Louisiana Politics: Even with an earlier start, turnout still looks bleak

First the bad news.

Secretary of State Tom Schedler said in an interview that he fears turnout could be as low as 10 percent for this month’s runoff elections on Nov. 18.

Now for something with more of a positive spin. The early voting process started last Friday — one day earlier than usual, for the first time ever, and will continue through Saturday, Nov. 11

Legislators changed the law a couple of years ago to permit Schedler’s office to add more days when holidays populate the early voting calendar. (Veterans Day is Friday, and state offices will be closed.)

The forecast for early voting is around 60,000 votes, according to the secretary of state’s office, with maybe 240,000 additional voters showing up on Election Day.

If that is indeed the case, Schedler said it would “truly be historic in terms of turnout for a statewide election.”

Moreover, it would definitely add support for Schedler’s argument that election fatigue may warrant a change to state law to replace major special elections with temporary appointments.

“It costs the same to host the special treasurer’s election as it did the presidential election in 2016, when close to 70 percent of voters participated,” the secretary said.

Governor expects toughest re-election battle in U.S.

Gov. John Bel Edwards is reminding his donors that he is the “only Democratic governor in the Deep South” and that he’ll be “tested with one of the toughest re-elections in the entire country,” according to his fundraising appeals from last week.

It’s an early indication that Republicans will be targeting Edwards heavily in 2019, and that the governor’s campaign staff is expecting nothing less.

Those involved with the Edwards re-election campaign say the fundraising team is on pace to meet this year’s goal, although it’s unclear whether that’ll match the roughly $3 million collected in 2016 by the governor.

GUMBO PAC, the pro-Edwards vehicle from 2015, is still kicking around as well. The super PAC is more organized for the 2019 cycle than the last go around and it recently hosted a well-attended alligator hunt fundraiser.

Waiting on Medicaid contracts
How do you grant $15.4 billion worth of state contract extensions?

If you’re on the Joint Budget Committee, you take your time. After postponing a major contract in late October, the committee once again opted to delay action in case there are any cost savings being overlooked.

The extensions are needed for the five companies that manage health insurance for most of the state’s Medicaid enrollees. The massive contracts include another 23 months of operations.

Many committee members initially wanted more time with the supporting documents, but conservatives dug in for an additional pause this month based on fiscal concerns.

House Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, in particular, wanted to see if the Louisiana Department of Health could create additional cost-savings in the contracts before the end of the calendar year.

Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, among others, doubted the department would be able to find any possible reductions.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, in a statement, said the contracts were crafted with an “unprecedented attention to detail and represented the high quality work we should expect of state agencies on behalf of taxpayers.”

Political History:
A bankrupt affair
Saturday, Nov. 11, marks the 33rd anniversary of the closing of the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition, which had the distinction of being the only world’s fair to declare bankruptcy during its run.

According to The Times-Picayune’s coverage from that time, fair organizers initially projected that they would draw 11 million visitors. Only 7 million showed, however, and $100 million was lost.

Here’s more from the 1984 coverage: “The fair’s most visible attraction was a $10 million gondola ride that crossed the Mississippi River 200 feet in the air. Builders envisioned that the gondola would carry on after the fair, conveying commuters from the West Bank to the Warehouse District. The attraction got off to a rough start when Archbishop Philip Hannan blessed the gondola on opening day, boarded a
car headed for Algiers and got stuck dangling over the river. …”

Peter Spurney, the man hired to run the fair, offered this summary to The Times-Pic: “I always wanted to know if I could do something like this from start to finish,” he said. “I guess the answer is no.”

For more Louisiana political news, visit www.LaPolitics.com or follow Jeremy Alford on Twitter @LaPoliticsNow.

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