In a break with tradition, officials of one of Louisiana’s top two teacher unions said Monday the group has no plans to make any endorsements in the race for governor.
The Louisiana Federation of Teachers, which claims about 20,000 members, has endorsed Democrats for the state’s top office for years and has clashed repeatedly with Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal.
But Democrats failed to field any high-profile contenders for governor this time, and Jindal is favored to win a second term in the Oct. 22 primary.
Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan said two Democrats on the primary ballot, “Niki Bird” Papazoglakis, of Baton Rouge, and Tara Hollis, of Haynesville, are “very philosophically in tune with us.”
However, Monaghan noted that Jindal has more than $7 million in his campaign fund compared to “couch change” by his Democrat challengers.
“With two candidates who are very similar, we are not in a position to choose one over the other,” he said.
Papazoglakis, a nonprofit organization worker, reported last week that she has committed $5,100 of her own money to her long-shot bid.
Hollis, who is a schoolteacher, said she has $4,612 in campaign cash on hand.
The other Democrats in the race are Cary J. Deaton, of Metairie, and Ivo “Trey” Roberts, of Gretna.
Four candidates with no party affiliation and one Libertarian are also running for governor.
Monaghan said the LFT plans to put its focus on the seven contested races for the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education as well as state House and Senate contests.
In 2007, the LFT endorsed Democrat Foster Campbell for governor.
Monaghan noted the 2007 race did not include an incumbent governor and featured well-financed Democrat contenders.
Jindal won that election when he captured a majority in the primary.
In 2003, the LFT backed Kathleen Blanco, who edged Jindal in the runoff.
In 1999, the group backed then U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, a Democrat.
In 1995, the LFT endorsed then-U. S. Reps. Cleo Fields and Jefferson and then state Treasurer Mary Landrieu — all Democrats — in their bids for governor.
Republican Mike Foster won in 1995 and 1999.
Jindal and the LFT have clashed repeatedly on school funding and other key education issues.
In addition, the governor’s successful push to link annual teacher job reviews in part to gains in student achievement was fiercely opposed by the LFT.
Officials of Louisiana’s other top teacher’s union, the Louisiana Association of Educators, plan to interview candidates, said Michael Walker-Jones, executive director of the LAE.
The LAE, which has also clashed with Jindal, endorsed Campbell and Democrat Walter Boasso for governor in 2007 and Blanco in 2003.
“I have a suspicion that if the governor doesn’t show up, we more than likely will take somebody that shows up and will endorse them,” Walker-Jones said of upcoming interviews with the candidates.
The LAE, like the LFT, has disagreed with Jindal on a wide range of education issues since he took office.
LAE officials have recently criticized a Jindal-backed plan to issue letter grades to public schools, which they call unfair.
The governor and backers of the grades say they are an easy-to-understand way to let parents and others know how public schools are faring.
What stance the Louisiana AFL-CIO plans to take in the race for governor is unclear.
Louis Reine, president of the group, was out of the office on Monday, his office said.