Trump Russia Probe

In this June 21, 2017, file photo, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, the special counsel probing Russian interference in the 2016 election, departs Capitol Hill following a closed door meeting in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

Politically, 2019 will be a watershed year in the nation’s capital and in Louisiana. In Washington, all eyes will be on special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Louisiana will see hotly contested races for governor and scores of lesser offices, from state legislative seats to parish and parochial offices.

New Orleans, by contrast, will be relatively quiet on the election front, save for state legislative contests. We settled our local scores in 2017 with the election of five new City Council members and the city’s first female mayor.

Nationally, the year begins with the federal government in shutdown mode. Republicans and Democrats likely will continue to lock horns over pretty much everything, but things really will go bonkers when the Mueller investigation wraps up.

If Mueller implicates (or indicts) the president, it will touch off a constitutional crisis pitting the rule of law against the rulers’ political survival. I make no predictions on the outcome of that epic struggle, but it seems a safe bet Louisiana’s GOP delegation will stand with Donald Trump no matter what. Heck, U.S. Sen. John Neely Kennedy might even lend him a pistol to fire down New York's Fifth Avenue.

Things will be just as partisan here in Louisiana. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has been in the GOP crosshairs since he beat then-U.S. Sen. David Vitter in 2015. Ironically, the state’s most high-profile Republicans have opted not to run against Edwards. (It’s so much easier, and safer, just to criticize him from the bleachers.)

That’s not to say JBE will have an easy time winning a second term. U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, a Republican from the northeast Louisiana town of Alto, will be well-financed as the party’s establishment candidate. Abraham isn’t well-known outside his district, but that’ll change by Labor Day, when campaigns traditionally shift into high gear.

Also running with an “R” behind his name is Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone, a contractor who promises to put $5 million into his campaign. That makes him a serious candidate right out of the blocks.

Locally, the hottest action will be in Jefferson Parish, where embattled Parish President Mike Yenni will either have to explain his sexting scandal or pack up his oval office and find something else to do. With or without Yenni, the race for parish president will be fun to watch. Those looking at it include former parish COO Keith Conley (who worked for Yenni until a few weeks ago), At-Large Councilwoman Cynthia Lee-Sheng and former Parish President John Young. None has declared formally.

All over Louisiana, we’ll see significant legislative turnover as dozens of representatives and senators face term limits. Countervailing the impact of term limits, to a degree that’s difficult to project, is the Legislature’s toxic, partisan environment, particularly in the House of Representatives. More than 25 percent of the House’s 105 members have bailed since their current terms began in January 2016.

You can’t take the politics out of politics, but some folks have managed to take the civility out of it.