Money in Senate race opens up

By John Maginnis and Jeremy Alford

The two leading candidates in next year’s U.S. Senate race are currently holding more than $8 million collectively in their campaign war chests. That’s setting up the contest between incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu and Congressman Bill Cassidy to possibly be Louisiana’s most expensive Senate race ever.

But, as he does on most other issues related to Bayou State politics, Gov. Bobby Jindal remains a factor. On the heels of mounting speculation, the governor told the Associated Press over the weekend that he would not be entering the fray.

“Absolutely not, emphatically no,” Jindal said.

Baton Rouge pollster Bernie Pinsonat said Jindal’s decision could “probably, to some degree” help free up new donations for fellow Republican Cassidy. But Cassidy, whose political base is the Baton Rouge region, still has to make significant inroads with the far right of the GOP, which he has never been forced to do as a congressman.

“The religious right is certainly something he has to worry about, but time will take care of that unless they can come up with a candidate,” Pinsonat said. “But he’s a sitting congressman and that gives him a leg up. If the religious right does find a challenger fast, that alternative candidate is still going to need to raise $5 million or $6 million in a hurry, which will be difficult to do.”

Landrieu, a New Orleans Democrat, will soon report to the Federal Election Commission that she raised $1.67 million during the second quarter, bringing her cash on hand to more than $4.86 million — $2 million greater than what she had in the bank at this point during her last re-election.

Cassidy brings up the rear with $1.1 million raised during the last quarter and $3.2 million cash on hand. As for a historical perspective, last time Sen. David Vitter, a Metairie Republican, faced re-election in 2010, he had raised and banked practically the same amount during the second quarter the year prior.

Speaker Candidates Show Hands

House Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, appreciates the title, but what he really wants is the gavel.

“I will absolutely be a candidate for speaker,” Leger said.

While Leger still has to navigate the final two regular sessions in the current term and secure re-election, sources tell LaPolitics that he has also been shopping around the idea of running for attorney general in 2015, which is when lawmakers will share the ballot.

“Certainly I’ve talked to people about that race and others,” Leger said, “but right now I’m really enjoying my time in the Legislature and being speaker pro tem and all the opportunities that affords me.”

Meanwhile, Republicans are beginning to look within their own ranks for a contender for speaker. It’s a divided field, as evidenced by this year’s session, but those interviewed are hopeful for a united front.

One being name floated is that of Rep. Chris Broadwater of Hammond, a freshman who managed to work with both the conservative Fiscal Hawks during the recent session as well as party faithfuls.

“I’ve had a couple of colleagues approach me about it, so I have given it some thought,” he said. “But ultimately it’s up to the body. There is a lot of time between now and then.”

Another name mentioned by conservatives in the House is Criminal Justice Chairman Joseph P. Lopinto of Metairie.

“I’ve made it known to a few people that I am considering running,” he said. “I think I have an organizational set that makes me good for the job. Let’s just see what the next two years bring.”

Looking ahead, the next governor could follow the path taken by Gov. Jindal. Whether intentional or not, Jindal backed a term-limited lawmaker, former Rep. Jim Tucker, upon taking office in 2008, which allowed him to change up leadership — and garner fresh commitments — in the current term with Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles.

Opelousas Senator Trending Online

Gov. Jindal wasn’t the only Louisiana official garnering national attention in the wake of this year’s regular session. As of July 9, state Sen. Elbert Guillory’s YouTube video, entitled “Why I Am a Republican,” had received more than 750,000 views. (See:

In the video, he explains why he switched to the GOP and why “it is the right decision, not only for me, but for all my brothers and sisters in the black community.” Interspersing images of Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln, Guillory uses the highly-polished spot to tell the history of the GOP’s abolitionist roots and to lambast Democratic support for social welfare programs.

Guillory said that it was his idea to make the video and he alone paid for its production.

“I’ve been surprised by the response,” he said. “I only did it to explain to the people back home why I switched parties.”

Within the first 36 hours of posting the video, Guillory said his office received more than 4,000 communications and a temp worker had to be hired to help with the overflow. Over the past week, an additional 6,000 communications have arrived, including media requests from New York, California and elsewhere, he said.

As for how he can build on the momentum, Guillory said he has been encouraged to run for everything from the U.S. Senate to president. “I’ll certainly never say never,” Guillory said, adding that he’s still more interested in the race for lieutenant governor in 2015.

Quotes from the Quorum

“Texas is five and a half times bigger than Louisiana, but we’re 10 and a half times more interesting than they are.”

—Treasurer John Kennedy, to the Ponchatoula Rotary Club

“This is Louisiana, after all. A big foreign company with deep pockets and you’re surprised there’s a feeding frenzy? Come on, man.”

—New Orleans plaintiff attorney Danny Abel, on the money BP is being forced to pay out in the wake of its 2010 oil spill, in Businessweek

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