Election preview: Seven state executive races in Louisiana
By Greg Janetka and Lauren Rodgers
BATON ROUGE, Louisiana: Louisiana's election season kicks off on Saturday with the statewide primary election. In addition to senators, representatives and ballot measures, there are seven executive offices on the ballot up for election: governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer, agriculture and forestry commissioner and insurance commissioner.
Louisiana holds blanket primaries. All candidates, regardless of party affiliation, run in one race. The top two vote earners advance to the general election on November 19, 2011, unless one candidate wins more than 50% of the primary vote. In that case, he or she is declared the winner and the office will not appear on the ballot in November.
The ballot for Governor in Louisiana is the most crowded state executive ballot of 2011, with ten candidates vying for the state's top post:
There are only two candidates in Louisiana's race for lieutenant governor, and both are Republican. Current Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne faces Plauqemines Parish President Billy Nungesser in a tight race. Dardenne first assumed office in a special election in 2010, before which he served as the Louisiana Secretary of State. We reported in late July about the importance of this race and its implication for Louisiana's 2015 gubernatorial race, and the candidates are not taking the race lightly.
Accusations have been flying from both camps. In a television forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters, Nungesser accused Dardenne of not devoting his full attention to the office, while Dardenne tripped Nungesser up with basic questions about the duties of the lieutenant governor. Just yesterday, the candidates appeared together on a local news station's "Morning Eyewitness News" show. Nungesser accused Dardenne of voting to increase taxes while he served in the state senate, citing specific bill numbers. Dardenne claimed Nungesser has distorted his record and that he "was not even in the Legislature to vote for that bill."
A statewide poll commissioned by WWL-TV gave Dardenne a 13 point lead over Nungesser 33% of those surveyed were still undecided as of October 12.
The race for attorney general was essentially decided on September 20, 2011 when Republican Joseph Cao, a former U.S. Representative, formally withdrew from the race. His withdrawal leaves incumbent Republican Buddy Caldwell as the sole candidate.
Secretary of State
The race for Louisiana Secretary of State has become a two-man affair, with Republicans Tom Schedler, the incumbent, and state Senate President Jim Tucker battling it out in the primary. An October 2 poll found the two candidates in a virtual dead heat, with Tucker garnering 20% of the vote to Schedler's 19%, but 61% of the voters reported they were still undecided.
Incumbent Louisiana State Treasurer John Neely Kennedy automatically won a fourth term in office when no one filed to run against him in the primary. Kennedy, who switched parties from Democrat to Republican in August 2007, has not been challenged in his last three terms.
Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry
Strain won election as Commissioner in 2007. In an extremely close primary, Strain came in second to a Democrat. The two were headed to a runoff, but before it occurred the other candidate withdrew, leaving Strain the winner. This year Strain received the endorsement of the Alliance for Good Government. LaBranche, a licensed arborist and horticulturist, has received a good amount of press for his plan to grow medical plants in Louisiana, including the poppy. Alexandrenko, an Internet radio show host, is a perennial candidate for office in the state, running for governor on numerous occasions.
Commissioner of Insurance
Incumbent Commissioner of Insurance James Donelon (R) faces off against political newcomer Donald Hodge (D). Donelon first assumed office in February 2006 when then Commissioner J. Robert Wooley resigned. Donelon went on to win a special election to fill the rest of the unexpired term in September 2006, and won a full term in 2007.
Hodge, a public interest lawyer, has accused Donelon of being too closely tied to the insurance industry, pointing out he has accepted over $300,000 in campaign donations from the industry. Hodge, meanwhile, pledged not to accept any money from the industry. Hodge was endorsed by the Alliance for Good Government. If elected, he has promised to abolish the position of Commissioner of Insurance as an elected position.
- Louisiana state executive elections (overview):