Instead of Democrats, it is Republicans who are challenging fellow Republicans so far in this fall’s elections for statewide offices.
Intra-party matchups are shaping up for races “down-ballot” from the governor. Republicans are looking to oppose GOP incumbents for lieutenant governor, secretary of state and attorney general.
Candidate sign-up, called qualifying, is about a month away. The exact matchups remain unset until then.
Some potential Democratic challengers continue to talk about investigating bids for statewide office.
All seven state-level officials are Republicans. The last Democrat, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, switched parties earlier this year.
State Democratic Party leaders say they are intent on stopping a GOP clean sweep in the Oct. 22 primary.
But political observers say that as time passes, it becomes harder for Democrats to mount successful challenges unless they are well known or have ready access to large amounts of campaign cash.
The Republican matchups shaping up are:
• Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne versus Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser.
• Secretary of State Tom Schedler versus state Rep. Walker Hines of New Orleans.
• Caldwell versus former U.S. Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao, of New Orleans.
“You are seeing growth in the party,” said state Republican Party chairman Roger Villere.
Traditionally, Republicans coalesced around a single candidate during the century or so when the Democrats controlled Louisiana’s elective offices. Now that fortunes have changed, the GOP has as well, Villere said.
“We try and keep it to one Republican if we can. But people look at what’s best for them and their future,” Villere said. “If we have competition within our own party, I guess that’s healthy.”
When a party sees its own members challenging each other for office, that means it’s the dominant one, said Al Ater, a Democrat and former top aide to two Republican statewide elected officials.
Factions are developing within the Republican Party, as was the case in the Democratic Party when it controlled state politics, said Ater, who also served briefly as secretary of state.
Southern University political scientist Albert Samuels said Louisiana seems to have become a one-party state - Republican.
He called the Democrats are “a party in disarray.”
“To the extent there may be competition at all, it’s between Republicans,” he said.
Qualifying runs from Sept. 6 to Sept. 8.
State Treasurer John Kennedy, Commissioner of Insurance Jim Donelon and Commissioner of Agriculture Mike Strain have no known opponents.
Lt. Gov. Dardenne faces opposition from his own party, as he has in prior races.
Dardenne said his opponents “run further to the right,” which Samuels calls a difference in ideology between the old and new guards of the Republican Party.
“This new breed is more ideological. They don’t believe they need to compromise with Democrats,” Samuels said. “Sometimes, the older-hand Republicans aren’t Republicans (to them).”
When Dardenne ran for secretary of state, former Louisiana GOP Mike Francis challenged him. When he ran for lieutenant governor in a 2010 special election, Villere - the current state Republican Party chairman - was a candidate.
Nungesser, who endorsed Dardenne in 2010, now calls him a “RINO” ? Republican in name only.
The secretary of state position is essentially an open seat with no elected incumbent. Samuels said that makes the office, which handles state elections, prime territory for Republicans and Democrats looking for opportunities.
Schedler was first assistant secretary of state to Dardenne and moved up when Dardenne became lieutenant governor.
Neither Schedler nor Hines is known statewide. And neither has much campaign money.
Two more Republicans - House Speaker Jim Tucker and Scott Angelle, a key aide to Gov. Bobby Jindal - continue to explore a run for the secretary of state’s office, Villere said.
Democrat Caroline Fayard, a lieutenant governor candidate last year, has said she is looking at the secretary of state race. She did not return three calls and emails seeking comment. Her spokeswoman, Monica Pierre, said Fayard was out of state.
Samuels said Caldwell’s party switch is the key to any opposition.
“They say ?He’s a Johnny-come-lately Republican. ?He’s not a real Republican, so we are going to challenge you’,” said Samuels.
Democrats will likely challenge Caldwell too because of his defection, he said.
Former GOP congressman Cao has already formed a campaign committee for attorney general.
Instead of the party change issue, Ater said he thinks Cao’s challenge to Caldwell is more about the former congressman “not wanting to walk away” from the political office once he’s had a taste of it.
Louisiana Senate President Joel Chaisson II of Destrehan has been mentioned as a Democratic challenger for the Attorney’s General Office. Chaisson is raising money for an unspecified “statewide office,” according to his latest campaign finance report.