Dozens of heavy hitters from throughout metro New Orleans arrived at the Windsor Court Tuesday night to greet Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell who, according to a poll released yesterday, is the leading Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by David Vitter.
The fundraiser was hosted by Gov. John Bel Edwards whom Campbell endorsed early on and raised significant dollars for last year. Fans of the governor will automatically like Campbell because of his common sense, straight-talking approach.
Though qualifying does not take place until mid July, if early trends persist Campbell will find himself well positioned in the November primary election. Having served an as elected official for more than 39 years, Foster was a savvy leader in the Louisiana Legislature before joining the Public Service Commission where he has been a strong advocate of the working class. Campbell has always been a staunch supporter of the Port of New Orleans and is known for his close relationships with members of Louisiana’s Legislative Black Caucus.
Campbell also advocates for equal pay, expanding Medicaid, holding oil and gas companies accountable for rebuilding coastal Louisiana, criminal justice reform, raising the minimum wage, and keeping jobs in America. Campbell is an outspoken critic of former Governor Bobby Jindal and Sen. Vitter.
A large field of candidates has already emerged in the race including Republicans State Treasurer John Kennedy, Congressmen Charles Boustany and John Fleming, former Congressman Joseph Cao, PSC Commissioner Eric Skrmetta, former ABC director Troy Hebert, and retired Col. Rob Maness along with Democrats Campbell, Caroline Fayard, Josh Pellerin, and Derrick Edwards.
Bernie Pinsonat’s new Southern Media and Opinion Research poll of 500 voters taken May 19-23 and paid for by Baton Rouge businessman Lane Grigsby puts Kennedy in the overall lead with Campbell running first among the Democrats. Campbell’s campaign was quick to tout the results stating that the race is “shaping up just right.”
As one consultant explained, Campbell’s campaign team is on their “A” game. It is packed with seasoned professionals who understand what it took to elect Governor Edwards and fully intend to duplicate that success.
An insurance agency owner and rancher from Elm Grove, Campbell comes to the race with a 24-parish base in North Louisiana where he has always been well liked by Republican voters. Already armed with Edwards’ unwavering support, one of Campbell’s tasks is to become better known in metro New Orleans.
That’s why this week’s event was so important, providing visibility and dollars that will help fuel the campaign’s growing budget. Campbell has begin an aggressive series of fundraisers across the state that are expected to yield significant results before the next reporting deadline.
Events hosted by a governor — especially a new governor — always draw big crowds. Tuesday’s fundraiser was no exception. Elected officials present included Clerks of Court Dale Atkins and Arthur Morrell, Constable Lambert Boissiere Jr., PSC Commissioner Lambert Boissiere III, Councilmember James Gray, Sheriff Marlin Gusman, former Mayor Sidney Barthelemy, former legislators Francis Heitmeier and Joe Sevario, and former Clerk of Court Dan Foley.
Business leaders who attended included Darryl Berger with sister Donna Kay, Stephen Perry, John and Donna Cummings, Walt Leger, William Trotter, Russ Herman, Jim Garner, Rick Richter, Tim Francis, Dan Robin, Gladstone Jones, Ted Jones, Frank D’Amico Sr., George Kleinpeter, Bill Broadhurst, June Rogers, Telly Madina, Darrel Saizan, Calais Waring, Kimya Woods, Ken Duncan, Lynda Woolard, Michael Miller, Katie Baudoin and Ryan Warner.
Though Kennedy is leading at this point in the race, many expect Republican voters to shift to other candidates as the months pass. Louisiana voters who appreciate politics will enjoy watching this race.
ANOTHER SCHOOL VOTES TO UNIONIZE WITH HELP FROM NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD
The National Labor Relations Board stepped in last week to conduct a successful election under which the 40 teachers at the International High School of New Orleans overwhelmingly voted to form a union. The teachers and management are now preparing their packages so that contract negotiations can begin. “IHS’s teachers have the legal right under the law to unionize and expect good faith negotiations on the part of the board,” one supporter told me. Businessman Harry Blumenthal Jr. is finishing up his term as board president this month and will be followed by Carol Allen, a retired career educator and Uptown resident.
Danae Columbus has had a 30-year career in public relations, including stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board. Among the recent candidates who have been represented by her public relations firm are City council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.
[Correction: This column has been updated to correct a statement about the involvement of the Louisiana Democratic Party in the U.S. Senate race. State Democrats have not endorsed any candidate, according to party spokesman Beau Tidwell.]