State Democratic Party Chairman Buddy Leach said Monday his party remains viable in Louisiana, but he declined to identify specific candidates for governor and other statewide offices.
“Some would have you think the Democratic Party has crumbled,” Leach said.
“Far from true,” he added.
Leach addressed the Press Club of Baton Rouge at a time when the state Democratic Party has been beset by party defections and other problems.
Republicans occupy all seven statewide offices, Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal is a clear favorite for re-election and the GOP won control of the Legislature this year for the first time since Reconstruction.
Leach said Democrats have a list of about a dozen viable contenders for various statewide offices.
He listed Senate President Pro Tem Sharon Broome, D-Baton Rouge, Senate President Joel Chaisson II, D-Destrehan, and former Secretary of State Al Ater.
Leach also mentioned Foster Campbell, of Bossier Parish and a member of the Public Service Commission who ran a losing bid for governor in 2007, state Sen. Rob Marionneaux, D-Grosse Tete, and political newcomer Tara Hollis, of Haynesville.
But the party chairman declined to link candidates with specific offices.
Leach noted that Democrats control the City Council in New Orleans, hold a wide range of local offices and that Louisiana was one of two states nationally last year where a Democrat replaced a Republican in the U.S. Congress.
“The party is far from being over,” Leach said.
He said he has no preferences about who in his party tries to beat Jindal, who he called vulnerable on economic development, jobs creation and infrastructure issues.
One of the Democrats cited by Leach is Caroline Fayard, a New Orleans attorney who said she plans to run for secretary of state after losing a bid for lieutenant governor last year.
In addition, Hollis has said she plans to run for governor.
Leach criticized Jindal for opposing tax hikes at a time when he said money was needed for public school teachers and state workers.
He also criticized Jindal for vetoing a bill that provided for the renewal of four cents of Louisiana’s 36-cent cigarette tax when the state is near the bottom in how it taxes cigarettes.
Leach called Jindal a “bright young man” who erred when he declined to seek $300 million in federal highway aid to erect a rail line between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
Jindal administration officials said in 2009 that the state could not afford $18 million in annual operating costs even if the state landed the federal aid.
Aaron Baer, a spokesman for Jindal’s re-election campaign, disputed Leach’s comments. “Liberals are still desperately searching for a candidate to put up against Gov. Jindal,” Baer said.
He said Jindal “looks forward to running on his record of reform, creating jobs, lowering taxes and protecting funding for higher education and health care.”
The primary election for governor and other offices is set for Oct. 22.