All posts by Mark Ballard

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

Candidate for Louisiana governor suspends campaign for a few days

Democratic candidate Cary Deaton is taking the weekend off – and maybe a few days more – from his campaign for governor after a harrowing early Thursday morning car crash.

Cary Deaton is running for Louisiana governor

Cary Deaton is running for Louisiana governor

The Metairie lawyer said he couldn’t sleep and decided to go shopping at the all-night Wal-Mart in Kenner around 3 in the morning. Driving westbound at about 70 miles per hour in the center lane of Interstate 10, near the Power Boulevard overpass, Deaton said he was hit hard from behind by a white Toyota going much faster without its lights. His car spun around but the Toyota flipped end over end and the driver had to be cut out of the car. State Police said the driver survived, he said.

“I’m a little banged up, neck and back,” Deaton said Thursday as he was preparing for a visit to the doctor.

He cancelled an appearance on Jeff Crouere’s show on WGSO 990 AM and whether he can participate in WDSU-TV debate on Oct. 1 at 6 p.m. is still up in the air.

Vitter lawyer also represented Bayou Corne company

BY TYLER BRIDGES  Capitol news bureau

The attorney who represented U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s gubernatorial campaign earlier this month is the same one who is representing Texas Brine, the company blamed for the Bayou Corne sinkhole disaster.

Why might that matter?

Vitter’s Super Pac launched a television ad on Saturday that attacks Republican rival Scott Angelle’s handling of the sinkhole as secretary of the Department of Natural Resources. Angelle is now a member of the state Public Service Commission.

Texas Brine, the company at the center of criticism about Bayou Corne, is represented by James Garner, a New Orleans attorney at Sher Garner Cahill Richter Klein & Hilbert. Texas Brine is the target of a class action lawsuit filed in Assumption Parish.

It was Garner who wrote television stations two weeks ago demanding that they pull an ad by the Louisiana Water Coalition that attacks Vitter for his 2007 prostitution scandal. The TV stations complied but the ad began airing the following day after it was tweaked.

Garner did not return a phone call seeking comment.


New anti-Vitter ad about to air

By TYLER BRIDGES   Capitol news bureau

A shadowy outside Super PAC is taking aim again at U.S. Sen. David Vitter in the governor’s race.

Ten days after launching its first ad against him, the unknown group called the Louisiana Water Coalition is attacking Vitter for keeping an aide on his Senate staff for two years after the aide was arrested and accused of slashing his girlfriend.

Among the responsibilities of the aide, Brent Furer, were women’s issues, according to 2010 news accounts.

With a backdrop of ominous music, the ad says the episode shows that Vitter cannot be trusted.

Furer left Vitter’s staff in 2010 after ABC News reported the existence of the 2008 attack and that Furer had an open warrant for his arrest on a drunk driving charge in Baton Rouge. ABC reported then that Furer resigned after the network broke the story. In fact, the Vitter campaign said 10 days ago, “Senator Vitter fired the staffer in question when he found out all the facts.”

The attack came when Furer’s girlfriend attempted to leave his apartment, according to the Washington, D.C. police report.

The new ad notes that Furer ended up pleading guilty. It was to three lesser charges, including obstruction, attempted threats and destruction of property, The Advocate reported in 2010.

Furer’s legal troubles and work for Vitter were noted in the water coalition’s first ad, which gave greater attention to his 2007 prostitution scandal. The Vitter campaign’s attorney, James Garner, succeeded in knocking the first ad off the air because of the wording over Furer’s guilty plea. The water coalition got it back on the air a day later after tweaking the ad’s wording.

The Vitter campaign believes that trial lawyers are behind the ads, but this won’t be confirmed until the water coalition makes public its campaign finance report. It is due on Thursday.


Baton Rouge Republican Party backs all three GOP Lt. Gov. candidates

The Republican Party of East Baton Rouge Parish endorsed all three GOP candidates for Lieutenant Governor in the Oct. 24 open primary.

State Sen. Elbert Guillory, of Opelousas, former Plaquemines Parish president Billy Nungesser, and Jefferson Parish President John Young received a vote of confidence from the Baton Rouge party.

“These endorsements are intended to say that we have investigated each of these candidates, and we feel they are well qualified for the office,” said Woody Jenkins, who chairs the parish party. “We also believe, based on their answers to many detailed questions, that they are strong conservatives and would govern accordingly.”
The endorsement will allow all three to say they are endorsed by the party and use the Republican Party logo.

Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden, who is running as a Democrat, is also in the race.

Sheriffs don’t endorse in governor’s race

No candidate in the governor’s race received sufficient support to get the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association endorsement, Mike Ranatza, the group’s executive director said Wednesday.

“There was not a consensus,” Ranatza said. The group’s bylaws require at least 33 votes out of the state’s 64 sheriffs.

The sheriffs endorsed in five other statewide races. Lieutenant governor candidate Billy Nungesser got the sheriffs backing as did incumbent Secretary of State Tom Schedler, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, state Treasurer John Kennedy and Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain.

Ranatza said the endorsements came after a secret ballot conducted at a sheriffs’ association meeting Wednesday. He said no one in the association knows the votes, other than the two individuals appointed to count them.

Ranatza said the sheriffs’ also could not reach consensus on backing of a candidate in the Commissioner of Insurance race, in which incumbent Jim Donelon is seeking re-election.


David Vitter on forum question asking if he’s broken law: ‘I really don’t appreciate the games’


During the gubernatorial campaign, the opponents of U.S. Sen. David Vitter have been saying lately that he skips candidate forums where he doesn’t get the questions in advance. That way, he can avoid getting an unwanted question about the sexual indiscretion he admitted in 2007 to having committed several years earlier.

