Analysis: LA Elections Offer Lessons For Politicians

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Louisiana's elections didn't have the seismic quality of the nation's presidential race, but the state-level competitions offer some modest lessons for Louisiana political leaders, elected officials and those they govern.

         Among the takeaways: Tax reform will be a tough sell to untrusting voters. Louisiana residents are tired of increasing costs on college students. Last year's governor's race doesn't mean Louisiana is embracing Democratic politics. Highest-spending doesn't ensure victory. And white supremacist David Duke remains a political has-been in Louisiana.

         Two defeated constitutional amendments should draw attention from state lawmakers, proposals that would have reworked Louisiana's corporate tax laws and that would have given college governing boards the ability to change tuition rates without needing legislative approval.

         Voters snubbed a proposal to do away with a tax break that allows businesses to deduct the federal income taxes they pay from their state tax liability. In exchange, corporations would have been taxed at a flat rate of 6.5 percent, rather than varying rates from 4 percent to 8 percent.

         Though there was widespread legislative support for the idea, little effort was made to try to sell it to voters. Lawmakers are embarking on a sweeping effort to redesign Louisiana's tax laws in 2017, which may require constitutional changes. If lawmakers want to get the buy-in needed from voters, they'll need to put a real push behind education efforts.

         Even with an advertising push, voters weren't interested in giving Louisiana's public college systems control of the tuition rates they charge their students. Voters appeared disinterested in shifting more costs to parents and students after years of tuition and fee hikes have filled gaps created when state financing for higher education was slashed.

         In choosing among candidates, Louisiana's residents showed again that the state remains firmly red, despite picking Democrat John Bel Edwards as governor last year. A moderate Democrat may be able to break through at the statewide level every so often with the right mix of circumstances and message, but Louisiana isn't walking away from its Republican bent.

         The state overwhelmingly choose Republican Donald Trump to be president, more voters choose GOP contenders in the U.S. Senate race than Democratic ones and the congressional delegation will remain majority Republican.

         That doesn't necessarily bode well for Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell in his Senate race with Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy.

         The congressional races offered other lessons, particularly about money. While dollars are clearly needed to mount a credible campaign that gets enough eyeballs and support, high name recognition and smart spending are just as important.

         Of the more than $15 million in reported spending by candidates in the crowded primary competition for the Senate seat, at least $8.9 million was shelled out by two men, Republican U.S. Reps. Charles Boustany and John Fleming. Neither man made the Dec. 10 runoff.

         Kennedy and Campbell spent less but were more well-known when they began their campaign, and they identified successful strategies to reach the two-man contest. They weren't paupers in their campaigns, but they spent significantly less than the two congressmen.

         In addition to Fleming and Boustany, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke was unsuccessful in his bid for the Senate seat — though last week's election only served to confirm what seemed certain from the early days of Duke's campaign.

         While Duke manages to stir up emotions and draw national attention, he holds no sway over the politics in his home state, where he's been largely irrelevant for two decades. His high point was reaching the runoff in the Louisiana governor's race in 1991.

         Duke's presence hijacked the one TV debate to which he was invited, and his candidacy was used by Democrat Caroline Fayard in an unsuccessful effort to reach the Senate race runoff. But his attempt to rally Trump voters to his candidacy ended in defeat.

         The fact that a white supremacist received support from more than 58,000 voters may be unsettling to people, but Duke remained relegated to the sidelines through much of the campaign and that appears where he's likely to stay in Louisiana politics.

         – by AP Reporter Melinda Deslatte

 

 

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