Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is on track to easily win a second term during Saturday's statewide elections, which have something of a one-party feel.
Jindal faces several little-known opponents whose fundraising and endorsements pale in comparison to those of the incumbent. Jindal, who easily won his first term in 2007, has raised over $11 million for his bid, trumping his nearest rival, Democrat and Clairborne Parish teacher Tara Hollis, who has raised only $40,000, of which $18,000 came in the form of in-kind contributions.
Jindal has been leading in recent polls, coming in at 57 percent in a WWL-TV poll earlier this month, with Hollis polling at five percent. The other eight challengers polled in the single digits behind Hollis, with 29-percent saying they were undecided in the race.
"The Democrats searched in vain for a challenger," said Pearson Cross, a political science professor at the University of Louisiana. "Everyone conceded Bobby the second term."
Cross said that the state's Democratic Party has been on the decline in recent years. Following decades dominating state politics, Louisiana Democrats are currently left with no national officeholders other than Sen. Mary Landrieu and Rep. Cedric Richmond. For the first time since Reconstruction, Republicans have majorities in both houses of the state legislature.
"The Democrats don't have a good farm team," Cross said. "They have been losing contests all around the state. Those who might have run changed their affiliations to Republican."
Louisiana Democrats are taking passes on most statewide offices, not running candidates for lieutenant governor, secretary of state, treasurer or attorney general, with little-known candidates seeking the agriculture commissioner and insurance commissioner posts. Donald Hodge (D), who is challenging Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon (R), is the most well-funded Democrat running, with over $100,000 in his bank account -- $80,000 of which comes from personal funds.
Renee Lapeyrolerie, the executive director of the state Democratic Party, said party officials talked with several potential candidates for statewide office, who said they were looking to the future.
"Several Democrats, especially state legislators, expressed to us that they were looking to the next cycle and are building to that," she said.
The two most competitive statewide races feature two Republicans running on Louisiana's nonpartisan ballot. Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne (R) faces Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser (R) after a partial term in office, while Secretary of State Tom Schedler (R) faces state House Speaker Jim Tucker (R). Dardenne, the former secretary of state, won the lieutenant governor's office in a special election last year to complete the final year of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu's term, and Schedler, his former deputy, succeeded him in the secretary of state's office.
According to Cross and Robert Mann, a political communications professor at Louisiana State University, the lieutenant governor race has taken on the role of a shadow governor's race. Both said conventional wisdom among Louisiana politicos is that Jindal may leave Baton Rouge in the middle of his second term, either taking a cabinet post if a Republican wins the presidency in 2012 or challenging Mary Landrieu for the Senate in 2014.
Nungesser has been trying to capitalize on the media recognition he gained in the wake of the BP oil spill, which occurred off the coast of Plaquemines Parish. Cross and Mann said the lieutenant governor's race has been focused on the job's duties as culture, recreation and tourism commissioner and on the candidates' backgrounds.
"The subtext of that race is that the winner could be governor before the four years are up," Mann said.
The latest WWL-TV poll had Dardenne leading Nungesser 40 to 27 percent. In the secretary of state's race, the poll had Tucker leading Schedler 25 to 20 percent.
Lapeyrolerie from the state Democratic Party cautioned anyone from using the lack of statewide candidates this year to write off the party long term.
"They shall see and everyone shall see in the 2015 cycle," she said of the party.
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