Politics 07.30.2008

Kennedy and Landrieu spar over oil legislation, Cormier gets rematch with Picard and more SENATE CANDIDATES SPAR OVER OIL LEGISLATION State Treasurer John Kennedy has been taking incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu to task over her opposition to bills he claims would increase the amount of oil and gas produced domestically. Kennedy, a Republican, said his Democratic opponent should support any and all efforts to increase domestic production, especially with consumer gas prices topping $4 per gallon.

Landrieu joined other congressional Democrats Friday in blocking a bill that would have lifted the federal ban on Outer Continental Shelf drilling. “Mary Landrieu puts party line politics ahead of doing the right thing for the people,” Kennedy says. “It’s the old Washington game of saying one thing and doing another. When Mary Landrieu has a real chance to do something on energy, she refuses to break from the extremists in her own party.”

Landrieu campaign spokesman Scott Schneider says Kennedy is missing the overall picture. He says Landrieu supported the bill until a moratorium provision was added by Louisiana junior Sen. David Vitter as a means of gutting the legislation’s real intent: to restrict Wall Street oil speculators from inflating gas prices. “A trip to www.senate.gov would show that Sen. Landrieu voted to restrict oil speculation, which experts have said is responsible for as much as 50 percent of recent increases in gas prices,” Schneider says. “A wide range of experts, including oil executives, consumer advocates and past federal regulators agree that speculation is a significant factor in the current energy crisis.”

Kennedy and Landrieu have also come to blows over legislation that could have increased domestic production by 800 million barrels of oil or more each year by allowing western states to grab oil from shale, or sealed rock. In published reports, Landrieu said she voted against the bill at the request of Sen. Ken Salazar, a Colorado Democrat, who supported her earlier efforts to increase Louisiana’s share of offshore royalties by billions of dollars — money that will eventually be directed to coastal restoration and hurricane protection efforts.

Landrieu also said she had concerns about opening up an area to drilling when the technology might not even exist to heat the shale to the temperature needed to produce oil. In fact, both opponents and proponents agree that no immediate production would come of the bill, at least any time soon. Kennedy, however, contends that politics, among other things, are at play. “[Salazar] did give $7,000 in campaign contributions to Sen. Landrieu,” Kennedy says. “I’m not saying those are connected. I’m just saying it’s a fact.”

Schneider said the attacks amount to nothing more than election year politics and that Landrieu has years of service to back up her stances — and shoot down Kennedy’s claims. “Louisianians know that Sen. Landrieu is a leader in the U.S. Senate on oil and gas exploration,” he says. “It was her bill that opened 8.3 million new acres to oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico — the first time in 25 years that portions of the Outer Continental Shelf were opened to energy exploration. The bill also meant $40 billion for Louisiana for coastal restoration and hurricane protection projects.”

CORMIER GETS REMATCH WITH MARSHAL PICARD Joseph “J.B.” Cormier is the only political opponent Earl “Nickey” Picard has ever faced in his 24 years as city marshal. The two first squared off in 1996, a race that the incumbent Picard won with 74 percent of the vote. This week, Cormier announced he is once again challenging Picard for the marshal’s post. Cormier stresses he is now more experienced and prepared for the job and that it’s time for a changing of the guard. “I’m prepared to re-energize that office,” Cormier says. “Every day the criminal justice system is changing, and we must change with it.” He lists better coordination with the sheriff’s office and city police, as well as increased transparency and openness as his top priorities for the marshal’s office. Cormier, 61, is a 30-year veteran of law enforcement who retired as chief of detectives for city police in 1987. He also spent four years with the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office and nine year’s with the state attorney general’s office. He now works as a private investigator and consultant.

Picard says he is running for re-election on a strong record and that the city marshal’s office has distinguished itself nationally under his watch. Last year, the office became the first in the state to earn a Recognition Award from the Commission on Accreditations for Law Enforcement Agencies. Picard, 76, has 55 years of law enforcement experience, beginning as a state trooper in 1953. He served as Lafayette’s first city court administrator from 1980 to 1984. Contrary to rumor, Picard says he has not been contemplating retirement and still feels he is the best qualified to run the marshal’s office. “I have no intention of retiring,” he says. “I still have the desire to serve the public. As long as my health holds up and we continue to make progressive strides with this office, I hope to continue to do so.”

DETAILS PROFILES BOBBY JINDAL Bobby Jindal recently said he will not be John McCain’s vice presidential running mate on the Republican ticket, but the young policy-wonk governor is still getting his close-up in the national press. This month, men’s style magazine Details profiles Jindal. Titled, “The Making of Bobby Jindal,” the largely positive feature story explores Jindal’s precocious youth and conversion from Hindu to Catholicism, touching on an often-cited essay Jindal wrote while at Oxford in which he describes witnessing an exorcism. The article subhead reads, “The 37-year-old governor of Louisiana is out to reinvent the Republican Party in his own slick, telegenic image. And if that means purging the GOP of its Dubya-era demons, no matter – he likes a good exorcism too.”

Contributors: Jeremy Alford and Nathan Stubbs