Alford: Twelve crazy months of hardball politics

2018 has offered more than a few valuable lessons for working in or around politics in Louisiana.

While there are certainly more takeaways to glean from the past 12 months, I’ve selected eight that are worthy of your year-end consideration. With mind given to events and happenings that help shed light on what’s ahead in 2019, these themes and threads wrap up the year in hardball politics.

  • No in between: Change can happen suddenly, like the resignation of former Secretary of State Tom Schedler, or not at all, such as the Louisiana Legislature. So if you’re looking for change in 2019, check the couch cushions, because political alterations are either coming down hard or not at all next year.
  • I won, I quit: The most desirable political post in the Bayou State to be elected to and then almost immediately relinquish is a seat in the House of Representatives. Turnover has reached 21%. Will it continue into the next term? And, more importantly, will it influence ongoing candidate reciting efforts around the state?
  • Pick a side: Nothing in the realm of the Legislature is safe from politicalization. Just this month, the Revenue Estimating Committee served as LaPolitics’ “Big Picture Story of 2018.” This was the term where party politics kicked open a door at the Capitol that will be difficult to shut. Next term we’ll see this plant of partisanship in full bloom.
  • This is off the record: You can goose and gig many of our state’s reporters some of the time. All one has to do is put in the time, make timely comments all of time, tinker with time when presented with the opportunity, and, of course, become a master of timing. For example, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy’s pre-announced announcement that he would not be making an announcement, which was initially postponed, about running for governor.
  • Doors close and new ones open: Eras end, particularly in Louisiana politics, where more people than should be allowed believe they never will. We saw as much this year when Don Briggs (LOGA) and Chris John (LMOGA) moved on from their longtime gigs heading the state’s two most prominent energy lobbies. Leadership is in place at both operations, but what comes next for the oil and gas associations could be among the biggest stories from the lobbying corps in 2019.
  • A loss isn’t a defeat: As corny as it reads, never give up. During the late 1990s Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin was humping it in “the sticks” of public service on the West Baton Rouge Parish School Board, where accountability meant that you saw the parents at church and the grocery store. Two decades later, following a failed legislative bid, Ardoin has an unexpected elected job.
  • Sine die: Special sessions are only special when a term isn’t infested with them. There were three this year, making for 10 regular and special sessions this term. No one wants to repeat the redundancy of the last three years, but there’s nothing easy about the 2019 fiscal session. Making things sticky are a teacher pay raise connected to the governor, a surplus that’s in question, uncertain budget negotiations, hints about resurrecting the penny debate and maybe even a hard push on a gas tax proposal.
  • Paid for by the committee with the cash: Money isn’t everything, but it helps. For example, businessman Eddie Rispone’s vow to inject $5 million into his bid for governor instantly made him a contender to be taken seriously. Get used to this kind of chatter. Campaign cash will be a staple media topic in the coming months, especially with expectations that spending records will once again be shattered in the race for governor.

A lot more happened in 2018, in terms of hardball politics, but it would be either useless or painful to recount them here. Maybe next year. 

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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