All posts by Mark Ballard

Vitter endorsed by Republican officials from Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes


During the 1990s, when he represented a district from Metairie in the state House, David Vitter reveled in his status as an outsider.

Now, during the final push to be governor, he is holding events around the state with whichever local Republican elected officials will show up.

David Vitter is endorsed Nov. 13, 2105 by officials from Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes.

David Vitter is endorsed Nov. 13, 2105 by officials from Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes.

A broad range of officials from Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes appeared with Vitter on Friday in Metairie.

Among them was Jon Gegenheimer, the Jefferson Parish Clerk of Court, who said of Vitter, “He’s the only proven conservative in the race.”

State Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, said, “A vote for David Vitter is a vote for jobs and the future prosperity of our state.”

Pat Brister, who is St. Tammany’s president, said, “David has never hesitated to show up and find us a solution.”

Tony Perkins, a former state representative from Baton Rouge who is now president of the Family Research Council, a Washington, D.C.-based group, came to attest to Vitter’s social conservative bona fides.

The election, Perkins said, couldn’t provide “a stronger contrast between David and his opponent, John Bel Edwards.”

Edwards, Perkins added, represents “liberal policies and big government ideas.”

Vitter, for his part, was bent on highlighting the policy differences between him and Edwards.

Vitter noted that he is a supporter of using public dollars for private school vouchers – something Edwards opposes – and that he has a near-perfect voting record from the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and the National Federation for Independent Business, while Edwards gets the kinds of low marks that most Democrats get.

“There are oceans of difference between me as a Louisiana conservative and John Bel Edwards as a pro-Obama liberal,” Vitter said.

Among the other two dozen elected officials there were state Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville; state Sen. A.G. Crowe, R-Slidell; state Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie; state Rep. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge; and state Rep. Paul Hollis, R-Covington. Other elected officials who did not attend were listed in a press release.


Vitter holds meetings at infamous coffee shop


The day before the Oct. 24 primary, a private investigator working for David Vitter’s gubernatorial campaign bungled an attempt to spy on a prominent Democratic trial attorney at Royal Blend Coffee & Tea in Metairie.

 The gumshoe was arrested, and Vitter’s campaign has had to endure days of unfavorable publicity from the caper.

U.S. Sen. David Vitter met with supporters Thursday at a Metaire coffee shop.

U.S. Sen. David Vitter met with supporters Thursday at a Metairie coffee shop.

 On Thursday morning, Vitter arranged to have two meetings with a small group of potential supporters or donors. And guess where he met them? The Royal Blend. Vitter lives a short drive away.

 He met first for 30 minutes with six people from the film industry, along with his chief fund-raiser, Courtney Gaustella. He then moved to an adjoining table to meet with a different group for a few minutes before departing with an aide.

 Vitter’s PI was caught filming trial attorney John Cummings and Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand at the Royal Blend, where they and other men gather most mornings to shoot the bull. Neither Cummings nor Normand was at the coffee shop when Vitter was there Thursday morning.

Poll says Edwards still leading but “prostitute and patriots” spot didn’t help

A new poll released Wednesday shows the double-digit lead Democrat John Bel Edwards had over Republican David Vitter in the Louisiana governor’s race is slipping – possibly because of the negative “patriots and prostitutes” ad.

But Edwards is maintaining his lead with 10 days remaining before the Nov. 21 runoff.

The latest poll, conducted by Market Research Insight, of Gulf Breeze, Fla., still shows Edwards winning – 52 percent to 38 percent – if roughly 236,000 of the 907,895 registered African-Americans (26 percent) cast ballots.  If only 20 percent of black voters go to the polls, then Edwards still leads by 6 percent of the vote over Vitter.

But Rep. Edwards fell 10 percent among white voters on Monday and Tuesday, while Vitter gained 8 percent. The Edwards campaign ran a commercial Saturday that reminded voters of Vitter’s prostitution scandal from 2007 and noted that the U.S. senator skipped a vote honoring military veterans the same day his phone was logged as calling the D.C. Madam.

