Former Legislative Auditor Dan Kyle's exit from the governor's race has reshuffled the deck for Republican candidates once again, and the shuffling may not be over yet. Three more Republicans are talking about getting into the contest. We'll know one way or the other this week, as qualifying opens Tuesday morning and ends Thursday at 5 p.m.
After that, nobody else can get in -- although some who are in may certainly drop out before the Oct. 4 primary.
Last Tuesday, Kyle announced he was quitting the governor's race because he couldn't come up with at least $1 million to stake his campaign. By Wednesday, he was a candidate for insurance commissioner. He launched his bid for the insurance post alongside state Rep. Tony Perkins, a fellow Republican, who in turn announced he was getting out of the insurance race to become president of a conservative, nonprofit family-and-marriage issues group in Washington.
It appears to be a trade that helps both teams. Kyle's investigative and auditing background seems well suited to a campaign to clean up the beleaguered Insurance Department, although incumbent Robert Wooley, who got the job when his old boss Jim Brown went to jail, will be no pushover. Kyle has adopted Perkins' pledge not to accept any contributions from big insurance companies, and he even has patched things up with Gov. Mike Foster. He appeared with Gov. Warbucks on the "Live Mike" radio show last Thursday.
Meanwhile, Perkins, who has long been a darling of the Religious Right, will be right at home at the helm of the powerful Family Research Council. Many may disagree with his staunchly conservative politics, but no one has ever doubted his sincerity. Now he'll have a national platform.
For now, the once-unwieldy field of major GOP hopefuls is down to three -- from an original seven. Those remaining are former Health Secretary Bobby Jindal, former House Speaker Hunt Downer of Houma, and Public Service Commissioner Jay Blossman of St. Tammany. The four remaining Democrats are Lt. Gov. Kathleen Blanco, Attorney General Richard Ieyoub, former Senate President Randy Ewing and former state Rep. Buddy Leach.
This has to bring a smile to the GOP mullahs, particularly Foster, who is backing Jindal with everything he's got. That would include Foster's $295,000 campaign war chest, which he plans to drain as an "independent" expenditure on behalf of Jindal. The state Ethics Board recently gave Foster the go-ahead -- provided he does not coordinate his efforts with Jindal or his campaign. That should be easy; Foster has rarely been accused of coordinating his political moves with anybody. In the meantime, recent polls show Jindal as the guy to watch. He leads the GOP contenders and runs second or a very close third behind Blanco and Ieyoub. Thanks to Foster's support, he has matched Ieyoub's efforts this year as the leading fund-raiser as well.
The Republican euphoria may be short-lived, however, as three more GOP contenders are weighing their chances. Businessmen Dennis Stine of Lake Charles and John Georges of New Orleans are considering the race, as is former Congressman Clyde Holloway of Pineville. The most likely to make it is Georges, who says he already has $3 million in commitments to finance his run. A partner of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin in the Brass hockey team, he says he will be to the governor's race what Nagin was to the 2002 mayor's race -- an independent business leader who can shake up the campaign and capture voters' imaginations. We'll see.
Neither Stine nor Holloway has Georges' financial cache, but both do have experience in government. Stine served as commissioner of administration under Gov. Buddy Roemer, who reportedly is encouraging Stine to run, while Holloway served several terms in Congress.
Any of them could hurt Jindal's chances -- Georges in metro New Orleans (where Jindal is strong), Stine in southwest Louisiana (where Jindal is weak but could grow with Foster's help), and Holloway among rural conservatives. We'll know a lot more by 5 p.m. Thursday.
- Last Tuesday, Dan Kyle announced he was quitting the governor's race because he couldn't come up with at least $1 million to stake his campaign. By Wednesday, he was a candidate for insurance commissioner.