After the virtually unknown Fayard advanced to the runoff with Jay Dardenne in the lieutenant governor’s race, she was widely viewed as one of the Democratic party’s up-and-comers.
Does that still hold true, given the accusations that family and friends laundered donations through the party and given her scathing comments about Republicans?
Bob Mann of LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication, who served Louisiana’s last Democratic governor and three of its Democratic U.S. senators, says that Fayard was beginning to establish herself as a political contender before she “committed political suicide a few weeks ago, and I doubt all but a few Democrats are taking her all that seriously anymore.”
But even before the controversy over her funding and her comments in Washington Parish, Bernie Pinsonat of Southern Media & Opinion Research says Fayard had little hope.
Pinsonat says no poll predicted she had a chance to beat Dardenne, given that her strongest base of support came from black Democrats, who lack the numbers to elect anyone to statewide office on their own. Her home parish, Livingston, overwhelmingly supported her opponent by 76%.
“That she had money to burn was obviously her main strength,” Pinsonat says. “[Barack] Obama is president, and she is a Democrat and a trial lawyer. This is like trying to swim the English Channel with a 50-pound anchor tied to your neck.”
But Albert Samuels, associate professor of politics at Southern University, says Fayard perhaps is the brightest star currently in the Democratic Party.
“She came out of nowhere and got 43% of the vote against a very seasoned candidate, Jay Dardenne,” he says. “She did have that incident in Washington Parish, but quite frankly I don’t think that’s debilitating. The only people who care about that stuff are those who do nothing but follow politics. The average voter in Ville Platte doesn’t care. It’s not a fatal mistake; other people have come back from far worse.”
Sure, he restored Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District to the Democrats, beating Republican Anh “Joseph” Cao. And yes, his election means a second Democrat represents the state in the nation’s capital.
But it’s too soon to tell whether Richmond will be able to hold onto that district—or be elected to any other office outside of New Orleans.
Redistricting has the new boundaries of the 2nd District incorporating portions of Baton Rouge, which means Cleo Fields, Kip Holden or another Capital City politico could opt to run.
Interestingly, the newly drawn district closely resembles the existing Public Service Commission district of Lambert Boissier III, who has already voiced an interest in ousting Richmond.
“It remains to be seen whether or not he will be reelected in two years,” Samuels says. “This could be worth the price of admission watching how all this plays out.”
JOHN BEL EDWARDS
Edwards had no political experience when he was elected to the Legislature in 2007, but his family has laid claim to the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office for four generations.
He represents one of the poorest and most diverse districts in Louisiana, stretching over four parishes from Tangipahoa through St. Helena to East and West Feliciana. The district is almost entirely rural, and about 55% of the population is black.
Edwards, who is white, graduated from West Point and served as an Airborne Ranger. But as the chairman of the Democratic Caucus, he is in a unique position to emerge as a strong opponent to Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Mann says Jindal’s popularity right now is soft, and there’s a potential payoff for anyone who decides to exploit that by standing up and forcefully articulating an opposing view.
“I’ve been really impressed with the guy,” Mann says. “He has an interesting story to tell. He’s a former Army Ranger, and that kind of profile could prove to be attractive to a broad audience outside his Florida Parishes district. But I haven’t seen him step out much in the last year. We’ll see. He may emerge as strong opposition to Jindal. John Bel Edwards is someone who could do that.”