All posts by Mark Ballard

Candidate qualifying begins Wednesday

Qualifying for the Nov. 4 congressional primary begins Wednesday and continues through Friday at 4:30 p.m.

All candidates for local municipal races will qualify with their parish Clerk of Court. All candidates for U.S. Senator, U.S. Representative, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and Public Service Commission turn in the official paperwork and pay the fees to get their name on the ballot.

Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office is located at 8585 Archives Ave. in Baton Rouge. Hours of operation for the Secretary of State are 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. daily. Also, local Clerks of Court specific parishes can handle qualifying.

Once qualified, candidates will appear on the Secretary of State’s website in real-time at backs Dietzel in the 6th

Paul Dietzel’s bid for the 6th congressional district seat was endorsed Wednesday by Erick Erickson, editor of the influential conservative blog and a Fox News contributor.

A Jackson native who moved to Georgia and served on the Macon city council, Erickson told the Red State Gathering in Fort Worth over the weekend that Dietzel is the only candidate who can beat former Gov. Edwin W. Edwards, who is running as a Democrat.

“We at RedState are convinced he is the right man for the job,” Erickson said.

Seven other Republicans are running for the seat, which is being vacated by U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, who is challenging the reelection of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.


Young announces Lt. Gov. bid with commercial

Jefferson Parish President John Young announced he would run for lieutenant governor and released a commercial on Tuesday.

Young, a Republican, is hoping to parlay his experience as the chief executive of the Jefferson Parish government into a run for the state’s second highest office.

“I have a proud record of standing up for Louisiana and I am running for Lieutenant Governor to be a strong voice on economic development, tourism and to preserve our unique Louisiana way of life,” Young said in his announcement.

Young was elected parish president in 2010 after serving on the Jefferson Parish Council.

Young also serves as President of PACE, Parishes Against Coastal Erosion, where he is leading a group of 20 coastal parishes to coordinate important efforts to fight for coastal protection and restoration.  He was one of the leading local politicians pushing Congress to amend the flood insurance program, whose money-saving revamp caused unexpectedly high premiums for property owners.

Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden, a Democrat, and Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, a Republican, also are flirting with a run.

Landrieu blocks bills for oil company

What might normally be above criticism in conventional Louisiana politics — acting to protect refinery jobs in the state in response to a request from an oil company — has turned into a double-edged sword for Democrat Mary Landrieu in her campaign for re-election to the U.S. Senate.

The reason is that the move short-circuited Senate approval of a bipartisan bill to impose sanctions on Venezuelan government officials for violent crackdowns on pro-democracy protesters of the government of President Nicolas Maduro, the successor to the late Hugo Chavez.

After Politico, a Washington, D.C. news outlet focusing on politics, published a report based on emails last week showing Landrieu raised objections to the bill, her leading Republican challengers — U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, of Baton Rouge, and retired Air Force officer Rob Maness — opened fire on her for protecting evildoers.

Landrieu’s office said she does not want to kill the bill: She just wants it to include explicit language ensuring that it won’t affect processing of Venezuelan crude oil at the Lake Charles refinery owned by Citgo, an oil company controlled by the Venezuelan government. Her insistence on that — and the failure to add that provision to the measure at the 11th hour, before the Senate broke for recess last week — sidelined the proposal.

Landrieu’s objection alone was enough to block the bill because its principal Senate sponsors — Democrat Bob Menendez, of New Jersey, and Republican Marco Rubio, of Florida — sought to fast-track it by a procedure known as unanimous consent. The House had passed sanctions legislation by voice vote in May.

The Politico report cited Senate committee emails suggesting Landrieu’s concerns were overblown. It also pointed out that Citgo had hired as lobbyists the firms of Squire Patton Boggs, which has given $75,000 in donations to Landrieu, and Cornerstone Government Affairs.

Landrieu released a letter from a Citco company executive in which he expressed fears that the sanctions could cut off the import of about 425,000 barrels of crude oil from Venezuela to the Lake Charles refinery and lead to layoffs among the refinery’s 1,100 employees and 862 contractors.

“Once a simple sentence is added to the bill that protects these 2,000 workers that make it possible for everyone who owns a car in Louisiana to fill up their gas tanks each week, I will be happy to support the legislation,” Landrieu said in statement from her office.

The Senate returns from its break the week after Labor Day.

But wait-and-see does not appeal to Maness.

