After months of relative inactivity, the race for U.S. Senate is picking up. On June 9, State Rep. Tony Perkins of Baton Rouge joined Congressman John Cooksey in opposing incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu.
Now, sources in the Louisiana Republican Party report that Elections Commissioner Suzanne Haik Terrell is on the verge of entering the race. A moderate New Orleans Republican, Terrell served six years on the New Orleans City Council before becoming elections commissioner three years ago. She is reportedly the choice of many Capitol Hill Republicans who believe that she can take plenty of votes from Landrieu's base, specifically moderate New Orleans-area female votes.
Republicans are employing a strategy of multiple candidates to try to force a December run-off, a scenario they believe would enable them to win. With just Perkins and Cooksey currently in the race, Republican leaders feel it won't be enough to force a run-off without one more major candidate in the race -- thus the push to recruit Terrell.
Landrieu, however, continues to take moderate to conservative stands, which are very popular with Louisiana voters. Most recently, she joined her Senate colleagues in denouncing an appeals court decision deeming unconstitutional the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Speculation in the First
Last weekend, U.S. Congressman David Vitter appeared before several Northshore Republican clubs at the Covington Country Club. In the front row was his only announced opponent, radio talk show host Robert Namer. Vitter was asked to address the 180 attendees, but Namer was not invited to speak, prompting him to loudly protest. The organizers of the event were so worried that trouble might occur that a St. Tammany Parish sheriff's deputy was brought in. There were no problems in the country club, but in the political world, rumors about Vitter's future continue to swirl.
Normally very media-friendly, Vitter has assumed a much lower profile since his May 24 announcement that he would not be running for governor, leaving some critics to speculate that he will eventually drop out of the race for Congress. Vitter denies such talk and seems ready to run for re-election, but that isn't stopping some Republican leaders in the First Congressional District from trying to recruit a high-profile candidate to run against him.
Gov. Mike Foster and many members of the Republican legislative delegation are not fans of Vitter, and several of them have been talking to popular Metairie State Rep. Steve Scalise. Scalise confirms that people have come to see him about the race, but he says he does not intend to run. If for some reason Vitter does not seek re-election, Scalise says that he will run for the congressional seat.
Other potential candidates being mentioned include opthamologist Monica Monica, former Jefferson Parish District Attorney Jack Capella and attorney Rob Couhig among others.
Scalise Opposes Stelly II
Lake Charles State Rep. Vic Stelly -- the architect of the controversial fiscal reform plan known as Stelly II, which would lower sales taxes in exchange for raising income taxes -- will barnstorm the New Orleans area on Monday and Tuesday, July 1-2.
Stelly will conduct media interviews and speak to groups and organizations to promote his plan, which he says will benefit the vast majority of Louisiana taxpayers. The plan calls for the elimination of sales taxes on food and utilities for all Louisiana taxpayers in exchange for increased income taxes for wealthier Louisianians.
Opposing the Stelly Plan will be Metairie State Rep. Steve Scalise. "If enacted, this plan will hurt our ability to keep middle class people in the state," Scalise says. "It is a bad deal for Louisiana."
Scalise cites recent studies which show Louisiana as the only Southern state to suffer an out-migration of residents in recent years. According to the studies, those leaving are mostly young people with college degrees, the ones Scalise believes will be harmed by Stelly II.
Scalise claims that the benefits of Stelly II are minimal, saving the average Louisiana resident only $58 a year in sales taxes. Scalise disputes the claims of Stelly and Gov. Mike Foster, who is backing the Stelly Plan, that 80 percent of Louisiana residents will receive a tax break. According to Scalise, the true number is only 65 percent of the population. "I will be all out opposed to this tax increase, it will hurt our state," says Scalise.
Political analysts predict a very close election this fall, with the supporters of the Stelly Plan mounting an expensive and aggressive campaign. A few years ago, voters handily defeated a similar plan, but this time, Stelly and his fellow advocates believe that it will pass.