Politics 05.07.2008

Cravins Jr. considers party switch, McPherson gets "cutesy" and more

CRAVINS JR. WEIGHS PARTY SWITCH, CONGRESSIONAL RUN State Sen. Don Cravins Jr. is considering a run for Congress in the 7th District — possibly as an independent. “Right now, my wife and I are talking about it,” he says. “I’m being contacted by the DCCC [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee]. People are still approaching me — even some Republicans in the district, asking me to consider running. I’m considering it.” No candidate has emerged to face off against Republican Congressman Charles Boustany, who is up for re-election this fall.

Cravins is also considering the possibly of running as an independent, which would allow him to go directly on the November ballot, bypassing a possible party primary in October. The 35-year-old state senator says he has considered switching his party affiliation for some time now because of his more conservative pro-life, pro-gun views. Cravins says conservative Democrats have the issue of getting labeled with a more liberal national party, especially in a Congressional race. “When you’re a Democratic candidate for Congress during a presidential election,” Cravins adds, “you get the baggage of the national party.” Also weighing on Cravins’ mind is a history of lackluster Democratic Party support for African-American candidates in major state elections. In 2004, Cravins Jr. watched as his father’s run for the 7th District seat failed to generate much backing from the Democratic Party establishment, which favored his white Democratic rival, state Sen. Willie Mount.

DIM-WITTED HOUSE COMMITTEE APPROVES GUNS ON CAMPUS In what will likely go down as one of the most boneheaded moves of the newly-constituted Legislature, the House Criminal Justice Committee voted 11-3 to allow college students to carry guns on campus. The committee members voting against House Bill 199 by Republican Rep. Ernest Wooten of Belle Chasse (chairman of the committee) were Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport; Roy Burrell D-Shreveport; and Republican Frank Howard, a retired Vernon Parish sheriff. Acadiana legislators voting for it were Elbert Guillory of Opelousas and Mickey Guillory of Eunice, both Democrats.

The measure now moves to the full House for debate, where cooler heads are likely to prevail.

The issue of allowing students to carry licensed, concealed handguns on campuses comes in the wake of college shootings across the country, including recent incidents at LSU, where two international students were murdered, and Louisiana Technical College in Baton Rouge, where the shooter killed two classmates before turning the gun on herself.

While the majority of college students who testified at the three-hour committee hearing spoke against the legislation, committee members did hear from students who support it. According to The Advocate, Southeastern Louisiana University student Geoffrey Green said he wants to be able to defend his friends if necessary. “I feel defenseless,” he said. “It’s not fair that we’re not able to defend ourselves.”

In approving the measure, the committee members dismissed a litany of arguments laid out by law enforcement and school officials, including Commissioner of Higher Education (and incoming UL president) T-Joe Savoie, who, according to The Advocate, said permitted gun carriers would be bringing guns from classrooms to LSU’s Tiger Stadium — where, like most college stadiums, raucous students gather and tempers often flare. “That gives new meaning to Death Valley,” Savoie said.

SEN. MCPHERSON GETS “CUTESY” WITH TAX-REPEAL VOTE There are lots of adjectives to describe the qualities that voters hope for in politicians. Committed. Principled. Decisive. But when there’s $302 million in annual tax reductions for Louisiana taxpayers at stake, Democratic state Sen. Joe McPherson can leave you speechless.

Senate Bill 87 started out as legislation proposed by Shreveport Republican Sen. Buddy Shaw to repeal income tax increases included in the 2002 Stelly Plan. Abbeville Democratic Sen. Nick Gautreaux upped the ante with an amendment that calls for a full repeal of Louisiana personal income taxes, to be phased in over 10 years. Pretty heady stuff — it’ll reportedly cost the treasury $4 billion if it passes. Gautreaux’s amendment passed 19-18. The Times-Picayune noted:

“Sen. Joe McPherson, D-Woodworth, apologized to his colleagues for voting in favor of Gautreaux’s amendment, providing the winning margin. He said he voted for the amendment in the expectation that it would fail and would have switched his vote to ‘no’ had he realized it was the winning margin.

“‘I can count, and I saw it was going to lose and I wanted to be on the record as doing away with income taxes,’ said McPherson, who acknowledged that he was trying to be ‘cutesy’ with his vote.”

How comforting. Potentially historic legislation that would impact the finances of every Louisiana taxpayer and prompt a major overhaul of the state budget, and McPherson thinks it’s time to be “cutesy.”

Contributors: Nathan Stubbs, Leslie Turk and Scott Jordan