Vitter got the question at a forum Monday night hosted by the Alliance for Good Government,  at the Loyola Law School in New Orleans, and he wasn’t happy about it.

Have you ever violated Title 14 under Louisiana statutes as an elected official?

david vitter jay dardenne

David Vitter (left)
Jay Dardenne (right)

Title 14 refers to the entire criminal code in Louisiana. In other words, the question was asking whether any of the candidates had ever violated the law.

In 2007, Vitter admitted to a “very serious sin” with the so-called D.C. Madam prostitution scandal in Washington. But when he ran for re-election in 2010, he dodged the question of whether he had broken the law.

Of the four major candidates, state Rep. John Bel Edwards and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle were absent.

Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne answered first. “It’s a question that ought to be asked,” Dardenne replied and then said he had never violated Title 14 and never would.

“Off the top of my head, I couldn’t cite you Title 14,” Vitter began his answer Monday night. “I don’t know exactly what it says. But given that Jay Dardenne knows exactly what it’s about, this question was obviously planted as a gotcha question at me.”

He repeated the accusation: “It’s a gotcha question, not a good public debate question for a discussion about the future of Louisiana. So let’s all recognize what’s going on here and what it’s all about. I’ve spoken about my past and how my family has dealt with that, actions from 15 years ago and how me and my family have dealt with that. I’m very happy and very proud to say we’ve dealt with it just fine. If that’s not good enough for you, then that’s not good enough for you. But it is for Wendy [his wife] and it is for our family. It is for us. I really don’t appreciate the games and the gotcha question planted on behalf of my opponents.”

The question came from one of several asked by Anna Friedberg, a criminal defense attorney representing the Orleans chapter of the Alliance for Good Government.

“That was the Orleans chapter’s question,” Friedberg said afterward, suppressing a giggle at the idea that they had coordinated the question with the Dardenne campaign.

The lieutenant governor expressed surprise afterward that Vitter – who like Dardenne is an attorney – couldn’t identify Title 14. “It’s the whole criminal code,” Dardenne said. “Every lawyer knows that.” As he walked away, he added, “I didn’t even know the lady would ask the question.”


David Vitter’s murky past with prostitution focus of the campaign behind the campaign

Baton Rouge television reporter claims his firing connected to confrontation with U.S. Sen. David Vitter

 — Negative TV ad campaign focuses on Sen. David Vitter’s 2007 prostitution allegations

Dardenne picks up artists’ endorsements

Noted Louisiana musicians, artists, actors, and chefs, including chef Jay Ducote, 2015 Grammy Award winner Jo-el Sonnier, musician Zachary Richard, actors Louis Herthum and Faith Ford, and artist Ann Connelly announced Friday their support for Jay Dardenne as governor.

Twenty-five video endorsements have been collected as part of a Dardenne campaign initiative called Creative Community for Jay. They can be seen at

Pineville’s Faith Ford, best known for her roles as Corky Sherwood in the CBS sitcom Murphy Brown and Hope Fairfield-Shanowski on the ABC sitcom Hope & Faith, co-hosted a recent fundraiser for Dardenne.

“I love my state. I will continue to represent my state, and I will continue to support Jay and I hope you do too,” Ford said.

As lieutenant governor, Dardenne has led Louisiana’s tourism industry to three consecutive record-breaking years. The number of visitors to Louisiana has grown from 26.3 million in 2012 to 28.7 million in 2014. In 2012 visitors spent $10.7 billion in the state. In 2014 they spent $11.2 billion.

Other artists endorsing Dardenne include: music producer Johnny Palazzotto, The Band Courtbouillon (Steve Riley, Wayne Toups & Wilson Savoy), musician Yvette Landry, The Fugitive Poets singers and songwriters, musicians Landry & Company, the band Dirtfoot, musician Henry Turner Jr., chef Raul Urdiales, musician Matthew Davidson, chef Tanya Dillon, musicians Damon Batiste Jr., and David Batiste Sr., musician Chubby Carrier, and musician Kenny Neal.


Vitter triumphs in ruling on lesser prairie chickens

U.S. Sen. David Vitter took a swipe at President Barack Obama in his praise of a federal court order that overturned protection of the lesser prairie chicken.

“Today’s ruling to declassify the lesser prairie chicken is a major triumph against the Obama Administration’s regulatory onslaught‎ via the ESA (Endangered Species Act) that has trampled on businesses and private property rights,” Vitter said in a press release late Wednesday.

Senior U.S. District Judge Robert A. Junell, of Midland, Texas, vacated Endangered Species Act protections for the lesser prairie chicken, thereby overturning a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designation putting the grouse on the “threatened” species list.

The Permian Basin Petroleum Association, a group of Texas oil and gas companies, challenged the proposed federal rules saying that it restricted activity on the birds’ habitat.  The rules would restrict drilling operations and cost the companies millions of dollars.

Vitter’s press release stated that he weighed in on the decisions as a member of the U.S. Committee on Environment and Public Works. Vitter said he opposed environmental groups filing lawsuits against federal agencies demanding a particular species or group of species be listed under ESA protection.

Protection was sought for the lesser prairie chicken in 1995. The federal wildlife agency determined in 1998 the bird should be a candidate for protection, which it officially proposed in 2013. A voluntary conservation plan was developed, but few farmers, ranchers and oil companies joined.

A lawsuit was filed by oil and gas interests.