Saturday, October 20, 2007

Races to watch

Here is set of links to races worth watching as the returns come in tonight.

The first link is to the statewide races. Go, Foster Campbell! I will not vote for Mitch Landrieu, so I'm skipping the lieutenant governor's race in the voting booth. Has he ever lifted a finger for a Democrat not named Landrieu?

In the Legislature, let's start with the senate races.

The District 7 race on the Westbank of the Mississippi River in the New Orleans area should be interesting. Democrats David Heitmeier and Jonathan Bolar are opposed by LCRM-backed Paul Richard. This race is where I first stumbled across the LLC cluster bucks model of circumventing campaign finance laws. The race was brought to my attention by someone from New Orleans who called me after my appearance on the Jim Brown Program in New Orleans.

The District 9 race in Jefferson Parish has Democrat David Gereighty in a three-way race against two Republicans to succeed term-limited Senator Ken Hollis. It's good to see a Democrat positioned to take advantage of the ongoing war among the Republicans that is simmering in some places, boiling over in others.

The District 25 race
in southwest Louisiana pits Democrat Gil Pinac against a pair of Republicans. This is a large geographic district that covers a large swath (parts of four parishes) of the 7th Congressional District. Pinac is no liberal, but he has resisted overtures to go back to the Republican Party (I hear he was a Republican at one time).

The District 28 race in the northern part of Cajun country is the race to succeed term-limited Senate President Don Hines. The leading candidate in this race is current state Representative (and founder of the Legislative Democratic Caucus) Eric LaFleur. I'm not sure that the LCRM has gone after LaFleur yet, but they have given money to groups that are opposing him. Look for them to jump in big in this race if there is Democrat vs. Republican run-off.

The District 30 race in western Louisiana pits Democrats Terry Fowler and John Smith against Democratic National Committeeman Buddie Leach. Leach is awash in oil and gas money. Terry Fowler has been working on this race for two years and has run a dogged but well-financed campaign. I'm pulling for Fowler in this one.

On to the House, again in numerical order!

House District 25 in the Alexandria area is where the LCRM bared its fangs in radio ads so vicious, deceptive and offensive that the Republican candidate they were intended to benefit had to disavow them in order to remain a credible candidate. Chris Roy, Jr., is the Democratic target of the LCRM ads. Glenn Beard is the other Democrat in the race. The squirming Republican in the race is Lance Maxwell who, try as he may, is tied to the LCRM through the radio ads and through the in-kind contributions his campaign accepted from them.

House District 31 in Lafayette and Vermilion parishes is shaping up into a close race. I thought Don Trahan would be toast here, but when Charley Buckels (who lost to Trahan by fewer than 100 votes four years ago) dropped his challenge to Trahan and opted to run for the BESE board, it was clear something was up. Since then, some Republicans have rallied around against independent Nancy Landry, but the LCRM stepped into the race this week and angered some Republicans (specifically Senator Mike Michot) by making up quotes from him in support of Trahan. Michot responded with media statements and robo-calls throughout the district saying that he had not endorsed Trahan. If Trahan loses here, he should thank the LCRM for pulling him under.

House District 39
covers northern Lafayette Parish, southern St. Landry and eastern St. Martin. Raymond "La-La" Lalonde is the Republican standard bearer here, indicating the difficulty the party has had recruiting candidates in its quest to grab majority control of the Legislature. LaLonde has gotten some support from LCRM, Bollinger Shipyards and New York real estate tycoon Howard Rich. That's provided him some cash, but it remains to be seen if an old-line politician seeking a comeback can find the votes to make the run-off against three younger Democratic opponents. The Democrats are former Carencro mayor Tommy Angelle, Bobby Badon and newcomer Stephen Ortego. A run-off is coming, it's just a question of whether there will be a Republican in it.

House District 40 sits in the heart of St. Landry Parish and much of it in Opelousas. Elbert Guillory is the incumbent, having won the seat in a special election in the spring. However, Guillory's voting record, strong support from Republican circles, and revelations that he has taken $10,000 from Howard Rich have put him on the defensive. Freshman Opelousas City Councilman Brian Thomas got into the race late, but has waged an energetic campaign. Word has it that Thomas has backing from a number of prominent St. Landry political leaders, so don't be surprised if there is a Guillory/Thomas run-0ff here.

House District 42 in Acadia and Lafayette parishes pits LCRM darling and former Crowley mayor Isabella delaHoussaye against Democrat Jack Montoucet. Montoucet comes across as a down-to-earth guy. He speaks French in his spots. All but two of the precincts in this district are in Acadia Parish. It should be a close race.

