All posts by Mark Ballard

Media allowed to report Monday’s U.S. Senate debate

WAFB-TV announced Wednesday it would allow reporters into its Baton Rouge station to cover the statewide televised debate between incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., greets Senate candidate, Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., before their debate at Centenary College in Shreveport, La., Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., greets Senate candidate, Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., before their debate at Centenary College in Shreveport, La., Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The Monday, Dec. 1, debate between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m., is the only joint encounter in which Cassidy agreed to participate. Early voting is Wednesday and Saturday. The runoff election is next Saturday, Dec. 6.

His campaign announced Cassidy would not answer questions of reporters after the debate. He was unavailable to the media after the two debates that he participated in prior to the primary election.

Landrieu will meet the press after the debate in WAFB’s newsroom.

Initially, the station’s management had said there was not enough room to allow access to outside reporters.

The emailed announcement Wednesday morning stated that media members who apply to the station for credentials would be allowed into the studio for five minutes at 6:45 p.m., then could watch the debate from a viewing room elsewhere in the building, and participate in Landrieu’s press conference.

Media that wish to attend the debate must apply for credentials by 10 a.m. Monday from Monica Craig, WAFB’s executive producer at (225) 215-4801 or

WAFB-TV is part of Raycom Media, which owns or manages television stations in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Lake Charles and Shreveport.

Bobby Jindal to be in Virginia on election day

On  the Dec. 6 runoff election day, Gov. Bobby Jindal is scheduled to speak to the Republican Party of Virginia’s annual gathering of party activists.

That state’s Republican activists meet for seminars and speeches at what is called the Donald W. Huffman Advance. Huffman was chairman of Virginia’s Republicans.

Jindal will be the keynote speaker at the event, according to tweet by the Virginia Republican Party. Ed Gillespie, who narrowly lost his U.S. Senate race to Democratic incumbent Mark R. Warner, also will speak.

His press secretary, Shannon Bates, says the governor plans to early vote Wednesday or Saturday.

The event takes Marriott Westfield near Dulles International Airport in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.

Jindal has made several trips to Virginia in the past few years.

Tickets run $55 from a single basic entry to $25,000 for the top-level sponsorship, which includes eight tickets.

Bobby Jindal scores low in New Hampshire, Iowa polls

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is taking a backseat on the stages where Republican Party stars campaign for Bill Cassidy.

Potential GOP presidential candidates U.S. Sens. Rand Paul, of Kentucky, and Marco Rubio, of Florida, along with Texas Gov. Rick Perry and tea party favorite Dr. Ben Carson, of Maryland, have all come to Louisiana to rally voters to U.S. Rep. Cassidy’s effort to unseat incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu in the Dec. 6 runoff.

Part of the reason could be found in a poll released this week that shows Jindal has a net favorable rating of 20 percent among New Hampshire voters and net unfavorable rating of 21 percent, according to the survey of 989 likely Granite State voters by the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College and Bloomberg Politics website.

Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry, right, walks with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal during a campaign stop in De Witt, Iowa, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011. (AP Photo)

Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry, right, walks with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal during a campaign stop in De Witt, Iowa, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011. (AP Photo)

Of the visiting GOP dignitaries, only Carson had a lower favorable rating at 19 percent but his net unfavorable rating was 10.

Jindal told Meet the Press last week, when asked about his current unpopularity in Louisiana, that he doesn’t care about polls.

New Hampshire holds the first presidential primary vote, Jan. 26, 2016, and if it was held today, Mitt Romney, who the GOP standard bearer in 2012, would be the overwhelming favorite among Republican primary voters, with 30 percent, the poll showed.

Jindal came in near the bottom with 3 percent of the vote, but ahead of Perry, who had 2 percent.

If Romney is not in the field, then Paul and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are ahead at 16, Jindal and Perry trail the field with 4 and 3 percent, respectively.

Tom Rath, a former New Hampshire attorney general and longtime primary watcher who supported Romney in 2012, was quoted in the Saint Anselm press release accompanying the poll as saying the early polling is certain to change in the coming months, as local coverage of the primary is added to the mix of what has been mostly national coverage. Rath said that the “center-right” part of the potential candidate lineup is still unformed.

Jindal’s presidential numbers are only marginally better in Iowa, where the first inkling of voter preference for presidential candidates is found when the parties hold caucuses on Jan. 18, 2016.