Vitter followed up with a spot Monday showing him with his family discussing the mistake he made and the lessons he learned.

The analysis, by Verne Kennedy, said the sample sizes on Monday and Tuesday were half the usual size when each day is considered individually. He  cautioned that the findings could change. “I do know that Edwards lost his lead with independent white voters and is now tied with Vitter; whereas he had a 6 percent lead in the Oct. 27-28 survey,” the report stated, adding that he thought Edwards’ commercial was an unwise tactic.

The poll is paid for by a group of Louisiana businessmen who include John Georges, an owner of The Advocate.

Democrat backs GOP Landry in Louisiana AG race

Democratic top vote-getter backed Monday Republican Jeff Landry over incumbent Buddy Caldwell in runoff for Attorney General later this month.

Geri Broussard Baloney, who received 18 percent of the vote in the primary, said Landry, a former congressman, would allow greater access and diversity in the state’s legal office.

Caldwell, who has attended only one forum with Landry, did not make the Press Club of Baton Rouge forum where Baloney made her announcement. Caldwell’s campaign said he was busy at another event.

Landry is challenging two-term Caldwell’s reelection in one the most competitive statewide races on the ballot.

The attorney General’s runoff is Nov. 21.

Televised debate between Edwards and Vitter set

Republican David Vitter and Democrat John Bel Edwards have a agreed to a televised debate on Nov. 16, according to the Edwards campaign.

WVLA-TV in Baton Rouge informed the Edwards campaign that Vitter had agreed to appear for the live television debate that would be overseen by the NBC affiliate.

Vitter’s campaign did not respond to queries seeking confirmation, but the U.S. senator has told several news outlets during the past week that he would participate in a debate with Edwards, a state representative.

WVLA oversaw a debate during the primary, but Vitter did not appear at that one.

Blogger says LSU homecoming should not suppress voter turnout

Conventional wisdom holds that a large number of voters skip casting ballots when the LSU football team plays at home.

But the statistics don’t really show that, Michael B. Henderson, an LSU pollster wrote in his personal blog Wednesday morning.

Saturday is homecoming at LSU.

His analysis focused on voter turnout in East Baton Rouge Parish, where presumably home games would have their impact in terms of traffic and divided interests.

Setting aside the statewide elections that coincided with the 2004 and 2008 presidential races, when turnout was unusually high, Henderson found that 8.9 percent fewer voters cast ballots in East Baton Rouge for 2007 and 2011 gubernatorial primaries and game days, when compared to voter totals in nine other elections without home games. But both those elections were not competitive and that also could have a significant impact on how many people go to the polls.

Henderson also challenged the opinion of Secretary of State Tom Schedler and a number of commentators, who claim Louisiana voters are more disengaged in this year’s governor’s race than in the past.

Looking at all 13 statewide races since 1998, he found that the statistics show that a 47 percent turnout – at lower end of the range predicted – would rank number 7, and that includes two presidential elections, during which more than two-thirds of the state’s voters cast ballots.

“If 47 percent turnout is a mark of apathy, then that is not at all new to the electorate this year.  It certainly is not “strange,” Henderson wrote.

He also noted that Louisiana elected governors in 2003, 2007 and 2011, which are also the same years LSU played for a national title. “This year is a governor’s race too … just sayin’,” Henderson wrote.


More voters, but not many, are paying attention to governor’s race

With slightly more than a week left before the election, only two Louisiana voters in every five are paying close attention to the governor’s race, an LSU survey determined.

About the same number, maybe a little more, told pollsters that they’re not really following news about the gubernatorial candidates too closely. Another 20 percent are not paying any attention at all, according to the “Election Report 2015,” conducted by LSU Public Policy Research Lab for the Reilly Center for Media and Public Affairs at the Manship School of Mass Communication.

The findings that voters still have not engaged underlines estimates that less than half the state’s registered voters will cast ballots in the Oct. 24 primary – a fairly low rate participation for a wide-open governor’s race.

