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Stephanie Grace: Making nice not getting Gov. John Bel Edwards very far ... yet

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS --Governor John Bel Edwards speaks during a forum hosted by Louisiana Association of Educators -- teachers and other public school employees sounding off on their education needs.

Gov. John Bel Edwards had clearly hoped that things would go differently. That the state’s politicians would give one another’s ideas a fair, open-minded hearing. That the Republican-dominated Legislature and Democratic administration — both of which can fairly claim popular support — would cling to Louisiana’s historically nonpartisan ways, rather than fall into a Washington-style war. That somehow,… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Early signs hint at partisanship ahead

Earlier this month, I wrote a column predicting that, while Louisiana’s House of Representatives is clearly turning more partisan, Baton Rouge is still a long way from Washington. Do I have to eat my words already? We’ll see once lawmakers convene in a couple of weeks, but the first real signal out of… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Explosive growth of TOPS should serve as a cautionary tale

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- James Caillier, left, executive director of the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation; Bob Baumann, with Taylor Energy; and Cody Wells, LSU student body president; testified against legislation that would limit TOPS awards to $3,200 per year. Caillier has criticized the growth in student fees -- which are not covered by TOPS awards -- as an end run around tuition hikes.

Back when Louisiana politicians launched TOPS a generation ago, they probably had no idea they were creating a monster. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing. The Taylor Opportunity Program for Students — named for late oilman Patrick Taylor, whose privately funded promise to help high-performing poor students attend college inspired… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: In partisan Legislature, Senate President John Alario remains master of the Senate, without dissent

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Senate President John Alario, Jr., R-Westwego, directs procedings in the Louisiana Senate during the Legislative session Wednesday.

As the Legislature gears up for a grueling special session, all eyes have been on the big power shift in the House, where the Republican majority broke with tradition and elected one of its own as speaker rather than going along with the Democratic governor’s favored candidate. Just as interesting as why that happened in the House… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Pro-life banners on St. Charles Avenue carry suggestion of government-endorsed message

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- Banners featuring a fetus and a pro-life message are hanging from city-owned lamp-posts on St. Charles Avenue near Nashville Avenue Monday, January 4, 2016. The banners say the message is from Louisiana Right to Life.

As far back as anyone can remember, the city of New Orleans has offered up government-owned lampposts to organizations promoting this or that feel-good, hometown cause. So it’s entirely commonplace to drive down the street and see an array of banners touting a festival, a landmark school, hospital or church. The practice amounts to civic boosterism… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: After declaring independence, lawmakers must own whatever pain budget process inflicts

A rare contested election for House Speaker took place in the Louisiana House, Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, in Baton Rouge, La. Rep. Taylor Barras, left, R-New Iberia, won after two voice votes for House Speaker. Former Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, right, passes the ceremonial gavel to Rep. Barras, left, after the vote. Rep. Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans, won for Speaker-Pro-Tem.  (Bill Feig/The Advocate via AP, Pool)

When it comes to the balance of power between Louisiana governors and the Legislature, lawmakers have long pined for a more independent role. And this year, they finally acted on the impulse. The House, in dramatic fashion, ignored tradition and rejected Gov. John Bel Edwards’ choice for speaker, New Orleans Democrat Walt Leger. Instead, members of… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Potomac Fever not catching at State Capitol

Now that Republicans in the state House have rejected Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ choice for speaker, should we start referring to the capital as Washington on the Mississippi? Probably not. But neither is it the same Baton Rouge political watchers have always known, one that operated by a set of unwritten… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: John Bel Edwards' order scolds Bobby Jindal for forfeiting cool $3B in Medicaid funds

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks Tuesday at the State Capitol at a  press conference with legislators, community leaders, and key stakeholders, just after issuing his first executive order, No. JBE 16-01, to provide for Medicaid expansion in the state of Louisiana.  Dept. of Health and Hospitals Secretary Dr. Rebekah E. Gee, MD, is at right.

John Bel Edwards’ first executive order actually reads kind of like an accusation. After a day and night of inaugural festivities Monday, Edwards got down to business Tuesday, put his pen to paper and kept his promise to accept federal money to expand Medicaid for 300,000 or more poor Louisianians under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Why Monday shows John Bel Edwards won't have his way with Legislature without a fight

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Gov. John Bel Edwards addresses the crowd after being sworn in as governor.

