Jeremy Alford

First Lady in town on Thursday

by Jeremy Alford

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, a New Orleans Democrat, grabbed a few local headlines last week when she was endorsed by more than a dozen business leaders from the Acadiana region. Not to be outdone, her opponent this fall, state Treasurer John Kennedy, a Republican from Madisonville, will get his fair share of media attention this week when First Lady Laura Bush joins him at a Lafayette fundraiser. She is expected in Lafayette Thursday for a 4 p.m. meet-and-greet at the home of Will Mills, a local real estate developer who has come to the aid of Republicans around the country. To show up and press the flesh, it’s $1,000 per ticket. If you want a photo with Mrs. Bush, you’ll have to fork over $2,500.

It’s a high-reaching power grab for Kennedy, but it’s Landrieu who has been notching the big local endorsements, such as the Louisiana Sheriff's Association. Although the state’s sheriffs traditionally back Democrats – with the notable exception of GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal – LSA Executive Director Hal Turner says seniority is what pushed Landrieu over the top. "With the loss of other senior members of our Louisiana delegation this year, now, more than ever, we need Sen. Landrieu's experience and seniority in Congress so that she can continue making a difference in our state," Turner says.

Leonardo Alcivar, Kennedy’s communications director, says last week’s LSA endorsement wasn’t unexpected, given the historical leanings of the LSA. He framed it as a minor announcement.  “Endorsements from associations are meaningless,” Alcivar says. “Mary Landrieu may be popular with party bosses and association higher-ups, but we know that sheriffs who are fighting on the front lines will be standing with John Kennedy in November.”

While crime and law enforcement issues haven’t become a hot topic in the campaigns, Kennedy says they’re included in the subject matter he wants to address in debates against Landrieu. More than a month ago, Kennedy called on Landrieu to participate in debates in every congressional district. Landrieu’s campaign responded by referring to a statewide tour Landrieu is currently taking to discuss voter issues. Landrieu campaign spokesman Scott Schneider also reminded Kennedy that lawmakers still have work to do. "Sen. Landrieu looks forward to a series of debates with Mr. Kennedy in October when the important work of this Congress is completed,” Schneider says.

In related campaign news, Landrieu was also endorsed this week by a pack of 15 farmers representing various sectors of the agriculture industry. Louisiana Rice PAC Treasurer John Denison was among those offering support.