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Major endorsements lining up for Governor runoff

The Jena Times of Jena, Louisiana

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Two of the strongest forces in Louisiana politics have already taken sides for the Nov. 21 runoff in the governor's race, with sheriff's coalescing behind state Rep. John Bel Edwards and an influential faction of the oil lobby backing U.S. Sen. David Vitter.

This divvying up of political resources will intensify quickly with just four weeks to go until Louisiana chooses its next governor.

The endorsement given to Vitter, a Republican, by the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association's political action committee is an early sign that business groups may gravitate toward the senior senator in the coming days.

LOGPAC Chairman Don Briggs said the endorsement will "ensure that (Vitter) receives the necessary support from our industry."

Edwards, a Democrat, also picked up the support of the Louisiana Sheriff's Association less than 48 hours after claiming victory in the primary.

Lincoln Parish Sheriff Mike Stone, LSA's president, noted Edwards' West Point education in a press release.

"We feel having John Bel Edwards as our next governor will enhance Louisiana's image and show the entire country that Louisiana values honesty and integrity in government," Stone said.

The endorsement from the sheriff's is steeped more in political intrigue than the nod from the LOGA PAC.

Longtime Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Norman's deputies arrested a private investigator the day before the primary election for allegedly recording a conversation between the sheriff and group having coffee and breakfast in Metairie.

The Vitter campaign has made payments to the Dallas-based investigation firm, but they deny any direct instructions were given to spy on the sheriff. Instead, Vitter supporters contend Normand, who backed Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne for governor in the primary, is trying to turn the issue into a political attack..

Up next for Vitter is possibly more PAC endorsements from other business groups. For example, some of the members of the four PACs controlled by Louisiana Association of Business and Industry would like to get involved in the runoff.

In interviews with PAC members, they said they felt like Edwards' donors, like unions and trial lawyers, are their "natural enemies." Depending on if it actually happens, and at what level, it would be one for the books. LABI has only played in three gubernatorial elections in recent memory: Dave Treen; Mike Foster, who actually turned it down after seeking the group's support; and Bobby Jindal, back when he had re-election in the bag.

LABI President Stephen Waguespack said it would indeed be unusual and that the business organization's PACs have not yet taken a firm stance. A super-majority vote of all four of the PACs would be needed.

"We're polling our PAC members now that the primary is over to see if they want to revisit this," said Waguespack, "and considering the stakes of this election it's appropriate for us to circle back around to them."

Poll: Trump takes Louisiana over Democrats

While many voters are sharply focused on the governor's runoff, a new poll out from the Metairie-based research firm Multi-Quest shows Republican Donald Trump would best both Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden, two of the most recognizable names on the Democratic side, in a Louisiana vote for president.

Biden, though, announced last week he would not run.

With an error margin of +/-4 percent, the poll has Trump taking Clinton 44-33. Clinton runs best in Orleans and East Baton Rouge parishes. Trump also leads Biden 41-39, well within the poll's margin of error.

The firm's political director John Scurich points out that Trump's numbers don't drop that much against Biden — only about three points.

"What we notice here is there is less undecided and they appear to go to Biden," he said before Biden bowed out. "Biden is much more palatable to voters, especially moderate to conservative Democrats."

One region of the state Biden wins where Clinton doesn't, according to the poll, is north Louisiana. Trump shows a seven-point lead over Clinton there, compared to Biden edging out Trump 42-41.

The only other head-to-head tested in the poll was Joe Biden against former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. In that match-up, Fiorina leads Biden 41-36. Multi-Quest polled the question independently.

Legislature about ready to legislate

Now that the primary elections have come and gone, we know the final results in nearly 87 percent of the active and inactive House and Senate races.

As for the November runoff, there are only four runoffs on Senate side remaining and another 15 elections to be decided for the House on the Nov. 21 ballot.

Political watchers believe this large number of decided seats will surely jumpstart the work to be done for the 2016 sessions and maybe even free up some lawmakers to get involved in the governor's race.

The Senate is the closest to fully intact, with 21 unopposed senators and 14 races that are completed, or 90 percent of the body that's settled.

Across Memorial Hall, there are 53 unopposed representatives and 76 races that are now decided, or 89 percent of the lower chamber that is completely off of the ballot now.

The figures factor prominently into the race for speaker as a very small handful of the dozen candidates are beginning to peel off to commit to the leading contenders. Freshman representatives will especially be under the gun to pick a horse after the primary.

They Said It

"The Republicans are in a circular firing squad launching one attack after another." — New Orleans pollster and political scientist Ed Chervenak, on the primary governor's race, in Gambit

"It's almost laboratory conditions in Louisiana for Democrats. You have a horrifically unpopular incumbent governor and the likely Republican survivor is one of the most flawed candidates in American politics." — Pundit James Carville, in Salon in seven of the state's nine metropolitan statistical areas from the same period a year ago.

The state's unemployment rate declined by 0.1 percentage points, to 6.2 percent. The national rate decreased to 4.9 percent.

Area parishes and their September jobless rate, compared to its August rate, along with number of people employed and unemployed, follows:

Avoyelles — 7.0%, down from 7.4%; 15,141 employed and 1,146 unemployed.

Caldwell — 7.1%, unchanged; 3,771 employed and 288 unemployed.

Catahoula — 8.4%, down from 8.7%; 3,412 employed and 313 unemployed.

Concordia — 8.3%, down from 8.5%; 6,996 employed and 632 unemployed.

Franklin — 8.8%, down from 9.1%; 6,899 employed and 663 unemployed.

Grant — 7.2%, unchanged; 7,665 employed and 594 unemployed.

Jackson — 6.1%, down from 6.2%; 6,669 employed and 435 unemployed.

Rapides — 6.4%, unchanged; 54,192 employed and 3,697 unemployed.

Winn — 8.3%, up from 8.1%; 4,982 employed and unemployed.

Copyright 2015 The Jena Times, Jena, Louisiana. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: November 4, 2015

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