Tuesday, 13 September 2011 13:39

Bobby Jindal and the Demise of the Louisiana Democratic Party

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JindalQualifying is over, and the fall elections are officially underway.  These elections will be quite different from any other elections we have seen in Louisiana. 

The news media, whose members are usually more liberal than the electorate in general, has been frustrated over the prospect that Governor Bobby Jindal (R) might draw no significant opposition; and much to their chagrin that is exactly what happened.  The media would never have been this out of touch if it had been looking at the road that Louisiana politics has been headed down for some time and the path that Gov. Bobby Jindal has sent this state. 

 Louisiana voters have become very conservative and less than enamored with the politicians both here at home and in our nation's capitol.  When he was elected Bobby Jindal offered a new hope for Louisiana.  Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) did not seek re-election, and Congressman Bobby Jindal breezed to a primary victory. 

One of Jindal's first acts as governor was a special legislative session to enact financial disclosure for public officials whether elected or appointed.  The public loved it, the public officials hated it, and the media did not think it went far enough.  Regardless, Bobby Jindal accomplished what no other governor had done in the past; and, despite whatever flaws the disclosure law may have, financial disclosure is the law in this state. 

In addition, Bobby Jindal has managed to balance the state budget without tax increases and shrink the size of government.  Like the federal government state government has long had a spending problem, not a revenue problem. 

The media has missed one very simple fact.  Voters like Bobby Jindal.  They call him Bobby.  Not Governor Jindal.  Simply, Bobby.  His popularity is unquestioned. 

In the waning days of qualifying, two possible opponents to Bobby Jindal emerged.  State Senator Rob Marionneaux (D) and businessman John Georges each carefully considered the race for governor.  Both men had polls that cast Gov. Jindal in a light that suggested he could be defeated for re-election.  Such polls are easy to run.  Simply frame the questions in a way that begs the answer you are looking for.  But that is not the way to measure the electability of an incumbent.  The real question is not could Bobby Jindal be defeated for re-election, but could he realistically be defeated.  And the answer is a very loud, "No!"

 If Bobby Jindal were truly beatable, no polls would have been necessary.  There would have been a long list of candidates campaigning well before the qualifying period opened.  The candidates would have been well financed, and politicians, like sharks, would have been smelling blood in the water.  Just look at the election four years ago when Congressman Bobby Jindal, John Georges (N), Sen. Walter Boasso (D), Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell (D) and others were campaigning against Gov. Blanco.  There were no such candidates this time campaigning against incumbent Bobby Jindal, and that tells you that Bobby was well on his way to re-election.  No one needed a poll to tell us that.

 The amazing aspect of this election season, however, is that the Louisiana Democratic Party fielded no major candidates for statewide office relinquishing any chance of a Democrat holding office in state government.  The lone remaining Democrat elected statewide is U. S. Senator Mary Landrieu.

 For all practical purposes the Louisiana Democratic Party is non-existent when it comes to state politics.  It will have to rely on Democrat state legislators to carry its banner as it puts up the loyal opposition to Governor Jindal and Republicans.  Look for Democrats to argue that they are still relevant.  But those arguments will be weak.  Look for more partisan politics in the legislature and for pressure on conservative Democrats, if any still exist after this election cycle, to switch parties.  Republicans and Democrats will go at it over the size of state government, the programs it funds, and the taxes and other revenues needed to pay for it. It will be a mini version of the fighting that goes on in Washington. 

Although the governor's race won't be much to watch, the races for Lt. Governor and Secretary of State will be fun.  The big question is whether or not Democrats will rally around Republican incumbents Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne and Secretary of State Tom Schedler.   Republican Sen. David Vitter has endorsed Billy Nungessor over Jay Dardenne and House Speaker Jim Tucker over Tom Schedler.  If Democrats do assist Dardenne and Schedler, it would be to derail Sen. Vitter (R) who is taking a very active role in this year's elections and is someone Democrats see as a possible candidate for governor in 2015.  Taking Sen. Vitter down a few notches would please Democrats greatly. 

So be encouraged.  State politics will be worth watching this fall after all.  The implications of this year’s statewide elections will have long term implications for Louisiana’s political future and for Bobby Jindal’s success during his next term as Governor.

By Lawrence Chehardy

Lawrence ChehardyAbout Lawrence Chehardy

For thirty-four years Lawrence Chehardy served as Assessor of Jefferson Parish and throughout his career has been a champion the maintenance of the Homestead Exemption.  During his years as Assessor Lawrence Chehardy served as President, Vice-president, and Treasure of the Louisiana Assessors’ Association. He also served on numerous boards and committees of the association.

Chehardy has extensive knowledge of politics, political campaigning, and the political process. When it comes to political strategy and creating the campaign’s message, Lawrence is one of the best. Lawrence Chehardy has been instrumental in the election of numerous candidates through endorsements as well as campaign strategy. In many cases his endorsement turned the election in favor of those candidates.

In addition to his political commentary and public speaking engagements, Lawrence Chehardy is a founding member of the Chehardy, Sherman, Ellis, Murray, Recile, Griffith, Stakelum & Hayes Law Firm and serves as its managing partner.



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