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Louisiana gubernatorial candidates take part in student-led forum

Three of the four candidates for Louisiana governor fielded questions from college students in the first televised forum of the race Wednesday night.

Democrat John Bel Edwards and Republicans Jay Dardenne and Scott Angelle all participated in the forum, which aired across the state and online via Louisiana Public Broadcasting.

The event featured questions from Southeastern Louisiana University and Northshore Technical Community College students.

The forum was the latest in a series touching on specific topics. Republican David Vitter was not in attendance.

Over the course of the hour-long forum, candidates answered questions about higher education issues — including the future of the state’s Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, commonly known as TOP; the state’s workforce outlook; and sex education in classrooms — as well as other issues of interest to students, such as coastal erosion and law enforcement.

Each of the candidates stressed the importance of TOPS and expressed a commitment to the future of the program, though in varying ways.

Both Edwards and Dardenne said they were sympathetic to changes to ensure the program’s longevity, while Angelle was light on policy alterations.

All three candidates stressed the state’s need to build a business-friendly environment to further the workforce options for graduates.

All said they favor sex education in some form, although Angelle said he would include a parental “opt-out” provision.

At various points, each candidate took a swing at Gov. Bobby Jindal, though the Republican presidential candidate didn’t necessarily dominate conversation. Jindal is term limited and can’t seek reelection to the state’s top office.

In one of the lighter moments, candidates were asked to name which famous Hollywood actor he would pick to portray himself in a movie.

Here are their answers:

Bobby Jindal declares Sept. 14 ‘statewide day of prayer’ for law enforcement

Gov. Bobby Jindal has declared September 14 a “statewide day of prayer” for law enforcement in Louisiana, as the state experiences its worst spate of on-duty officer deaths in at least a decade.

“Too often, we forget the sacrifice and commitment these brave men and women make on a daily basis in order to protect our families and uphold the peace in our communities. Our officers understand the real risk and responsibility that comes with this career and we are extremely grateful for their dedicated service. We’re encouraging all Louisianians to take a few minutes out of their day to pray for and thank a local law enforcement officer for their unending commitment to our communities,” Jindal said in a statement.

In an official proclamation issued Wednesday, Jindal, a Republican running for president, urged other states to follow Louisiana in designating the day of prayer.

National attention has focused on high-profile police deaths this year. An Associated Press analysis has found, nationally, deaths are down, but Louisiana accounts for 20 percent of the nation’s total, according to a recent Advocate analysis.

Conservatives, in particular, have pointed to what they view as an anti-police sentiment in the country, in the wake of similarly high-profile deaths caused by law enforcement.

As he has campaigned in Iowa, Jindal has occasionally fielded questions about his position on sentiment toward law enforcement following high-profile shootings and the “Black Lives Matter” campaign.

Jindal, who often turns to personal anecdotes when taking questions on the campaign trail, said during one stop last month that children naturally respect law enforcement and adults shouldn’t undermine that.

“Children understand it,” he told a crowd in Le Mars, Iowa, in response to a question.

He told a story about one of his own sons, shortly after they moved into the Louisiana Governor’s Mansion, which is often occupied by Louisiana State Troopers, approaching him and asking to see his badge. He joked that he had to explain to his disappointed son that, as governor, he doesn’t have a badge.

Despite low numbers, Iowa’s top pollster crowns Bobby Jindal ‘hidden winner’ in latest poll

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal hasn’t made much traction in the Iowa polls when it comes to who is leading the GOP presidential nominee contest, but the state’s top pollster has named him the “hidden winner” in one of the latest because of his growing favorablity marks.

Still polling in the low single digits, it’s clear Jindal hasn’t cracked his way to the top of the GOP presidential field in Iowa, despite spending much of his time there since launching his bid for president on June 24.

The latest poll out from the Des Moines Register put him at 2 percent — in a three-way tie just two spots ahead of last.

But during an appearance on Bloomberg’s With All Due Respect on Tuesday, Selzer and Co. President J. Ann Selzer said Jindal could become a candidate to watch based on other findings in that same poll. (Read more about Selzer and why her analysis is so highly-regarded in Iowa here and here.)

In May, the last time the DM Register poll was conducted, 43 percent of likely Republican caucusgoers viewed Jindal favorably, to 19 percent who viewed him unfavorably.

The August survey, which took place Aug. 23-26 (the week following Jindal’s appearance at the Iowa State Fair), found his favorability has grown to 61 percent, while his unfavorable rating has held relatively steady at 18 percent. Meanwhile, the number of people who say they aren’t sure about him has continued to drop.

As Selzer summed it up on WADR: As more people learn about Jindal, they tend to like him.

“It has not translated into votes. I think he’s kind of lurking there,” Selzer said.

Watch Selzer’s full take on the latest Iowa poll via With All Due Respect. Her take on Jindal starts around the 5-minute mark.


Poll says Kip Holden and Billy Nungesser lead in the lieutenant governor race

Most voters don’t know much about the candidates for lieutenant governor, but of those who do, they’re backing Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden and former Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser to progress to the runoff, according to the Florida-based Market Research Insight pollster.

