The findings of a lot of the polls this gubernatorial campaign season are scattered all over the place.
But the one issue on which all the pollsters seem to agree, regardless of their political leanings, is that Gov. Bobby Jindal is enormously unpopular in Louisiana.
On the presidential campaign trail, Jindal dismisses such findings with a practiced line about making the tough decisions. The polls, however, indicate that much of the dislike stems from his spending so much time pursuing the presidency and so little tending to business at home.
Consequently, a leading narrative in this year’s gubernatorial campaign is which combination of increased accessibility and focus is the correct path through the dystopian present to a brighter future. They say no more aloof relations with legislators, meetings only with supporters and policies backed mainly by national political pundits.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Angelle is now an elected utility regulator. But until a couple of years ago he was one of Jindal’s closest aides and was allowed to wander the halls of the governor’s suite of offices on the fourth floor of the State Capitol. But he, like other cabinet secretaries, usually had to go through the chief of staff to get an audience with Jindal. Few could just pop their head into Jindal’s office and ask if he had a minute or two.
Angelle’s vision is to operate as governor much the same as he did as a police juror. His is a world where shoppers feel comfortable approaching the official with problems and ideas while he’s picking up a gallon of milk at the store.
“There is always opportunity for another opinion, another point of view,” Angelle said. “We don’t need a governor who knows everything. We need a governor who wants to work with everyone.”
Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne also reaches back to origins in local government, as a Baton Rouge Metro Councilman.
“I learned very early in my career that you bring people together. You find points of agreement. You understand points of disagreement. Then you go solve problems,” Dardenne said, adding that he would pursue policies that made sense in Des Allemands rather than Des Moines.
State Rep. John Bel Edwards, the only major Democrat in the race, recently promised local government leaders that he would meet with them at any time. And he would have a liaison on the staff whose sole job would be to keep in touch with them.
“I will not select some kid, 22 years old, from Florida or New York or somewhere else. It’ll be an experienced person here in Louisiana who knows municipal and local government,” Edwards said. “After eight years of a governor who has decided that self ambition and what sells best in South Carolina or Iowa or New Hampshire is most important to him, it is time for Louisiana to have a governor who goes to work every day worrying first and foremost about the people of Louisiana.”
U.S. Sen. David Vitter, who like Jindal avoids uncontrolled public situations, nevertheless is willing to meet with some businessmen and elected officials behind closed doors, where the candidate is said to be frank and detailed. (His public pronouncements and published plans are anything but specific.)
Vitter was asked recently, given his sharply partisan record in Washington, whether he could work well with Democrats and others in Louisiana. “Of all the candidates in the race, I have the strongest and most concrete record of bipartisan accomplishment,” Vitter replied.
In just the past week, his U.S. Senate office boasted about the passage of legislation he sponsored with U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, whose ultra-liberal image alternates with President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the target of conservative ridicule.
Then a couple of days later, Vitter’s office issued a press release about his teaming with Pennsylvania Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, who, while not as reviled in conservative circles as Warren, did co-sponsor bills that would forbid on-the-job discrimination against gays.
The campaign theme of accessibility and focus even has been embraced by some of the minor candidates, so called because of their lack of money and name recognition.
Eric Paul Orgeron of Metairie, who is not affiliated with one of the major parties, calls himself the “GoPro” governor’s candidate because he would wear one of those portable GoPro mini-cams and broadcast every meeting, every minute of his term.
Beryl Billiot, who is running from Kentwood without any party affiliation, say all the voters he talked with all voice the same frustration. “They’re tired of no one listening to them.”
Mark Ballard is editor of The Advocate Capitol news bureau. His email address is email@example.com and is on Twitter @MarkBallardCNB. For more coverage of government and politics, follow our Politics Blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/.