“We have a moral obligation to use every available resource in our arsenal to hold the Maduro regime accountable for its extensive human rights violations against the justified and peaceful protests from the Venezuelan people,” he said in a statement from his campaign.  “As people of Venezuela are making a push for democracy and overcoming oppression, Sen. Mary Landrieu is using Louisiana’s energy workers as a pawn to justify siding with the special interest influence who fill her campaign coffers.  It’s downright shameful.”

The Republican mayor of Sulphur, near the refinery, reportedly defended Landrieu’s decision.

The Citgo Lake Charles Manufacturing Complex is the sixth-largest refining facility owned by the U.S. subsidiary of Venezuelan state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela. The Lake Charles facility, along with Citgo refineries in Illinois and Texas, are for sale.

The sanctions legislation was the culmination of months of efforts to punish the Maduro government. The Obama administration last week pulled the visas of 24 Venezuelan officials, thereby preventing them from entering the country.

Landrieu, Cassidy and Maness will all appear on the Senate ballot Nov. 4, along with whoever else files to run for the office by the Aug. 22 deadline. If no candidate captures of majority of the Nov. 4 vote, the top two finishers will meet in a runoff Dec. 6.


Board sets hearing on Edmonson retirement

The State Police Retirement System Board of Trustees scheduled a Sept. 4 meeting to hear from the lawyer who is investigating the situation that enhanced the pension of the head of the Louisiana State Police.

Irwin Felps, the board’s executive director, said Friday that the investigation into the circumstances and law surrounding the last minute amendment to Senate Bill 294, which was signed into law as Act 859, is nearing completion. Robert Klosner, a nationally recognized retirement attorney, then will prepare his analysis and recommendations to help with the research.

State Police Col. Mike Edmonson has said he would not accept the enhanced pension benefits granted as a result of the last-minute law change.

But the law that described a situation matching Edmonson’s was passed and the state may be legally required to pay benefits regardless of his wishes.

“Some members of the board have expressed concerns about the propriety of Act 859 and we have an obligation to make certain that we have the best information available for the board’s consideration so they can determine the most appropriate course of action,” Chairman Frank Besson said in a prepared statement. “It would be inappropriate and premature for the board to take a position on Act 859 until it receives its report from the attorneys retained to study the matter.”

The Edmonson retirement provision was added to an unrelated bill on June 2, the last day of the legislative session. No hearings had been held on the provision that affected only Edmonson and one other veteran trooper.

State Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, has issued a statement saying he sponsored the change at the request of Edmonson’s staff.

Edwin Edwards Day

Former Gov. Edwin W. Edwards spent his 87th birthday in Austin, where the Texas city honored him Thursday with “Governor Edwards Day.”

“Edwards reorganized state government and, as an outspoken civil rights leader, appointed more minorities and women to high governmental positions than had any governor in Louisiana history,” Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell read from the official proclamation.

Edwards responded, according to media reports: “I am humbled to be recognized in this fashion by our neighbors to the west.” A crowd of former Louisiana residents and elected officials from the State of Texas attended the event.

Edwards, who was Louisiana’s governor for 16 years, also spent nine years in federal prison, two of which were in Fort Worth, on 17 counts including racketeering and wire fraud. He was released in 2011.

He is running as a Democrat for the 6th District seat in the U.S. Congress in the Nov. 4 election.

Some Texas reporters and politicians wondered why Austin would officially honor a convicted felon.

Leffingwell told The American-Statesman, Austin’s daily newspaper, that he was aware of Edwards’s past, but Thursday was the former governor’s birthday and it made sense to honor him during his trip to the Texas state capitol city.

“I was impressed with somebody older than me is still in politics,” Leffingwell told the newspaper. “Second of all, I’m impressed someone that age is willing to run again for office.”

Leffingwell and Edwards are old friends.


Peterson calls for renewal of Voting Rights Act

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Voting Rights Act into law on Aug. 6, 1965.

The Louisiana Democratic Party Chair Karen Carter Peterson used the 49th anniversary Wednesday to call on the state’s congressional delegation to renew the Voting Rights Act.

“As a nation we’ve come so far, but in recent years, voting rights have come under attack in state after state. Burdensome voter ID laws that restrict access to the ballot box for women, people of color, seniors and low-income citizens are not just wrong — they’re un-American,” Peterson said in a prepared statement.

The Voting Rights Act prohibited discrimination in voting and along with the Civil Rights Act ended legalized segregation and forbidding legal barriers to voting.

