Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Blanco Is Out. What Now?

This evening Governor Blanco announced that she will not be seeking re-election. This is not entirely surprising. This eventuality has been talked about for some time. The hurricanes of 2005 claim yet another victim.

Given the heavy criticism that Blanco came in for in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, her popularity never really recovered. In addition, with many of the Democratic voting areas of New Orleans still sparsely populated, her chances of running again successfully were pretty thin. Ray Nagin got away with it (God knows why), but Blanco's chances were never that strong to begin with.

Blanco was also facing a strong challenge from Bobby Jindal. Jindal gave Blanco a good run for her money in the last Gubernatorial race. With the millstone of the storms around her proverbial neck, it was probably not a race Blanco could win this time. Thus, Blanco's decision not to run makes political sense.

The question though is what happens next. In fact, there are several 'what happens next ?' questions.

The first issue is not too hard to fathom. Ex-Senator John Breaux has been the next Democratic heir apparent for some time. In all likelihood, he will announce his candidacy for the Governorship at some time in the very near future. In fact, it would be no surprise, if he made an announcement in the next couple of days.

Breaux is a very seasoned politician, who had a great many Senate terms to build up a large network of contacts and potential contributors. Given that he also holds an important lobbying position, he is unlikely to have too much trouble building a campaign war chest easily and quickly. He is also still quite popular in the State of Louisiana and remains untainted by the storms of 2005, being out of politics during this period. Thus, Breaux represents the Democrats best hope of holding onto the Governorship.

It is likely that the race between Jindal and Breaux will be a reasonably wild one. They both will have large amounts of money at their disposal. This means that the television commercials will start flowing thick and fast. If things turn negative, which in all likelihood they will, then it could be quite a bruising contest. Breaux does not have any known skeletons in his proverbial closet, yet (Republicans are probably thinking things up, as I write). Jindal may have to be careful about his popularity with the Stupid W. Bush White house in his early career. I usually hate the use of the term 'colorful', when it is applied to Louisiana politics. However, this could be one race in which it might actually be appropriate.

A more interesting question concerns what will happen next, as Blanco works out her final months in office. As was noted here before, Blanco's recently announced $235 million increase in Higher Education spending could become a casualty. During a recent Special Session, State Legislators refused to do Blanco's bidding. With her in lame duck mode, it will be interesting to see what happens with this and her other similar proposals. Optimism is probably not the correct disposition, however.

That being said, although a number of State Senators are term limited, a larger number are up for re-election. This could persuade them to support Blanco's more popular proposals. Even they have been known to act rationally, when it concerns their own best interests. On these matters, it is probably too early to tell how things will pan out.

A more interesting question concerns what will happen to Governor Blanco's husband, Raymond 'Coach' Blanco. 'Coach' has for a long time had the reputation as being one of the most important power brokers in recent Louisiana politics. With his wife no longer in the Governor's mansion, questions arise about what will happen to his powerful political network. Will this 'machine' just go quietly into retirement, or will it find new projects to pursue behind the scenes? Whatever the answer to this question, few people will ever likely know the true answer.

There are two things that are for sure. First, the old saying, common in these parts, that "Louisiana has the best politicians that money can buy" will have a significant reprise, as the major campaigns seek contributor dollars. No doubt the corporate lobbying types are already lining up with their check books and bundles of notes in plain brown envelopes. The second thing that is a certainty is that, no matter how the people of Louisiana (both dead and alive, as is the tradition) eventually vote, the politicians will win (and in all likelihood, the people will not)!

The CP


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