In the governor’s race, the same poll, paid for by Nungesser, showed U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-Metairie, leads the pack with 24 percent. Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, R-Breaux Bridge, and Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards, of Amite, each has 21 percent of the support.

The results fall within the 4.1 percent margin of error. Pollsters questioned 600 registered voters Monday through Wednesday last week. Verne Kennedy of Market Research Insight said the poll has 95 percent level of confidence.

Holden is the only Democrat facing three Republicans in the race for the second highest-ranking job in state government.

Nungesser was known to 58 percent of those surveyed – the highest among the four candidates. He had national visibility during Hurricane Katrina and the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and had run for lieutenant governor in 2011.

Holden has been mayor-president of East Baton Rouge, the state’s largest parish, for the past decade and in public office since 1988. He has 80 percent name recognition in the Baton Rouge metropolitan area, but only 43 percent statewide.

Jefferson Parish President John Young has run the state’s second largest parish since 2010 and served in the parish council as well as district attorney since 1997. He was known to 57 percent of the voters in the New Orleans area and 43 percent of those statewide.

State Sen. Elbert Guillory, of Opelousas, gained a measure of fame on the national conservative talk show circuit from his videos criticizing the Democratic Party and former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu. But two-thirds of the voters in the survey were unaware of him.

When asked if the election were held today, Holden received 23 percent of the vote and Nungesser picked up 20 percent. Young had 9 percent and Guillory scored 8 percent, according to the statewide survey.

The big winner, however, was “not sure,” at 41 percent.

Young launched a statewide television ad campaign a couple weeks ago, aimed at introducing himself to Louisiana voters. The total ad buy is $1.8 million for both broadcast and cable, Young’s campaign reported.

The first ad went on air Tuesday morning.  “We will have different ads, but we will stay on TV through Oct. 24,” Young said, referring to the primary election date.

Kennedy said Holden likely made it into the runoff because he’s the only Democrat. Thirty-six percent of the black voters and 17 percent of the whites – more than Young’s 10 percent of the white vote – backed Holden.

Nungesser had the strongest showing among whites, 23 percent, and voters between the ages of 55 to 64, 25 percent.

The poll also took a snapshot of the gubernatorial election.

The lead flipped from the results of a survey released by the same firm last month, which was intensely criticized by Vitter.

Asked if the election were today, Vitter would have received 24 percent, including those leaning to the senior U.S. senator, according to the survey. Angelle follows with 21 percent, as does Edwards. Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, R-Baton Rouge, trails with 13 percent, according to the poll released Tuesday.

Kennedy said Angelle’s surge is partially due to his aggressive advertising campaign and is partially a product of those voters who are hesitant about Vitter, who has very high unfavorable numbers, and have become aware of another acceptable Republican.

Whether Vitter or Angelle or even Dardenne make the Nov. 21 runoff is still up in the air, Kennedy said. But Edwards surely be one of the two finalists after the Oct. 24 primary, he said.

When the results are weighted to take into account historical voting patters – attributing 90 percent of the African-American vote to the Democratic candidate and distributing the remaining 10 percent among the GOP candidates based on each candidate’s past performance, Edwards leads with 35 percent of the total vote, followed by Vitter with 22 percent, Angelle with 19 percent and Dardenne with 11 percent, according to Kennedy.


Rob Maness’ Gator PAC backs Jeff Landry for AG

Retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness, a Louisiana Republican who unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate last fall, is backing Jeff Landry’s run for attorney general, Maness’ Gator PAC announced Wednesday.

Landry, a Republican and former congressman, faces incumbent Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, also a Republican, in the Oct. 24 election.

Landry also recently was endorsed by the Louisiana Republican Party. Meanwhile, the  Republican Party of East Baton Rouge Parish Executive Committee is backing former Democrat Caldwell.

“I know Jeff will aggressively take on the big issues that affect Louisiana,” Maness said in a news release.

Maness was a political novice last fall but managed to take nearly 13.8 percent of the vote in the Senate race, sending incumbent Mary Landrieu and eventual winner Bill Cassidy into a runoff. Often portrayed as an outsider during the campaign, Maness eventually participated in a GOP “unity rally” in the run-up to Cassidy’s win, and he has frequently been spotted at more mainstream Republican outings since.

He launched the political action committee last December.

According to the most recent Federal Elections Commission filing, donors have given Gator PAC at least $48,000 this year. The PAC had about $14,158 left in the bank at the end of the reporting period in June. Much of the money spent has gone toward travel and organizing Gator PAC’s grassroot efforts. Earlier this summer, Maness held several leadership training events for supporters.


Higher ed forum slated for candidates running for governor

Three of the four major candidates for governor will take part in a forum on the future of higher education on Wednesday.

The discussion, sponsored by Louisiana Public Broadcasting, will air throughout the state on LPB and online at 8 p.m. While there have been several gubernatorial forums already, this one is slated to be the first to air live state-wide.

