With the Louisiana statewide election only a few days away, and with many voters already making their way to the polls, it would seem to be a good time for me to gaze into my crystal ball and make a prediction of just who will be successful after all the vote are tallied. As many of you regular reader well know, I generally am right on the money. (yeah, right!)
First of all, turnout. Don’t be confused by the large number of voters showing up early to absentee vote. High early numbers are relatively new in Louisiana. You used to need a reason to vote early. Not any more. Election Day voting on October 12th will be fairly light, as many voters don’t want to wait until then. There is too much competition. After all, LSU plays 10th ranked Florida, there are numerous fairs and festivals, and it’s squirrel season. Whose got time to vote?
So let’s begin at the top of the ticket. Can Gov. John Bel Edwards carry off a first primary victory? His two republican challengers are running neck and neck, even attacking each other, in hopes of forcing a runoff. The Governor has spent some 11 million dollars and corralled a host of republican public officials and business men and women to endorse him in an effort to get just over 50% of the vote. He’s been consistently running right at 48% in recent polls, with 10 to 12% of voters still undecided. With a barrage of last-minute television, radio and mailing saturation, I predict that he will just top the needed 50% to win outright in the first primary.
There is little interest in most of the other statewide races on the ballot. Surprisingly to many political observers, Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser and Attorney General Jeff Landry are heavily spending campaign dollars on their way to rather easy reelection victories. But they are not throwing away their campaign cash. Four years pass by quickly and look for both of these guys to be doing some early posturing for the governor’s race in 2023.
The one other statewide race that is garnering major attention is the battle for insurance commissioner. It’s normally tough to beat a current statewide official. But twelve-year incumbent Jim Donelon is in the fight of his political life. Donelon has been in public office for some 50 years, and told supporters he was ready to retire, then changed his mind. Challenger Tim Temple, a Baton Rouge insurance executive, is making his first run for public office, and has both outworked and outspent the incumbent. With Louisiana facing some of the highest insurance rates in the nation, Temple has aggressively made his compelling case for a change. Look for Temple to be the only major candidate who will knockoff an incumbent statewide official.
There are four constitutional amendments on the ballot for voters to consider. They all are hard for many voters to understand and are unnecessary. All the issues involved should and could have been handled by the Louisiana legislature.
Amendment One — A ridiculous amendment that would prohibit Louisiana from being able to tax goods, such as offshore drilling equipment, stored in the state but intended to be used off the coast. But the U.S. Constitution already prevents states from taxing property destined for other states or countries. So there is no reason for such a change.
Amendment Two — Allows for appropriations from the Education Excellence Fund for the Louisiana Educational Television Authority, Thrive Academy, and laboratory schools operated by public post-secondary education institutions.”
This funding could have easily been handled by the legislature.
Amendment Three — The board of tax appeals would be able to rule whether tax matters are constitutional under state or federal law. They board is not made up of lawyers and it’s not their job to determine what’s constitutional.
Amendment Four — New Orleans would be allowed to create a residential property tax exemption. Why on earth are voters in Monroe or Lake Charles voting on what New Orleans can or cannot do? One more reason for the need of a constitutional convention.
But guess what? All four amendments will pass. Voters just don’t seem to care anymore so we will continue to have a unwheeled and cluttered constitution. It will take a courageous governor to step up and start the process for such a change. We will see next week if my predictions are correct.
Jim Brown is a former Commissioner of Insurance, Secretary of State and state senator from Ferriday.