Jindal had a 41 percent favorable rating in Iowa and a 14 percent unfavorable, according to a Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll of 425 likely 2016 Republican caucus goers conducted in October. He was the first choice of 1 percent of the likely caucus goers and as the second choice for 4 percent.

Next month, Jindal will make his fourth trip to Iowa of the year.


Bobby Jindal could be first Indian American to run for president

India West newspaper reports that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will decide in the first half of next year on whether he is running for president in 2016, pushing back earlier estimates that the decision would be announced after the holidays.

He has told Louisiana reporters that he would pray about the decision over the holidays, but recently has been giving a later date.

India-West, based in San Leandro, Calif., calls itself the largest weekly Indian newspaper on the West Coast of the United States, points out that if he chooses, Jindal would be the first Indian American to run in the presidential primaries. The article also pointed out that polls show Jindal is fairly unpopular in Louisiana right now.

Jindal has said he doesn’t care about poll numbers.

Some Louisiana communities embrace corporal punishment in public schools

The Louisiana Department of Education showed 4,460 reported incidents of corporal punishment against students in the 2011-2012 school year, according to an analysis by The Huffington Post.

That calculates out to a rate 6.3 incidents of paddling or other physical punishments meted out in the state’s public schools per thousand students.

During that time, Louisiana’s student population was about 708,400 students.

The top 10 parishes for corporal punishment, according to the Huffington Post article, are predominantly rural and in the central and northeastern parts of the state.

Morehouse Parish had the highest rate of school corporal punishment with a rate of 86 per thousand students.

The article noted that the 10 parishes where corporal punishment is most frequent are in communities with a majority white population who identify themselves as evangelical Christians.

The article was written by Shayna A. Pitre, who is a legal researcher and disabled children’s advocate from Baton Rouge, and Chad LaComb, a former school teacher who is now an urban planner in Lafayette.

The full article is available at



Politicians endorse in the federal races

Politicians are lining up their endorsements for candidates still facing competition in the Dec. 6 runoff.

Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, of Lafayette, endorsed Garret Graves, the GOP candidate in the Dec. 6 runoff, for the 6th Congressional district seat. Graves emerged from a field of eight Republicans to win a seat in the runoff with former Gov. Edwin E. Edwards, the Democratic candidate. Edwards had about 7,100 more votes than Graves, who received about 35,000 more votes than the third place finisher.

About 74 percent of the registered voters living in 6th Congressional District are white and a third are registered Republicans.

Zach Dasher, of Calhoun is backing fellow Republican Dr. Ralph Abraham, of Alto, in the 5th Congressional District race. Dasher came up about 1,800 votes shy to Abraham, who won a spot in the Dec. 6 runoff. Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo, a Democrat, came in first with about 28 percent of the vote.

Though Mayo has more than a dozen years of experience attracting business and creating jobs, most analysts say the GOP candidate has the edge in the district that was drawn to lean Republican.

Elbert Guillory hangs up on interview

State Sen. Elbert Guillory called a legislative colleague a Chihuahua and hung up in the middle of an interview on The Jim Engster Show when challenged about his views that the black community has received little benefit from voting monolithically for the Democratic Party in general and U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, in particular.

Guillory, R-Opelousas, has received a of lot pats on the back from conservatives for his YouTube videoscreengrabguillory, which was shot in the impoverished Hill section of Opelousas.  Black unemployment doubled and black poverty has skyrocketed since Landrieu was elected, Guillory says in the video. “You’re not Mary’s cause … You are just a vote.”

Exit polls from the Nov. 4 elections showed that 94 percent of the African-American voters cast ballots for Landrieu and made up about 30 percent of the total vote in the primary (blacks make up about 32 percent of Louisiana’s population).

Democratic State Rep. Ted James, of Baton Rouge, said Guillory doesn’t speak for blacks and asked why the senator automatically assumed that men sitting around during daylight hours were just waiting government checks.

“I just don’t believe that all of the young men in Opelousas are sitting there waiting on a handout from the government,” James said. He chided Guillory for automatically assuming that under educated, under employed aren’t working, often more than job and often during undesirable hours.

James argued that many low income people would benefit from a fair minimum wage,  equal pay for equal work and easy access to affordable health care insurance, all policies support by Democrats and Landrieu.

Guillory responded, “I’m not going to participate in this little charade. If you want to deal with issues, I’ll be happy to do that. But to sit around and have some little Chihuahua yapping at my heels is not my idea of radio.”