House District 43 in south Lafayette Parish. This is the race to succeed Ernie Alexander who many (including Ernie) feel was forced out of the race when Mike Michot pushed Page Cortez into the race. Much like Michot did with Mike Foster when Michot defeated Max Jordan, Cortez has clung to Michot throughout the campaign. Cortez has been helped immensely by the Michot camp's successful orchestration of a mainstream media campaign against his opponent, Patrick LeBlanc. LeBlanc and his brother are said to be players in an investigation of county officials in Texas who apparently did not report contributions and favors LeBlanc's company allegedly provided them. For the elites in Lafayette, LeBlanc's chief crime appears to be opposing the Michots. Some civic-minded group should have set up field showers outside precincts in this district.

House District 44 is on the eastside of Lafayette Parish and there are five candidates (all Democrats) vying to succeed term-limited Wilfred Pierre. This is a strong field of candidates. The main question will be how will Consolidated Government Councilman Chris Williams fare? Williams, who came to prominence with ties to Raymond Blanco, lost is cool during the effort to win support for renaming a major Lafayette street in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, defaced the council's dais, prompting charges to be filed against him. Now that the dust has settled from that, it will be interesting to see if he can still play on his perceived victim hood and turn that into votes. The candidates to watch are Fred Prejean and Terry Landry. Prejean is a community leader who has served on the planning commission. Terry Landry is the former head of the Louisiana State Police. Attorney Derriel McCorvey is a formidable candidate, who may cut into Williams' base. Ricky Hardy is a long-time member of the Lafayette Parish School Board with proven vote-getting ability.

House District 50
centers in the Franklin area but includes parts of Iberia, St. Martin and St. Mary parishes. Former Franklin mayor Sam Jones, who spent the past four years working for Governor Kathleen Blanco, heads the field in this all-Democrat, three-man race. The other candidates are Allen McEllroy and Kenny Scelfo, Jr.

House District 51 finds incumbent Democratic Representative Carla Dartez in a jam. She's got two Democratic opponents (Estelle Mahoney and Nick Morris) and a Republican. The Republican is getting help from the LCRM. The Department of Homeland Security is helping the Republican, too, arresting Dartez' husband (who happens to be a member of the Democratic State Central Committee) on charges of hiring five (count 'em, five) illegal aliens. Would this be selective enforcement with a political motivation? Nah! Not with the Bush administration! This race stretches across parts of St. Mary, Assumption and Terrebonne parishes.

House District 67 in East Baton Rouge Parish features an all-Democratic field, but with environmental attorney David Brown trying to lead a progressive takeover of the seat. The other candidates in the race are Metro Parish Councilwoman Lorri Burgess and Patricia Smith. Brown, who is white, is trying to pull together a multi-racial, progressive coalition that could serve as a model for other progressive campaigns across Louisiana in years to come.

House District 77 pits Democratic firebrand and successful businesswoman Angelique LaCour against a pair of Republicans. The district is centered in St. Tammany Parish, with some precincts spilling over into Tangipahoa Parish. Angelique has had to fight moribund Democratic Party (let's be honest; they're more like clubs) in those two parishes. She could make the run-off with a split Republican vote.

House District 78 sits entirely in Jefferson Parish and Democrat David Quidd is taking on four Republicans in this race. It will be interesting to see if David's sound reasoning can make headway for the party against this gang of ideologues spouting the conservative buzzwords of the day to what must be considered the heart of Louisiana Republicanism.

House District 94 is something of a rematch of the spring special election, but with subtle changes that could signify big differences in the outcome. Republican Nick Lorusso won this seat in the special election this spring, beating Democrat Deborah Langhoff into the run0ff by just over 80 votes. Langhoff had done all of the heavy lifting in the primary, decrying the dynastic attempt of incumbent Representative Peppi Bruneau to manipulate the election process in order to hand his seat to his son Jeb. The LCRM trashed Langhoff in the final days of the campaign, allowing Lorusso to make the runoff. But, Langhoff's campaign against the manipulation paid off for Lorusso, who handily defeated Jeb Bruneau in the runoff. Now, Adrian Bruneau is carrying the family name in what has turned out to be a much more bitter Republican family feud than the spring election. Langhoff, meanwhile, has been running the grassroots campaign she did not have the time to run in the short-cycled special election in the spring. If there is a run-0ff in this race, Langhoff will be in it and there will be a group of pissed off Republicans who might not be able to bring themselves to endorse the Republicans who trashed them in this primary.

I believe Langhoff either wins outright tonight or makes the run-off. The LCRM will come back to attack her if there is a run-off, but voters know Deborah now. She's one of them. The LCRM will have their work cut out for them. And, this time, we'll be ready!

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