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|Governor's race gets more interesting|
If Gov. Kathleen Blanco and Congressman Bobby Jindal held any hope that the two of them would stand as the only two candidates in the gubernatorial race later this year, they most likely can forget it.
At least that would appear to be the case in light of developments involving two men whose presence in the campaign, if it comes to fruition, will greatly alter the dynamics of what is shaping up to be one of the most closely watched governor's races in Louisiana in 25 years.
That Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, a Democrat from Elm Grove, hired veteran consultant George Kennedy to handle his campaign sent a message that Campbell's dead serious about taking on the governor and Jindal, the presumptive Republican candidate who e-mailed a fundraising letter last week in which he squelched any doubt that he's running for governor again.
That Jim Bernhard of Baton Rouge, the CEO of the Shaw Group who ran the state Democratic Party for a spell, is getting organized to make the race himself with a boat load of his own money sent a message that the decision makers politically in Louisiana are looking for an alternative to Blanco and Jindal, the front runner in the race at this time.
A Bernhard candidacy spells big trouble for Blanco. It spells trouble for the governor on the fund-raising front and among white voters who supported the lady from Lafayette four years ago because they couldn't bring themselves to vote for a man of color. That being Jindal.
For months many of Blanco's key financial backers in the governor's race four years ago acknowledged privately that they didn't think the governor could beat Jindal under any circumstances. Those heavy hitters have been holding out hope that another white Democrat (besides Campbell) would get into the race and force Blanco to the sidelines, thus freeing them up to place their bets on a horse they feel they can do business with down the road.
Bernhard would fill that void.
A Bernhard candidacy spells trouble for Jindal, too.
Many of those white voters who fell into the Blanco corner four years ago and have since grown to regret not voting for Jindal now have an alternative to the upstart congressman from Kenner. Besides, Bernhard speaks fairly slowly, something a Redneck understands.
While a Bernhard candidacy will garner headlines for awhile and most likely will overshadow Jindal's pending announcement, don't underestimate Campbell.
The former state senator, outspoken to say the least, made a name for himself years ago by repeatedly calling for a processing tax on foreign oil, a tax that never stood a chance of being approved by the Legislature in the face of stiff opposition from the oil and gas industry. The gentlemen in alligator shoes, as Campbell tagged lobbyists for the oil industry, beat him at every turn.
Campbell, if he makes the race when qualifying arrives, will attract support among white voters with his populist message. It's a message that he's the candidate for the working class, men and women who live paycheck to paycheck. Those are white voters Blanco was counting on, especially in the Florida parishes and northeastern Louisiana where it remains to be seen if they can vote for a man who isn't as white as they are.
Jindal needs those white voters, too, for they are the voters who cost him the governor's race four years ago. That would explain why Jindal has spent a great deal of time in northeast Louisiana as of late, pressing the flesh at civic club luncheons and the like from the hills of Lincoln Parish to the flatland in the Delta.
Where does that leave the black vote in the governor's race of 2007? Who are they most likely to support?
That depends on two things.
It depends on whether Blanco can repair her fractured relationship with black voters and their leaders, especially in the Legislature and in the churches, the latter being far more important.
Which way the black vote turns also will depend greatly on whether Bernhard, if he becomes a candidate, wants to make the promises and spend the money needed to garner their support.
Still, there remains the big if.
That being if Blanco runs for re-election.
And that became a bigger if with Bernhard making waves that he's a likely candidate.