The Next Election: State Senate



?Due to his recent guilty plea on federal corruption charges, state Senate leaders have scheduled a Dec. 6 special election to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Marrero Democrat Derrick Shepherd. In that contest, state Rep. J.P. Morrell of New Orleans faces repeat candidate Shawn Barney. Both are Democrats. There’s also an open seat in Senate District 16 in Baton Rouge, now that Congressman-elect Bill Cassidy became one of only four Republicans in the nation last week to unseat an incumbent Democrat.

??Cassidy’s victory over five-month freshman Don Cazayoux has already set off a chain reaction of politicos jockeying to replace him in the state Senate. Cassidy beat Cazayoux by 24,510 votes in a plurality win. State Rep. Michael Jackson of Baton Rouge, who switched from the Democratic Party to no party for the race, racked up 36,133 votes, most of which likely would have gone to Cazayoux had Jackson not run. But that’s yesterday’s news. Today, it’s all about what Cassidy is leaving behind. James M. Riley, a black Republican best known for his community work and consulting position with former Mayor-President Bobby Simpson, announced his candidacy for Cassidy’s Senate seat before Cassidy was even gone. Riley already has formed a fundraising committee. He plans to run on family values and government reform — a continuation of recent themes in state government Riley says drew him to the race.

??Many Baton Rouge lawmakers whose districts overlap the open Senate district also could make the run, including Jackson. However, Jackson says he’s still recovering from the congressional race, and the demographics of the district may not suit him. Rep. Erich Ponti, meanwhile, is already ordering signs and making phone calls. “I’m in,” Ponti says. “I’ve already pulled the trigger.” Some GOP honchos are courting Rep. Steve Carter, head of the Capital Region Legislative Delegation, although he hasn’t committed to run. Rep. Franklin Foil, a Republican rookie in the House like Ponti, says he’s “happy with the job I have.” Inquiries were likewise placed with Rep. Hunter Greene, chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, as well as former Metro Councilmen Pat Culbertson and David Boneno. None of the men, all Republicans, were able to return calls by press time.

??As for the rumor mill, Lee Domingue, a local businessman and founder of AppOne, is supposedly putting out feelers for the coming contest in Senate District 16. A date for the special election has not yet been set, but state officials expect a decision soon.

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