Nathan Stubbs

Faircloth having it both ways?

by Nathan Stubbs

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s executive counsel, Jimmy Faircloth, confirmed to The (Alexandria) Town Talk this weekend that he will be a candidate for state supreme court. The Independent broke the news last month that Faircloth was eyeing a run for the 4th District seat, which will be vacant following Justice Chet Traylor’s retirement at the end of May. Qualifying for the race will likely be in August. From The Town Talk:

Faircloth said he only made the decision to run for the seat during the past week while on vacation with his family for Easter. "It’s a pretty clean launching point for me," he said, pointing out he had to separate himself from his private law practice to take the job as executive counsel. But he was insistent that he will not begin campaigning or fundraising until after the legislative session that begins April 27. He said the work of the session is demanding, and he is committed to helping Jindal achieve his objectives before engaging in a campaign. He said Jindal has said he will support Faircloth’s candidacy.

So why is Faircloth announcing now? Why not wait until after the session, when he is free to campaign? By getting the word out now, Faircloth’s candidacy gets the benefit of all the exposure his current job brings him. Faircloth hasn’t violated any rules here. And this is hardly the first time a state official has played monkey by reaching for a new branch while keeping a firm grip on another. However, it does raise questions of possible conflicts of interest which could be a sticky issue for Faircloth, who took a lead role in crafting stricter ethics laws for the state. Faircloth also has not stated whether he intends to resign from his current post after the session, when he will be actively campaigning. For state watchdog, political columnist and blogger C.B. Forgotson, this is unacceptable. Forgotson sounds off on his blog today, calling for Faircloth to resign. Forgotson writes:

To think that Faircloth’s decisions during the upcoming lege session will not be influenced or compromised by his decision to run for office and the decisions of others who have an interest in the outcome of the Supreme Court race defies credulity. This is not the first time that Faircloth has attempted to serve two masters. When it was announced that Faircloth would be appointed as Jindal’s Executive Counsel, Faircloth made it clear that he intended to continue as a member of a private law firm. After an outcry by the media, Faircloth changed his plans and resigned from the firm. Do we really want someone on the State Supreme Court with such poor judgment?

Faircloth's run for the supreme court could likely come up when Jindal appears before the Baton Rouge Press Club today. It will also be interesting to see if any other state supreme court candidates decide to make this an issue in the race and call on Faircloth to step down.