamples white Republicans, by at least 15 points; it’s not proportionate among Congressional districts; its methodology and questioning are leading and disingenuous. It’s heavily skewed toward conservatives, which is not surprising; after all, it was led by a Vitter-man. And there’s hardly any mention of Bobby Jindal or his policies; Vitter isn’t even slightly interested in how Jindal is polling.
The kicker: How great is David Vitter doing at his job? According to his own pollster, Mr. Diez, pretty god damn great:
And do you approve or disapprove of the job that DAVID VITTER is doing as U.S. SENATOR?
- APPROVE 59.1%
- DISAPPROVE 33.2%
- UNSURE/NO OPINION 7.7%
In the SMOR poll last week, Vitter was looking at 52.3 fav, 31.3 unfav. Not bad, but below Senator Mary Landrieu’s 53.7/28.4 rating.
Now, of course, we see a completely different story:
What appears to be a conflict in the polls centers on Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu. In Pinsonat’s poll, Landrieu has the highest job performance rating of any of Louisiana’s elected officials with 61.7 percent favorable (12.1 percent excellent and 49.6 percent good). In Diez’s poll 39.5 percent said they would vote to re-elect her but 50.8 percent said they would prefer someone else. The others wouldn’t say.
Oh well, nothing to see here. Read more on Vitter’s vanity poll @ Cenlamar.
According to several sources inside city government, Mayor Mitch Landrieu is set to endorse former Councilwoman (and former State Senator) Cynthia Willard-Lewis in the city’s hotly contested at-large council race. Legislative sources indicate that the Mayor’s office has reached out to local officials to pressure them to endorse Willard-Lewis and also to join Landrieu in a press conference announcing the Mayor’s intentions sometime early next week. Those same sources suggest that many legislators have declined to participate or endorse due to Willard-Lewis’ possible association with an ultra-high-profile scandal erupting in the New Orleans area. As the Democrats only and last hope for statewide office, we can’t see this as a good thing for Mitch Landrieu. Mayor Landrieu is repeatedly mentioned as a 2015 gubernatorial candidate. From Al Hunt in Bloomberg just this week:
He’s likely to be re-elected in two years. A year later he’ll have to decide whether he stays or, as maybe the only Democrat who could win a statewide race, runs for governor.
With Mitch gone as early as 2015, is a Councilwoman Cynthia Willard-Lewis his hand-picked successor as the ground-breaking first African-American female Mayor of New Orleans?
Willard-Lewis is a longtime Democratic stalwart, with a large political family and a strong base of support with African-Americans throughout the city. She narrowly lost a race against fellow Democrat J.P. Morrell for the 3rd district Senate seat after her former district was redistricted away from New Orleans and into the river parishes.
According to our friends over at Slabbed, Cythnia Willard-Lewis may also be embroiled in a massive political corruption case emanating from River Birch Landfill in Jefferson Parish. The long and short of the story is that, after Hurricane Katrina, Fred Heebe, owner of River Birch, angled to shut down or divert all the trash and debris from hurricane-clean-up to his landfill, River Birch. This was, and apparently continues to be, big money business for Heebe.
As you’d expect in Louisiana, the big dollar nature of this ploy meant that Heebe played a strong political hand, and he played it hard. His finger-prints have been found all over the Jefferson Parish corruption that up-ended the entire political establishment and helped land Parish President Broussard under Federal indictment. Heebe’s own wife is former Jefferson Parish Councilwoman Jennifer Sneed. Heebe also seemed to pay off half of the politicians in and around New Orleans to help fill up his dump.
Heebe’s tentacles, however, have yet to been placed on any currently relevant (or serving) politicians. Most of his friends have been outed, targeted, or retired. However, a tipster points out some strong clues that might point to Cynthia Willard-Lewis’ possible involvement in the River Birch scandal. First, slabbed reviews a River Birch-related lawsuit by one of Heebe’s competitors:
Only recently revealed, it appears that the plaintiffs’ counsel in the related judicial challenges brought by “concerned citizens” of New Orleans East seeking to challenge “the basis under which Waste Management sough to operate its landfill in an area of the City of New Orleans that is not zoned for such use,” Mr. Kyle Schonekas and Ms. Joelle Evans, were both secretly on retainer by the River Birch Defendants as undisclosed “lobbyists.”
Upon information and belief, the River Birch Defendants and their secret lobbyists, Schonekas and Evans, also enlisted the services of Walter Willard to assist with their litigation against the Chef Menteur landfill and challenging Mayor Nagin’s emergency authorization. Mr. Willard was retained, at least in part, to curry favor and political influence. In particular, Mr. Willard is the brother of Cynthia Willard-Lewis, then the New Orleans Councilperson for District E where the Chef Menteur landfill was located. At one point, Ms. Willard-Lewis was one of the strongest proponents and supporters of the Chef Menteur landfill because she deemed it critical to expediting the clean-up and recovery of her district in New Orleans East… Upon the retention of her brother to allegedly “assist” in the River Birch sponsored litigation against the landfill, Ms. Willard-Lewis suddenly reversed course and became a vocal opponent to the continued operation of the Chef Menteur landfill. Ms. Willard-Lewis attributes her changed position to the public outcry over health and safety concerns arising from the location of the landfill.
Ok, so at least that sounds fairly fishy. But a tipster points to the recent resignation of a Federal Prosecutor for online comments may also be instructive:
As River Birch landfill owner Fred Heebe saw a $160 million contract with Jefferson Parish slip from his grasp in December amid lawsuits and whispers of a back-room deal, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sal Perricone offered him some free, unsolicited advice. “If Heebe had one firing synapse, he would go speak to Letten’s posse and purge himself of this sordid episode and let them go after the council and public officials,” he wrote.
Perhaps it is no secret that Federal prosecutors are circling “council” and public officials, but it’s an awful specific mention and might point to several potential targets.
Zombie has spent years researching the intricate web of corruption in and around New Orleans, and clearly has a very good record.
Insiders speculate that if Cynthia Willard-Lewis were to win the Council At-Large race, she would have the inside track on a candidacy for Mayor of New Orleans, potentially in 2015 when Mayor Landrieu decides to run for Governor. Ms. Willard-Lewis would be a popular, city-wide African-American public official, similarly positioned to former Councilman At-Large (and convicted Federal felon) Oliver Thomas in 2007, and she could edge out all others over the next 2-3 years with smart moves on the council.
The question at hand, of course, is to what degree is Former Senator and Councilwoman Cynthia Willard-Lewis related to the ongoing Federal River Birch investigation. Maybe we don’t know, and Mayor Landrieu does. But it becomes a little hard to understand why Landrieu would involve himself in a race that poses serious credibility challenges for any future statewide races. New Orleans corruption allegations or associations have sunk statewide campaign efforts of politicians like Congressman Bill Jefferson and others. With Landrieu’s high-marks continuing with his city, is this a risk he can just afford to take? Can Democrats risk losing their one rising star over a meaningless council race in New Orleans?
It seems we are about to find out.