Per LPB, the discussion will feature student panelists from Northshore Technical Community College and Southeastern Louisiana University. Southeastern alum Paul Rivera, who received the 2015 Louisiana Press Association Student Broadcaster of the Year Award, will serve as moderator.

Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and Public  Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, both Republicans, and Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards are expected to participate.

The election is Oct. 24, with a Nov. 21 runoff, if needed. Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter also is in the race.

Watch the forum here at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Bobby Jindal signs Norquist-backed anti-tax pledge in presidential campaign

Though its adherence became a political football in the most recent legislative session, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has again signed the Americans for Tax Reform’s no-new-tax pledge — this time for his presidential campaign.

Bobby Jindal Grover Norquist ATR pledge

Gov. Bobby Jindal

ATR, in a Tuesday news release, applauded Jindal’s latest signing of the Grover Norquist-designed “Taxpayer Protection Pledge.”

“Gov. Jindal understands that government should be reformed so that it takes and spends less of the taxpayers’ money, and will oppose tax increases that paper over and continue the failures of the past,” Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said in the release.

Jindal, who has trailed in the crowded GOP presidential candidate pool since launching his campaign June 24, signed the pledge throughout his tenure as governor. But it earned more attention this session as it became a particular point of frustration for Louisiana lawmakers who struggled to fill a $1.6 billion budget gap this session while keeping to Jindal’s “revenue neutral” promise.

Jindal’s administration ultimately came up with a widely-criticized scheme involving cigarette taxes, refundable tax credits and a virtual credit for college students.

Officials acknowledged that ATR was being consulted throughout the budgeting process so that the plan would not violate Jindal’s pledge. At one point, state lawmakers, frustrated by what they saw as constraints on the process, even reached out to Norquist himself for advice.

The whole ordeal prompted Democratic political analyst James Carville to argue in a letter to the LSU student newspaper that the pledge — and Jindal’s fear of breaking it — had made Washington D.C.-based Norquist “the most powerful person in our state.”

“Proposed legislation is routinely sent to him by the governor to seek his approval. Trust me its true,” Carville wrote.

According to ATR, in addition to Jindal, Republican presidential candidates who have signed the pledge so far include Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Rick Perry, Carly Fiorina, Dr. Ben Carson, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee and Jim Gilmore.

Donald Trump, the leading Republican in the polls, however, has reportedly been skeptical of the pledge, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has said he opposes tax hikes but has opted not to sign the pledge.

Bobby Jindal at No. 13 on USA Today’s GOP Power Rankings

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has come in at No. 13 in the first week of USA Today’s new 2016 GOP Power Rankings.

Inspired by the college football “Coaches Poll,” the GOP Power Rankings rely on a diverse group of analysts, activists and other experts to size up the Republican presidential field.

Unsurprisingly, businessman Donald Trump came out on top in Week 1. See the full rankings and a list of the voters here.

Jindal is back in Iowa campaigning this week, with an event that is being billed as his first campaign stop on an Iowa livestock farm slated for Wednesday at Leonard Limousin & Angus Farm in rural Holstein.

Per an announcement from the Iowa Federation of Republican Women, “Against a backdrop of green grass, white barns and red and black Limousin and Angus cattle, Jindal will talk with voters about topics important to them, including his pro-life stance, views on health care, religious liberty, energy and immigration.”

Jindal has made Iowa key to his presidential campaign, though he has so far struggled to break out of the low single digits in most polls.

A Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll out this week from Iowa showed Jindal among the most improved there, and noted high favorability marks for him as he continues his tour of each of the state’s 99 counties.

On the national level, a poll out from Public Policy Polling this week showed Jindal falling below 1 percent among a national audience, but similarly showed relatively high favorability and low unfavorability rates.

PSC Commissioner Campbell to endorse Edwards

Democrat gubernatorial contender John Bel Edwards is set  to be endorsed Tuesday by fellow Democrat Foster Campbell, a member of the Public Service Commission.

Edwards, a state representative from Amite, will join Edwards for a 4:30 p.m. announcement at Campbell’s PSC office in Shreveport.

Campbell will also host a fundraiser for Edwards, according to Campbell’s office.

Campbell, who was elected to the PSC in 2002, made a failed bid for governor in 2007.

He served in the state Senate for 27 years.


Teacher unions to issue joint endorsements

Louisiana’s two teacher unions said they plan joint recommendations in the races for governor, Legislature and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The Louisiana Federation of Teachers and the Louisiana Association of Educators are calling their effort the “It’s Time to Get it Right” campaign.

“Louisiana voters have a unique opportunity to elect leaders to office who can truly transform this state,” LAE President Debbie Meaux said in a prepared  statement.

LFT President Steve Monaghan  called this year’s election  “a watershed event.

“It’s time to take a stand for public education and truly put Louisiana families and kids first,” Monaghan said.

Both groups usually back Democrat candidates for governor.

The  LFT headquarters in Baton Rouge is dotted with signs for Democrat gubernatorial contender John Bel Edwards of Amite.

The group’s website is

Filing in the race for governor and other offices is Sept. 8-11.

The primary is Oct. 24. Runoffs are Nov. 21.