APRIL ELECTIONS: THE UPS, THE DOWNS
The April 4 election results in New Orleans and Jefferson spoke volumes. In New Orleans, where Mayor Ray Nagin has heavy-handedly played the race card in recent weeks on unrelated matters, a biracial coalition quietly helped elect two white judges and one black judge in a citywide special election.
Against that backdrop, it's remarkable that white judicial candidates Joe Landry (Municipal Court) and Mark Shea (Traffic Court) teamed with African-American judicial candidate Tammy Stewart (Juvenile Court) and put together a very effective biracial coalition of supporters across town. Landry and Shea each won with 79 percent of the vote, and Stewart, who faced tougher opposition, won with 63 percent of the vote. What's even more impressive is the fact that all three candidates ran extremely well citywide, with no significant differences in their showings in black-majority precincts and white-majority precincts. For example, in mostly white Lakeview (where both Landry and Shea live), Stewart got roughly her citywide total of 63 percent. The same is true of Landry and Shea's respective performances in black precincts.
In Jefferson, state Sen. Julie Quinn, who has often challenged the parish's entrenched political players, was roundly thrashed by newcomer Cynthia Lee-Sheng, who ran with the staunch support of most of the parish's entrenched political players, including Sheriff Newell Normand. Quinn has to be seriously disappointed in her showing. Ditto for her longtime boyfriend, parish Councilman at-Large John Young. The initial polls for Lee-Sheng had the senator leading by several percentage points, according to sources in Lee-Sheng's campaign. After a pair of political attack ads that nailed Quinn for "missing" key legislative votes and for having a federal tax lien on her home, Lee-Sheng zoomed past Quinn and stayed far ahead. No doubt Lee-Sheng's huge fundraising advantage also helped. She outspent Quinn by at least $120,000.
Young broke ranks with his fellow council members and worked hard to help Quinn, whom he has been dating for several years. Quinn's loss tarnishes his star as well. Young had been mentioned prominently as an obvious successor to Parish President Aaron Broussard, but now that title belongs to fellow at-large Councilman Tom Capella, though 2011 is a long way off, and a lot could change between now and then. As with Quinn, Young has some fences to mend. —Clancy DuBos
Claitor Victory = Jindal Defeat
Even with a round of recorded phone calls from Gov. Bobby Jindal blanketing Senate District 16 the weekend of Apr. 4, businessman Lee Domingue managed to carry only a dozen precincts, making way for fellow Republican and Baton Rouge attorney Dan Claitor to become the region's newest state senator. Claitor won over 11,700 voters, or 66 percent, to Domingue's 6,100 count, or 34 percent, which was practically the same percentage of the electorate he carried in the March primary, minus four points. Since it was a spring special election, Claitor will be forced to hit the ground running. He's expected to be sworn in just before the start of the regular session on April 27.
Considering how negligible Domingue's progress was, Claitor shares his 91-precinct victory in part with local consultant Laurinda L. Calongne, who came in third in the primary but later endorsed Claitor's campaign. Despite Jindal's promise to stay clear of legislative races, Domingue was the governor's first legislative endorsement; that Domingue has donated more than $118,000 in support of the governor and is close friends with a few of Jindal's top advisors helps make some sense of the decision.
While the move certainly helps Jindal secure his position among conservative Christian groups, it is yet another race in which the governor picked the wrong horse — there was the Woody Jenkins nod during Baton Rouge's congressional race last year, as well as the endorsement of state Treasurer John Kennedy's bid for the U.S. Senate.
At this point, even conservative bloggers are questioning Jindal's choices. "Jindal had little to gain politically by favoring one Republican over another and with Claitor's victory now has created a legislator who will be somewhat less than gung-ho about his agenda even if they largely share policy preferences," wrote Jeffrey Sadow, associate professor of political science at LSU-Shreveport.
As for the money that went into this contest, the most recent campaign finance reports on file with the state show Domingue was out-raising Claitor two-to-one during the last weeks of the campaign. Among Domingue's top donors during this last leg were a slew of Jindal supporters who each gave $2,500, including Edward Rispone of Baton Rouge and Bollinger Shipyards of Lockport, owned by Boysie Bollinger. Claitor saw final-week donations of $2,500 from various family members; the Louisiana Manufacturers PAC; Cajun Industries, owned by Lane Grigsby; and Michael C. Palmintier from the law firm of deGravelles, Palmintier, Holthaus, Frugé in Baton Rouge.
Domingue also spent more, about $430,000 to Claitor's $154,000 in expenses. By that count alone, Domingue spent $70 for every voter in his column. In comparison, Claitor spent only $13. These figures, however, are sure to increase as both of the contenders file follow-up reports with the state ethics board. For now, there is an upside to all the money spent on negative advertising and high-volume rhetoric that was thrown around Red Stick: It's over. —Jeremy Alford
BOBBY GETS THE BUM RUSH?
Is the bloom off the bro-mance between Bobby Jindal and radio kingpin Rush Limbaugh? On the April 8 edition of Fox's Your World With Neil Cavuto, the host asked Limbaugh to name his favorite "up-and-coming Republicans," and Limbaugh came up with a couple of unexpected names: South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
An oversight? Or a slight? In 2008, Limbaugh was referring to Jindal as "the next Ronald Reagan," and suggesting he would be the ideal vice-presidential candidate for Sen. John McCain. As late as Feb. 25 — the morning after Jindal's widely-panned response to President Barack Obama's address to Congress — Limbaugh had asserted, "I love Bobby Jindal and that did not change after last night ... I have great enthusiasm for Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, and nothing that happened last night changed my mind." —Kevin Allman