Tuesday, 21 June 2016 18:25

Louisiana's US Senate race sniping tolls along with polls

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by Lou Gehrig Burnett, Publisher of Fax-Net

Senate race taking shape
    When Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter lost the governor’s race to Democrat John Bel Edwards and decided not to seek a third term in the U.S. Senate, it was a given that several viable candidates would decide to run for the political plum.
    Four Republicans and two Democrats threw their hats into the political ring who are considered the most viable among a growing list of candidates.  When the declarations of candidacy settled, political analysts began to assess the race.

    Two candidates stood out among the field in the early going – Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy and Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell.  The smart money was on those two to wind up in the runoff.
    And that seems to be the way the race is shaping up at this point. A word of caution, however. The primary is not until November 8 with qualifying taking place on July 20-22. Politics are always unpredictable in Louisiana – as the governor’s race verified.
    But two recent polls on the U.S. Senate race seem to confirm early predictions.  Kennedy leads in both and Campbell has moved into second place in the most recent poll.  Still, about a third of the state’s voters remain undecided.
    The latest poll, taken by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research between May 31 and June 2, showed Kennedy with 24% and Campbell with 14%.  In third place was U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany with 11%.  Undecided respondents totaled 33%.
    The other three major candidates were in single digits.  Democrat Caroline Fayard had 9%, while Republicans U.S. Rep. John Fleming had 7% and retired Air Force Colonel Rob Maness had 3%.
    An earlier poll taken between May 19 and May 23 by Southern Media Opinion Research (SMOR) had these results: Kennedy 32%, Boustany 10%, Campbell 9%, Fleming 5%, Maness 4%, and Fayard 4%.
    Two additional candidates were polled in the SMOR poll who were not included in the Anzalone Liszt survey.  Troy Hebert, an independent, had 2%, and Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta, a Republican who has not officially announced, had 1%.
    Pollster Jim Kitchens of The Kitchens Group says poll toplines can be analyzed using other information to give a fuller picture of where a race really is.
    “Every Louisiana pollster makes reasonable adjustments to the test ballot based on historical outcomes that show 95% of African-Americans vote for a Democrat,” Kitchens said.
    He added, “With the large percentage of African-American vote being undecided, and knowing that up to 33% of total turnout could be from African-American voters this year, even if it splits between the two Democrats, Foster Campbell moves into a highly competitive position to not only make a runoff, but to overtake Kennedy.”
    Campbell, who resides in Elm Grove in Bossier Parish, told the Fax-Net:  “What we’re seeing on paper is matching the feedback we are getting on the campaign trail.  We’ve got the momentum and we’re going to grow it.”
    He noted that he has the endorsement of Gov. Edwards, which is proving to be a big asset to his campaign.  “I backed him for governor and he promised to support me in the Senate race.  He is a man of his word, and I appreciate his support,” Campbell said.
    Campbell, to show his confidence, has put $250,000 of his own money into the race to jump-start his campaign.  He says he is being successful in raising money in all parts of the state.

Deja vu all over again?
    There are signs that the U.S. Senate race could be an instant replay of the governor’s race.  With four viable Republicans running, the race is on to see which one can make it to the runoff with a Democrat, likely Foster Campbell.
    In the governor’s race, there were three viable GOP candidates with U.S. Sen. David Vitter considered a shoo-in to make the runoff against state Rep. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat.
    Republicans Jay Dardenne and Scott Angelle zeroed in on Vitter, and the race turned nasty and contentious.  In the process, Dardenne and Angelle did Vitter in, but neither was able to knock him from the runoff position.
    Bruised and battered, Vitter limped into the runoff where Democrat Edwards defeated him handily, 56 to 44%, considered a major upset in blood-red Louisiana.
    Sniping has already begun among some of the Republican U.S. Senate candidates.  In this scenario, state Treasurer John Kennedy is the odds-on favorite to make the runoff. But the three other GOP candidates – U.S. Reps. Charles Boustany and John Fleming and retired Air Force Col Rob Maness believe they have a good chance to make the runoff.
    Maness fired the first shot.  When Southern Media Opinion Research’s poll was released by Kennedy, Maness was quick to point out that it was paid for by Lane Grigsby, one of Kennedy’s biggest donors.
    He said he was dismayed by the Kennedy campaign’s blatant dishonesty in touting the poll as “independent.”  Maness said Kennedy’s numbers are “hardly impressive when you take into account his near universal name ID resulting from his years as a career politician.”
    Fleming entered the fray by exposing the fact that Boustany and members of his official congressional  staff were caught on the official FacebookLive stream having strategic discussions regarding the Louisiana Senate race.
    Fleming pointed out that in the course of those discussions, comments were directed at both him and Kennedy  He also pointed out that Boustany voted to slash funding for the Office of Congressional Ethics, the watchdog that is tasked with holding members of Congress accountable for upholding the high ethical standards voters demand.
    This is just the beginning of what promises to be a spirited and hotly contested U.S. Senate election.  The political pot is beginning to boil and, as in the governor’s race, will likely boil over during TV debates.

Lou Gehrig Burnett

Lou Gehrig Burnett is the publisher of Fax-Net, a North-Louisiana newsletter.


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