Saturday, March 24, 2007

Will Breaux Run

The New Orleans Times Picayune reports that former Senator John Breaux will run for Governor of Louisiana if the state's Democratic Attorney General issues an opinion that he is eligible:

Breaux, a Democrat, said he will be a candidate if the legal questions over his residency and citizenship in the state are settled in his favor. The door for a Breaux candidacy was opened Tuesday when Gov. Kathleen Blanco announced she would not seek a second term. Breaux had said he would not run if Blanco did.

Breaux said Rep. Eric LeFleur, D-Ville Platte, chairman of the Democratic Legislative Caucus will ask for the legal opinion from Foti, who also is a Democrat.

As a private citizen, Breaux does not have standing to make the request for an attorney general's opinion. The state Consitution says a candidate for governor must have been a "citizen" of the state for the previous five years, raising questions of whether citizenship is the same as residency. Breaux, who left office in 2005 to become a lobbyist, lives in Maryland. Breaux served 34 years in Congress, including the last 18 in the Senate.

Breaux said he will seek the legal opinion from Foti now instead of waiting until the Sept. 4-6 qualifying for the Oct. 20 primary. "I expect a quick turnaround on this," Breaux said.

An opinion of the attorney general's office does not have then effect of law but is generally regarded as a legal guidepost unless overturned in court.

Breaux said his attorneys have told him that he could also get a court order affirming his qualifications to run for office, but that may have to wait until he qualifies as candidate.

Novak notes that Louisiana Democrats are surprised that Blanco and Breaux did not coordinate his entry into the race with her departure. He also suggests that Breaux is the only Democrat given a shot against Jindal:

The decision by Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco not to seek re-election this year leaves the state's Democrats high and dry, uncertain whether former Sen. John Breaux will launch a late candidacy with no campaign money yet raised.

Louisiana Democrats are stunned that Blanco did not make a deal with Breaux to try to succeed her before she bowed out. The only record of fund-raising this year by Breaux, a multimillionaire Washington lobbyist, is an event for Blanco last month.

Blanco narrowly defeated Republican Bobby Jindal in 2003. But she has trailed Jindal, now a member of Congress, badly in the polls following her much criticized handling of Hurricane Katrina. Breaux, a popular figure during 32 years' service in the House and Senate, is the only Democrat given a chance to defeat Jindal (though one poll shows him also losing).
The poll Novak mentions shows Jindal with a 30 point lead over Breaux - a margin ever greater than the one he had over Blanco in a recent poll by the same organization. It could be that Breaux would be a much stronger candidate after he moves back to the state and starts campaigning, or it could be that no Democrat can compete in Louisiana, post-Katrina. That's certainly a possibility given the departure of so many formerly Democratic voters from New Orleans. (Of course, as I have noted before, it's no guarantee that Blanco would have done very well if those voters were still in New Orleans)

I find it hard to believe that Democrats will not continue to be competitive at a statewide level in Louisiana. Among southern states, it seems to have been more friendly to Democrats at a statewide level than almost any other. Further, the state seems to produce genuinely moderate Democrats who know how to win. I would imagine that Jindal is likely to see a competitive race, whether his opponent is Breaux, Foster Campbell, Charlie Melancon, or someone else.

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