“This is going to be a low wattage election cycle,” said Baton Rouge pollster John M. Couvillon, president of JMC Analytics and Polling. “I’m seeing undecideds in 20s and 30s, usually they’re in the teens by this point.”

LSU’s findings fit in with the numbers he’s seeing. Couvillon calculates, based on early voting turnout and historical trends, that turnout will be about 42 to 48 percent. Secretary of State Tom Schedler, who usually waits until early voting ends before doing his estimates, is saying turnout could fall between 45 and 50 percent of the voters.

“I think voter frustration on the national level with Congress and its gridlock has trickled down to the state level and we’re seeing real evidence of it in this year’s Gubernatorial Election,” Schedler said in prepared statement after reviewing LSU’s findings.  “Voters are bombarded with lots of negative ads and mailers and many just shut down because their lives are busy and they feel mislead by politicians in general.”

While the percentage of the population is paying more attention than they did in March – 25 percent then, 39 percent now – interest in the down ballot state races is much lighter.

Only 29 percent are voters following the elections for state legislature, while 17 percent and 15 percent are following news about the elections for the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and Lieutenant Governor, respectively.

“What it says,” according to Michael B. Henderson, who as the Lab’s research director handled the actual polling, “is that more people are paying attention (than in March), maybe not as many as you would like, only 40 percent, but the trend seems to be that more voters are becoming engaged … It is not a lot still.”

At about the same point during last fall’s U.S. Senate race about 50 percent of Louisiana voters were paying attention.

As voters become more engaged, they are recognizing the candidates better and forming opinions about them. The name recognition factors of Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, R-Breaux Bridge, and state Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, while well known in state government circles, were not as widely recognized in the general public as Republicans Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, of Baton Rouge, and U.S. Sen. David Vitter, of Metairie, both of whom have higher profile jobs.

“Opinions about these candidates were relatively soft through the summer,” Henderson said Thursday. All the candidates saw their recognition and favorability numbers go up, but they also saw their unfavorability numbers rise as well.

Henderson said the four best-financed gubernatorial candidates are running commercials at about the same rate as previous elections.

“If you’re measuring the number of commercials, you’d say, ‘Yeah, they’re on track’,” Henderson said. “So, what we’re seeing is voters’ opinions of the candidates are evolving.”

But the spots have been negative and, with the exception of an attack on Edwards by the Republican Governors’ Association, have all been the three GOP candidates going after one another.

That seems to be reflected in the growth in unfavorable opinions among the Republicans, but not Edwards, the Democrat.

Dardenne and Angelle received higher unfavorable ratings, with the lieutenant governor’s going up from 8 percent to 15 percent and the PSC commissioner’s “unfavorables” rising from 5 percent to 13 percent.

But Vitter continues to have the highest unfavorable rating, 41 percent, as well as the highest favorable ranking, at 30 percent.

The survey points out that Vitter’s unfavorable numbers are driven largely by Democrat and Democratic leaning independents, who probably weren’t going to vote for him anyways.

His support among Republicans is much higher, 15 percent more who like him than don’t.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean that Vitter is losing voters and it doesn’t translate directly into votes,” Henderson said. And the number also doesn’t mean much for the runoff when presumably one Republican candidate squares off with Edwards, the Democrat.

Vitter has the most favorable opinions among voters with a high school degree or less, 48 percent; Protestants, 47 percent; and people making $100,000 or more annually, 41 percent.

His highest unfavorables are expressed by Democrats, 47 percent; African-Americans, 42 percent; college educated, 49 percent; and women, 43 percent.

Democratic voters, 30 percent, have a favorable opinion of Edwards, as do 26 percent of the African American voters. But 15 percent of voters who identified themselves as Protestants, other than Baptists, held unfavorable opinions of Edwards.

Dardenne’s numbers indicate he is most unfavorable among Republican and GOP leaning voters, 31 percent; and among people making $25,000 to $49,999 per year, 22 percent. His strongest favorable numbers are among Democratic voters and Democratic-leaning independents, 47 percent; and women, 24 percent.

