‘LaPolitics’: Kennedy hires dedicated fundraiser; TOPS on the chopping block

Courtney Guastella, a respected GOP fundraiser who has handled financing for some of the biggest conservative names in Louisiana, has cleared her political calendar to handle just one bigwig client: U.S. Sen. John Kennedy. The move only fans the speculation that the junior senator is aiming to run for governor. Sources close to Kennedy say Guastella has transitioned away from working for some of her better-known clients, like Attorney General Jeff Landry. The staffing news follows Kennedy telling The Associated Press’ Melinda Deslatte, “I will run (for governor in 2019) if it feels right to me, if it’s something I want to do and if I can really affect some changes to make Louisiana a better place to live and raise a family, not all in that order.” The only other candidates making major moves—other than incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards—is Congressman Ralph Abraham, whose team is interviewing potential staffers. As for where Abraham might get cash to run for governor, GoBankingRates.com estimates that he is the wealthiest elected official from Louisiana serving on Capitol Hill, with a net worth of $12 million.

—If the TOPS scholarship program truly is one of the third rails of Louisiana politics, then lawmakers need to get ready for a jolt on Monday. That’s when Gov. John Bel Edwards will present an executive budget that’s short by some $1 billion—and his supporters anticipate the proposal will include a total (100%) cut to TOPS. The governor will take care to tell anyone listening that it’s not the budget he wants to put forward. Edwards will actually make available a second proposal detailing what his budget will look like if lawmakers go along with his special session agenda, an alternative budget showing just enough cash to float TOPS and his administration’s other priorities. For what it’s worth, hope is also dwindling for a post-Mardi Gras special session.

They said it: “I think my wife would leave me if I ever retired. Not because of the income. Because I don’t think she could spend that much time with me.” —Congressman Garret Graves, on Facebook Live

Jeremy Alford publishes LaPolitics Weekly, a newsletter on Louisiana politics, at LaPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter, or on Facebook. He can be reached at JJA@LaPolitics.com.

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