Lt. Gov. race also one to watch
The candidates for governor are a pack of Caspar Milquetoasts compared to these guys.
Races for governor inevitably overshadow everything else on the ballot, but this year the contest for lieutenant governor should have no trouble holding voters' attention. The four leading potential candidates will provide plenty of fireworks as the campaign heats up.
Like the race for governor, this one has three Republicans and one Democrat — but the similarities end there. In terms of personalities, the major candidates for governor are a pack of Caspar Milquetoasts compared to the guys who seek the state's official No. 2 spot. Here's a closer look, in alphabetical order:
• State Sen. Elbert Guillory is a 70-year-old African-American Republican from Opelousas, the first black Republican in the state Senate since Reconstruction. An attorney, Guillory switched from Republican to Democrat to win a seat in the House of Representatives in 2007. He won his state Senate seat as a Democrat in a special election in 2009.
A conservative whom legislative Democrats considered a bit of a loose cannon, the outspoken Guillory switched back to the GOP in 2013 and became even more of a firebrand. He was the loudest black voice against Mary Landrieu's re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2014 and got quite a bit of national attention for his efforts. His video announcement for lieutenant governor appears over strains of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" on his website (www.elbertguillory.com), where he also sings the praises of family values, the Second Amendment and other conservative themes.
• Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden, the lone Democrat in the race so far, is the capital city's first black mayor. He is in his third term as mayor (a post that also makes him president of East Baton Rouge Parish) and is term-limited. A former state representative and state senator (and former journalist), the 62-year-old Holden won the Baton Rouge mayor's office on his third try in 2004 with solid black support and significant crossover votes from whites, particularly Republicans.
Holden gets high marks as mayor and remains generally popular among white and black voters in his city, but a statewide race in a state that is trending decidedly Republican — particularly with another black candidate on the ballot — will test his crossover appeal. Holden is very engaging in person, but he needs to step up his fundraising efforts.
• Former Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, a 56-year-old Republican, was south Louisiana's face of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill thanks to his numerous appearances on cable news channels during that disaster. In many respects, he eclipsed Gov. Bobby Jindal during that crisis. The plainspoken, often emotional Nungesser became a folk hero as a result of his criticisms of the feds' handling of that disaster, and he narrowly lost a hard-fought 2011 race for lieutenant governor to incumbent Jay Dardenne, who is running for governor this year.
Nungesser took the 2011 loss in stride and is back with equal fervor this time, with lots of money in his campaign war chest. He ran well in south Louisiana in 2011, but this time he will have a major opponent from neighboring Jefferson Parish.
• Jefferson Parish President John Young, the third Republican in the race, is a former prosecutor and parish council member who has campaigned and governed as a reformer often at odds with the courthouse gang. He is in his first full term as parish president, so Young is
Like Nungesser, the 57-year-old Young has a large war chest and has been traversing the state to build his brand and his political base. His online ad (www.johnyoungla.com) is titled "A Stronger Louisiana," and the voiceover touts Young's prosecutorial and reformer credentials while promising he will expand economic development, tourism and coastal protection.
Although his home parish of Jefferson is much larger than Nungesser's Plaquemines, Young is not as well known statewide as Nungesser. Those two likely will lock horns early and often as the race heats up. Ditto for Guillory and Holden.
Given such strong personalities, this race will definitely be one to watch.