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|Most important PR gig in Louisiana|
There was a time when serving as lieutenant governor in Louisiana was a pretty prestigious job.
Think about it.
Prior to the 1974 Constitutional Convention, the lieutenant governor presided over the state Senate. Of course, he also was next in line to become governor in the event that the governor became incapacitated.
More important, though, lieutenant governors who served from the mid-1850s until the '74 Constitutional Convention often used the office as a spring board to run for governor. It was more prevalent back in the day when Louisiana politics was dominated by the Long and anti-Long factions.
James Noe comes to mind. Earl Long comes to mind, too. So do "Big Bad" Bill Dodd, Taddy Aycock and Jimmy Fitzmorris. All of them served as lieutenant governor before running for governor. Only Long was successful in realizing his dream. Aycock remains the longest serving lieutenant governor in modern history in Louisiana. He served three terms.
Why pay a brief visit to the history of lieutenant governors in Louisiana?
Because the Oct. 2 special primary election for lieutenant governor reminds us of yesteryear, meaning the candidates who are vying to fill Mitch Landrieu's unexpired term would be in a prime position to run for governor if many of the political handicappers are correct in their prediction that Gov. Bobby Jindal will bolt for the national political stage in the 2012 presidential race.
Secretary of State Jay Dardenne is one of the candidates who hopes to follow in Landrieu's footsteps, though Jindal tapped Scott Angelle earlier this year to serve as lieutenant governor until a special election could be held this fall. Landrieu gave up the office when he was elected mayor of New Orleans in February.
A moderate Republican from Baton Rouge who served in the state Senate for a spell, Dardenne has an edge in the race over his primary opponents for two reasons. No. 1, Dardenne has been elected statewide twice. Accordingly, his name registers with voters from one end of the state to the other. No. 2, Dardenne had about $700,000 on hand at the beginning of this week. That puts him in a good position to buy those all-important campaign television commercials.
State Sen. Butch Gautreaux is in the race, too. A Democrat from Morgan City in St. Mary Parish, Gautreaux is a likeable man who says he has no desire to serve as governor, assuming he's elected lieutenant governor and later became governor because the current governor was tapped to run for vice president or to fill a cabinet post in a Republican administration.
Gautreaux had the right idea when he jumped into the lieutenant governor's race, thinking he would be the lone Democrat running in a field of Republicans.
What Gautreaux didn't count on was another Democrat qualifying in July. That other Democrat was Caroline Fayard, a daughter of Calvin Fayard.
Calvin Fayard is a highly successful plaintiff's attorney who has a long track record of donating big money to Democratic candidates all over the country. Caroline Fayard is a plaintiff's attorney, too, and she also has a significant record of making sizable contributions to Democrats.
Besides, she's good looking.
She's apparently a FOB, too. That being a Friend of Bill. As in Bill Clinton.
Clinton hosted a fundraiser for Fayard last week in New York. Presumably, Fayard raised a boat load of money to go along with the boat load of money she's been raising from the plaintiff's bar to finance her campaign for lieutenant governor.
Three other Republicans are in the race, who, on paper, are appealing to conservative Republicans, who have never been fans of Dardenne.
One of them is Kevin Davis, parish president in St. Tammany. Another one is Roger Villere, chairman of the state Republican Party. Finally, there's country music singer Sammy Kershaw of Kaplan, who opposed Landrieu for lieutenant governor in 2007.
Davis hails from an area of the state that has experienced vast growth over the past 30 years. That would be the Northshore of New Orleans. From most accounts, Davis has done an excellent job in running St. Tammany, though he probably has his detractors like most elected officials.
Widely regarded as an effective party chairman, Villere's candidacy raised an eyebrow or two when he qualified. It was perceived as a conflict of interest since, as party chairman, he could possibly use his position to advance his own interests at the expense of other Republicans. That apparently hasn't occurred in light of the poor traction Villere has mustered thus far in the campaign.
Kershaw is a showman. An entertainer. And a pretty good singer to boot.
Kershaw also is adamant that all he cares to do is promote Louisiana.
It's probably a good thing that all Kershaw wants to do is tell the world what a wonderful place Louisiana is. Because a lieutenant governor in Louisiana has one job and one job only: promote the state in the eyes of the tourism industry.
That's what the lieutenant governor's office became thanks to the '74 Constitutional Convention—a PR gig.
It's a PR gig, though, that places the office holder one step away from becoming governor.