Leslie Turk

Landrieu offers Cravins Jr. key post in D.C.

by Leslie Turk

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, just named chair of the Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship, has asked Democratic state Sen. Don Cravins Jr. to join her in Washington, D.C., to head the committee. If he accepts the job, Cravins would resign his Senate seat and serve as chief of staff for the committee -- overseeing more than 20 staffers, including attorneys, research and press assistants, and hearing and legislative clerks. An attorney, Cravins would also fill the role of chief legal counsel for the small business committee, which oversees the Small Business Administration.

An e-mail inquiry to a Landrieu spokesman was not immediately returned.

Cravins declined to confirm details of the offer and tells the INDsider he and his family won't make a decision for another couple of weeks. "We are strongly, strongly considering it," he says. The 36-year-old is in his second year as a state senator, having been elected to the post in 2007 after replacing his father a year before in a special election. Prior to that, he served two years in the state House, making history with Don Cravins Sr. as the first father-son duo to serve in the Louisiana Legislature at the same time.

Cravins Jr., who currently chairs the state Insurance Committee, says the decision will be tough, noting the work he'd like to accomplish in the Legislature as insurance chairman and as an advocate for juvenile justice reforms. While Cravins' departure from the state Senate would be a loss to Louisiana, overseeing the small business committee would provide him numerous opportunities and challenges to help small businesses not only in the state but across the country. Small businesses are likely to be a critical component of President-elect Barack Obama's plan to stimulate the nation's economy.

In political terms, the small business chairmanship is a major bump in influence and rank for Landrieu, who already is chairing a subcommittee of the powerful Senate Appropriations and sitting on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

"Bolstered by my seats on other key committees for our state, this assignment provides the seniority to fight even harder for Louisiana’s more than 350,000 small businesses," Landrieu says. While serving on the small business committee, Landrieu has developed a strong coalition with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and taken a lead role in disaster recovery legislation.

She recently met with Obama to "emphasize the importance of American small businesses to the economic recovery of the nation and any community affected by future disasters." Landrieu replaces Sen. John Kerry, a Democrat from Massachusetts who was recently appointed chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In a prepared statement, Kerry said small businesses should feel "proud" to have Landrieu at the helm. "As small business committee chairman, I traveled to Louisiana with Mary and I saw firsthand her passion for helping small-business owners in her state and across the country. After Louisiana was walloped by hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Sen. Landrieu put Washington on notice that she wouldn’t accept a second-rate federal response and she fought for aid to rebuild her state’s economy." — Additional reporting by Jeremy Alford