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Brian Trascher



Meanwhile, Back in the Swamp………

By Brian “Kingfish” Trascher


                All this election turmoil has distracted most news hounds away from the potential political fallout of it’s final results.  Now that there is a clear president-elect, the names of potential members of the Bush Administration are coming out of the proverbial woodwork.  Tom DeLay of Texas, the Republican Majority Leader in Congress, has been named as a potential Bush pick.  Now the commentaries on the possible political reasons for a DeLay appointment are finally beginning to surface.  Tom DeLay is considered to be part of the right wing of the GOP, an impeachment veteran that is famous for taking advantage of every opportunity to criticize the Clinton administration and his Democrat colleagues.  He was also one of Newt Gingrich’s chief lieutenants in the House during a time when the Congressional Republicans were quite unpopular.  He has been a widely known thorn in the side of House Speaker Denny Hastert (R-IL) who allegedly considers DeLays’ abrasive style as “harsh” and obstructive in the efforts to obtain real bi-partisanship.  Having DeLay leave the House may provide a remedy for Hastert’s new strategy. Perhaps the most frequent name being thrown around is that of the Democratic Louisiana Senator John Breaux.  The moderate Democrat Breaux’s was the only name that was being tossed around as a possible appointee in a Bush and a Gore administration.  Many news organizations have cited Breaux’s conservative leanings while maintaining party loyalty as a reason for his services being in demand by both sides, but as a good ol’ boy from Louisiana, I’ll be happy to tell y’all the rest of the story.

Louisiana is a state in which political party doesn’t mean a whole heck of a lot.  With an “open primary” election system, it equally possible for Democrats and Republicans to be elected to public office.  John Breaux has been a faithful Democrat for all of his political life, but being from a fairly conservative southern state, he has known better than to get too liberal.  A Breaux appointment would help George W. Bush in his attempt to reach across party lines.  In addition, with the Senate tied at 50-50, it would be an equal benefit to Congressional Republicans for Breaux to accept a cabinet post because they assume that Louisiana’s Republican Governor will appoint a Republican to take his place, changing the Senate dynamics to 51-49.  One thing that the GOP should keep in mind, however, is that it’s not a definite that Governor Foster (R-LA), now in his second term, will even appoint a Republican should Breaux vacate his seat.  Mike Foster has been a very independent Republican as well as a very popular Governor.  In fact, he switched his party affiliation in 1995 while seeking his first term as Governor.  The Louisiana Republican Party, formerly dominated by the Christian right, had butt heads with Foster since he assumed the governorship in 1996.  Rather than keep fighting political battles with the state GOP, he simply ran his own slate of committee members in the 1999 statewide election and forced out all of his opponents, a good old fashioned “Huey P.Long” move that landed Foster as the new State Chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party.

                It was widely rumored several years ago that John Breaux was a top contender to be appointed by President Clinton as Ambassador to France.  This posed a political problem to Breaux, however, because he was a member of the Senate minority with a good bit of  “Washington” clout who would no doubt be replaced by a Republican.  Rumor had it that Breaux had proposed that Foster appoint Breaux’s Chief of Staff until his term expired in 1998.  Foster, then in his first term as Governor, reportedly declined this proposal and Breaux subsequently turned down the Ambassadorship.  Foster, now in his second and final term (unless he tries to change the Louisiana Constitution so that he may run for a third term, which he is reportedly thinking about doing), and in light of the falling out he experienced with the old state GOP, may very well decide to appoint a Democrat to appease Breaux as they are old friends (but who isn’t down here?). 

Whom might Foster choose from the Democratic Party?  It has been rumored recently that he may appoint the third term Congressman from Lafayette, Chris John.  Why would Foster go against his party and appoint a relatively unknown and young Democratic Congressman? Well, let’s look at the fallout.  If John became the newly appointed Louisiana Senator, Foster would have to call a special election within a few months.  John, having virtually no name recognition statewide, and serving only his fourth year in Congress, may have a hard time getting elected to the Senate in his own right against a well funded Republican.  Then, of course, a congressional seat would be opened up in Lafayette, the “hub” of Louisiana Cajun Country where Foster has his strongest political ties.  John won his Congressional seat in 1996 by a fairly slim margin.  There are many Republicans in that district who would be extremely viable contenders for a Congressional seat and, with Foster’s endorsement, they could be a virtual shoe-in.  Now, of course, there are a lot of “what ifs” in this scenario, but it is possible that the appointment of John Breaux to the Bush administration could mean either a no-gain for Republicans in the Senate, or a pick up of one Republican seat in each chamber. 

Then, of course, it would depend on how much election irregularity occurred in these instances because, after all, we are talking about Louisiana.  The poor Florida electorate didn’t know what hit them this year, but down here in the bayou state all that jazz would have just been business as usual.  It is, however, noteworthy that Louisiana’s former Elections Commissioner, Jerry Fowler, is being sentenced today for a number of convictions he received from actions during his tenure as the state’s elections chief.  The new Commissioner, Susan Haik Terrell (R-LA), has been cleaning up the integrity of the department so that in the near future Louisiana could be a place where (mostly) honest elections are held.  The bottom line is that the appointments aren’t really that important to most Americans, it’s all about the fallout.  It was obvious that the State of Florida received most of the attention this election year.  But meanwhile, back in the swamp, the little old “Banana Republic” of Louisiana could very well change the make-up of the United States Congress.

The “Kingfish” is a political analyst from Louisiana and is an expert commentator on Louisiana as well as National politics. He is a graduate of the Louisiana State University School of Political Science.

© Brian Trascher, 2000

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View expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Political USA.

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