Congress reauthorized the Voting Rights Act several times. The U.S. Supreme Court in June 2013 invalidated the formula the law used to decide which states need to get federal permission before changing election laws. A bipartisan coalition is pushing changes to the law that would address the high court’s ruling.

The U.S. House has not given the legislation a hearing.

Scalise gets help from lobbyist

A lobbyist sat in on the job interviews U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, Politico reported.

Quinn Gillespie & Associates’ John Feehery participated in several official interviews as Scalise, R-Jefferson, worked to fill out his staff now that he has taken a leadership position. Before becoming a lobbyist, Feehery has worked for then-Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois and also served as communications director for then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay of Texas.

“As a former House leadership communications director, I work with the office in strictly a communications strategy development capacity,” Feehery told Politico in a statement. “In this role, I’ve never advocated for or brought client issues before the office. In fact, I have never lobbied the office.”

Scalise relied on Feehery for feedback but not “yes” or “no” decisions, said Scalise’s spokesman T.J. Tatum.

Veteran ethics lawyer Stan Brand told the online news service that the situation didn’t appear to violate House rules.


La. House Speaker visits border

The Associated Press reported Monday morning that Gov. Bobby Jindal is traveling to Texas’ border with Mexico to get a closer look at the nation’s immigration crisis.

Jindal’s staff did not respond Monday morning to queries about the report.

But the Speaker of the House’s office said Speaker Chuck Kleckley sent a note to members saying he and State Police Superintendent, Col. Mike Edmonson were traveling Monday to McAllen, Texas, a border community that has seen a lot of unaccompanied Hondouran children entering the U.S. from Mexico.

The AP reported Jindal would accompany Kleckley and Edmonson on a boat tour and helicopter tour of the Rio Grande River.

Jindal has criticized the Obama administration for giving him little information about more 1,000 unaccompanied immigrant children who have been placed with sponsors in Louisiana.

He blames President Barack Obama for creating a climate that encouraged larger numbers of people to try to enter the United States illegally.

Jindal chases Iowa Christians

Even as Gov. Bobby Jindal plays coy about his presidential plans, he continues to nurture the conservative Christian community.

Over the weekend Jindal, 43, talked about finding Jesus in an extensive televised interview with political televangelist Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network and his schedule for his visit this coming weekend to an evangelical event in Iowa was released.

Jindal, whose parents are immigrants, also told CBN that solving the immigration issue is easier than passing a thousand-page bill: “We need to secure the border.” He blamed President Barack Obama for not solving the issue that has been blocked by GOP conservatives.

During the long interview recorded last week at the Governor’s Mansion, Jindal described his seven-year journey in committing to Jesus Christ. The crucial moment came when a friend gave him a NIV Study Bible, which has cross references and extensive contextual notes, and took the then-teenager to a program at church. A film was shown of the crucifixion.

“Now, we’ve probably seen a thousand better movies – it was black and white, no famous actors, the camera was probably shaking. But for some reason when I saw the actor on the cross, God chose that moment to hit me harder than I’ve ever been hit before,” Jindal said.

Jindal took a swipe at “Hollywood liberals” and “folks in the media,” who he claims mock people who follow a religious path.

Jindal has found political support among conservative Christians in this state. When he first ran for governor in 2003, Jindal lost most of the north Louisiana parishes to Kathleen Blanco.

Then, as a suburban New Orleans congressman, the converted Catholic spent many Sundays worshipping in north Louisiana churches of conservative Protestant denominations.

In the 2007 race, Jindal received about 20,000 more votes than he did in 2003 to win without a runoff. He also flipped to the winning column in Caldwell, Catahoula, Claiborne, East Carroll, Franklin, Jackson, Lasalle, Lincoln, Madison, Morehouse, Richland, Union, Webster and West Carroll parishes.

Though he says he won’t decide until after November, Jindal is heading to Iowa, site of the first influential presidential selection caucuses, for the third time in a year.

Jindal, along with other wannabe Republican presidential nominees, speaks Saturday at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa. The confab is sponsored by The Family Leader, the Iowa version of the Louisiana Family Forum, which are affiliated with the national Family Research Council and lobbies government to pursue conservative Christian policies.

Jindal’s aides told The Des Moines Register newspaper that in addition to speaking to the conservative preachers, the governor would attend a sprint car racetrack event, work the crowds at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, and participate in a roundtable with a Republican congressman.