He then hung up.

Rob Maness backs Bill Cassidy in Dec. 6 runoff

Republican insurgent Rob Maness announced Saturday morning that he would back Congressman Bill Cassidy in his race to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.

Maness received about 14 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s primary, which put Cassidy and Landrieu in a Dec. 6 runoff.

Maness, of Madisonville, had said all along that he would support the winning Republican in the primary.

A retired U.S. Air Force officer backed by the national TeaParty Express, Maness had run to the right of Cassidy, who some in the GOP had considered not conservative enough.

Since Tuesday night, when Cassidy polled 603,032 votes – or about 41 percent of the total cast – the Baton Rouge Republican has been shoring up the most conservative elements of the GOP. Cassidy’s first public appearance after election night was to accept the backing of the Susan B. Anthony List, a national group that opposes abortion.

Landrieu topped the field with about 16,000 votes more than Cassidy.

Maness and his wife, Candy, joined Cassidy and his wife, Laura, Friday night at Ye Olde College Inn in uptown New Orleans, according to the Maness Facebook page.

“I shared with Bill some thoughts on ways to grow our party and keep our elected officials more connected to those they serve. Before it was over, Bill even helped me put a new bumper sticker on our Truck,” Maness said in a prepared statement.

They discussed public policy and the situation at Bayou Corne, where residents have been displaced by a sinkhole, the Facebook entry stated.

Maness said he would join U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, and U.S. Rep. Cassidy at a noontime function in Huey’s, a bar in downtown Baton Rouge.

Billed as a “unity rally” the Louisiana Republican Party says that in addition to Paul, Maness and Cassidy, U.S. Sen. David Vitter, Gov. Bobby Jindal and other prominent Louisiana Republicans would attend.

Bill Cassidy agrees to debate Mary Landrieu on Dec. 1

U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, the Republican challenger in the race for the U.S. Senate, said Thursday he would debate Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu on Dec. 1.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., greets Senate candidate, Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., before their debate at Centenary College in Shreveport, La., Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., greets Senate candidate, Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., before their debate at Centenary College in Shreveport, La., Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The debate will be hosted by Raycom Media, which owns stations in Baton Rouge and Shreveport and manages a station in New Orleans.
During her election night speech, Landrieu challenged Cassidy to six debates in the run up to the Dec. 6 primary. Landrieu said the number was meant to represent the number of years in a Senate term.
Landrieu repeatedly criticized Cassidy’s decision to participate in just two debates prior to this week’s primary election.

When asked by reporters at the end of a anti-abortion rally for him by the Susan B. Anthony List,  Cassidy deflected questions about more debates, saying the number was meaningless, but that he would debate Landrieu for every time President Barack Obama campaigns on her behalf in Louisiana.

It was his first advertised, public event since winning a spot in the Dec. 6 runoff with Landrieu. During the event his staff brought a hotel security guard to oust a Democratic Party tracker, who Cassidy greeted on his way to the podium.

At first Cassidy said he didn’t know why, then changed his answer and said he didn’t see the need for letting Democrats take footage of him that they could use out of context.

His spokesman, John Cummins, said the tracker did not have press credentials.

Earlier in the day Landrieu quizzed the credentials of  a reporter from a national publication who was unknown to her, but eventually answered the reporter’s question.

Early voting in the runoff will be Nov. 22-29, so the Dec. 1 debate will come after thousands have already cast their ballots.

Burmese journalists observe Baton Rouge voting

Journalists from the south Asian nation of Myanmar observed voting in Baton Rouge on Tuesday.
May Zaw Khin of the International Center for Journalists explained the ballot posted outside Ward 1 Precinct 8 polling station at the St. Joseph’s Academy in Baton Rouge.Burmese Photo
The Garden District precinct is about half-half, Democrat to Republican, and favored GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney over President Barack Obama by only 17 votes out of 512 cast in 2012.

The journalists are learning about the American elections systems and watched voting, interviewed voters, visited the Louisiana Democratic Party headquarters and met state Sen. Dan Claitor, a Republican running for congress in the 6th District.
Myanmar, better known in the U.S. as Burma, is preparing for elections in next year that are going to be the freest in last half century. The military ceded direct power to a quasi-civilian government three years ago.
President Barack Obama is visiting Yangon, the capital city of Myanmar, better known in the west as Rangoon, on Nov. 14.