Angelle is most popular with Catholics, 35 percent; and women, 27 percent. The populations who view Angelle most negatively include voters without party affiliation, 17 percent; with college degrees, 18 percent; and people over the age of 65, 17 percent.

The pollsters interviewed 893 randomly selected adults from around the state by cell phone and landline from Sept. 17 to Oct. 11. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.3 percent.

Pollster Couvillon said multiple factors play a roll in the ebb of voter participation, particularly when compared to earlier years. None of today’s candidates, for instance, are as colorful – from Earl Long to Edwin Edwards to David Duke – as they were back in the day. And the math is different, he said.

In the 1992 presidential election had a 78.7 turnout of Louisiana’s 2.27 million registered voters, Couvillon pointed out. In 2000, the turnout had dropped to 63.4 percent of 2.78 million voters.

During the intervening eight years, registration requirements were eased and pushed, adding 510,661 new voters, many of whom apparently did not participate.



Family Forum releases Voter Guide

Louisiana Family Forum, the influential socially conservative advocacy group, released the 2015 Online Louisiana Voter Guide that allows voters to compare candidates for races for their individual district and create a .pdf of preferences.

Candidates answered questions about their stands on 15 issues, including abortion, same-sex marriage, Common Core, and tax increases. The voter enters their name and address, Family Forum pulls up the ballot from precinct and shows how the candidates compare based on the questionnaires.

The voter is then prompted to make a choice.

“This resource will assist voters in selecting their favorite candidate,” The Rev. Gene Mills, president of Louisiana Family Forum, said in a press release. “Those elected will decide the direction of our state for years to come. This election is your opportunity to make sure your values are represented.”

The primary to elect a new governor and new legislators as well as the major statewide offices and some local posts is Oct. 24. Early voting began Saturday and continues through the week to next Saturday, Oct. 17.

Run-off elections, if necessary, will be held Nov. 21, a Saturday.


Baton Rouge Democratic Party leaders make endorsements

The East Baton Rouge Democratic Parish Executive Committee endorsed a slate of local and statewide candidates, in some races picking between Democratic candidates.

The committee studied the candidates’ positions and allowed them to make presentations at a social last week in Baton Rouge.

With 135,473 registered Democrats, East Baton Rouge Parish has the second largest population of Democrats, behind the 153,925 in New Orleans. The Democratic Party has 1.3 million of the state’s 2.9 million registered voters.

Election Day is Oct. 24.  Early Voting is Oct. 10-17.

The EBR DPEC made the following decisions on endorsements:

Governor: John Bel Edwards

Lieutenant Governor: Melvin L. ‘Kip’ Holden

Secretary of State: ‘Chris’ Tyson

Attorney General: Geraldine ‘Geri’ Broussard Baloney

Commissioner of Ag and Forestry: ‘Charlie’ Greer

Commissioner of Insurance: Charlotte C. McDaniel McGehee

BESE, District 8: Carolyn Hill

State Senator, District 15: Regina Barrow

State Representative, District 29 : Ronnie Edwards, Edmond Jordan and Vereta T. Lee

State Representative, District 61 : Donna Collins-Lewis and C. Denise Marcelle

State Representative, District 63: Barbara West Carpenter

Dean ‘Deaneaux’ Vicknair

State Representative, District 66: Antoine Pierce

State Representative, District 68: Patty Merrick

State Representative, District 69: Mark Holden

State Representative, District 70: ‘Shamaka’ Schumake

City Judge, At-Large: Tarvald Smith

LSU blogging about election data

Michael Henderson, LSU’s numbers guy, set up a website to give some social science perspective to all the election data being released.

Henderson is an assistant professor at the Manship School of Mass Communication and as Research Director of the Public Policy Research Lab is in charge of LSU’s periodic surveys of how Louisiana views various issues.

He’ll be writing about the timing of candidates campaign advertising, the potential role of Common Core in BESE elections, a forecast of the how the legislative races will go, and other stuff like that.

Louisiana By The Numbers blog can be seen at