Everybody in politics, it seems, is already talking about the race for governor next year. It’s all about the swim lanes.
Is somebody going to claim the coveted right lane?
Two potential contenders were kicking and colliding last week at, of all places, the formerly boring State Bond Commission.
Attorney General Jeff Landry came out on top in that trial heat, even if he did not physically show up for the meeting.
State Treasurer John Schroder was at least a length behind, spluttering a bit at the end.
The Republican majority on the commission withheld approval of an otherwise routine authorization for construction dollars for a needed project in New Orleans.
It was the second time that Landry had used an ordinarily routine government process to take a shot at his potential competitor Schroder.
Maybe worth noting, this is bad government at its best, or worst. The bond commission is supposed to oversee state borrowing and protect the taxpayers’ interest, not indulge in Landry’s favorite pantomime of being the culture-warrior of Louisiana.
But government was the last thing on the agenda. It was politics, and purely intra-GOP politics.
Among the main duties of the state treasurer is to chair the bond commission. But he’s only one vote.
For many years, the governor typically ruled the show because he (or she, in the Blanco years) had much influence with key legislators and other statewide officials on the commission. Today, with party affiliation ruling the State Capitol, the lame-duck Democratic governor’s two votes aren’t anywhere near a majority.
His representatives voted against the slam at New Orleans. But, in a sign of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ fast-receding influence, it was the Republicans’ fight that dominated the meeting.
At the insistence of Landry’s representative, the commission made the symbolic gesture of beating up on New Orleans, by withholding approval of a Sewerage & Water Board project. It won’t delay the badly needed new power plant, almost certainly, so it was a safe enough choice for posturing politicos.
Why New Orleans? Well, isn’t it always good politics in the GOP to beat up on the Crescent City, filled with Democrats — worse, many Black Democrats — and symbol of urban decay morally and physically?
And the virtue-signaling Republicans had a great issue, that Democratic leaders of the evil Big City foolishly signaled their pro-choice virtue by declaring they will not enforce, when it becomes law, the Draconian anti-abortion restrictions being litigated by Landry. What part of their oaths about the Constitution and laws of the United States and the state of Louisiana did poseurs like Mayor LaToya Cantrell and District Attorney Jason Williams not understand?
So there was, in terms of real life, much shadow-boxing around the pool, a debate about meaningless gestures on both sides. The bond commission has nothing to do with resolving those concerns.
But in the right-hand swim lane, it was serious politics.
A conservative from vote-rich St. Tammany, Schroder protested that the bond commission is the wrong place for debates over abortion, or even about the New Orleanians’ selective enforcement of the laws.
That represented Schroder’s own history of selective judgment. He once wanted financial decisions of the bond commission to be influenced by some national banks’ views of gun laws. That’s even farther afield than Louisiana law on abortion.
But so obvious was the political imperative that Schroder himself voted along with his fellow GOP members in the event.
And Landry’s reason for his absence? Schroder pointed out that Landry was speaking at a Georgia conference center, to the Alliance Defending Freedom’s Religious Liberties. Probably can’t get more in the right-hand swim lane than that.
“If he (Landry) was really that concerned, he would have been here,” Schroder said.
Why should he, when things were well in hand, and his potential competitor was floundering in the deep end?
Email Lanny Keller at firstname.lastname@example.org.