Can the honeymoon end before the wedding even takes place? That’s the question that hung over Gov. John Bel Edwards’ gubernatorial inauguration Monday. Edwards’ big event, held on the State Capitol steps under a crisp blue sky, went off without a hitch, and the new Democratic governor wore an ear-to-ear smile. But even… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Helping people isn’t going out of style for John Bel Edwards

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Louisiana Governor-elect John Bel Edwards, announces newly appointed cabinet members, Tuesday, January 5, 2016, in Baton Rouge, La.

By 2007, Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards’ sort already was going out of style. Democrats who fit his general profile — white, rural, conservative on social issues — were switching to the GOP in droves. Yet Edwards, who won his first term in the state House that year, says he never even considered making the switch. And… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Gov. Bobby Jindal leaves in a forgiving mood

In perhaps his last official act as governor, Bobby Jindal this week granted clemency to 21 convicted criminals, from low-level drug offenders to a murderer who’d turned his life around to such an extent that Jindal trusted him to care for his three children. While he was at it, Jindal may as well have officially forgiven… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Louisiana predictions for 2016 ... major Senate showdown plus big John Bel Edwards promises

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- Governor-elect John Bel Edwards addressed the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce in his first speech in New Orleans since the election Friday, December 18, 2015.

This time last year, I never would have predicted that U.S. Sen. David Vitter, who’s always found a way to win, would implode. I also didn’t think that a little-known, populist but socially conservative Democrat from Amite would be a stronger gubernatorial candidate than, say, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu might have been. Landrieu was elected lieutenant governor… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Senate race could have a kids’ table, too

With all the candidates exploring next year’s U.S. Senate contest, the field could wind up being so unwieldy that Louisiana may have to replicate one of the worst innovations of this Republican presidential season: the kids’ table debate. Yet the more relevant guidepost for next fall’s election to replace retiring U.S. Sen. David Vitter is this… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Removing Confederate monuments in New Orleans the right thing to do

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- Robert E. Lee will be vacated the circle that bears his name after a vote in today's city council.

When it comes to New Orleans’ four disputed Jim Crow-era monuments, put me in the good riddance camp. I know, I’ve lost many of you already, but some of you on the opposing side lost me many times during this emotional debate, too. Criticize Mayor Mitch Landrieu all you want for basically declaring the removals a… Continue reading →

Grace quick take: Battle of Mitch Landrieu vs. statues finally ends with Confederate monuments' fate decided

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--Council member James Austin Gray II, foreground, and council president James Williams try to act as peace makers as Freedom Rider Jerome Smith, left, speaks past his allotted time and is escorted out but not arrested during the debate about the  removal of the Confederate monuments in City Council chambers in New Orleans, La. Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015. Gray says his middle name Austin comes from one of his ancestors who was a slave.

. Here are is Advocate political columnist Stephanie Grace's Quick Take on the New Orleans City Council's vote to take down four Jim Crow-era monuments: 1) Council supporters of Mayor Mitch Landrieu's move to take down monuments honoring Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and P.G.T Beauregard, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and the leaders of a rebellion against the… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Promising ideas for Louisiana clearly upon us after fog of Jindal's presidential campaign lifts

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Gov.-Elect John Bel Edwards, right, answers a question as he and Gov. Bobby Jindal, left, hosted a joint press conference at the Governor's Mansion after meeting to talk about the transition.

It’s probably overstating things to say that John Bel Edwards’ resounding gubernatorial victory in reliably Republican Louisiana has made him a rising star among national Democrats, but the rare Southern victory has piqued interest throughout his party. Let’s hope it all doesn’t go to Edwards’ head. The last thing Louisiana needs is another governor who sees… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Odd legislative leadership tradition better than alternative

Face it: Louisiana has a lousy way of picking legislative leaders. While the administrative and legislative branches are nominally co-equal branches of government, the actual balance of power is so stacked in favor of Louisiana governors that they routinely anoint their own allies to head the House and Senate. This isn’t written down anywhere,… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Louisiana about to take yet another hit in Washington with David Vitter departure

Associated Press photo by J. SCOTT APPLEWHITESen. David Vitter, R-La., walks to the Senate at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013.

A year from now, U.S. Sen. David Vitter will be busy packing up his Washington office after falling far short in his attempt to be Louisiana’s next governor. The same goes for U.S. Reps. Charles Boustany and John Fleming, neither of whom is planning to run for re-election next fall. Last year it was former U.S. Sen. Mary… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: All eyes on John Bel Edwards in coming weeks; does Gov.-elect have a mandate for action?

Numerically speaking, Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards gets to claim a mandate. That would be true for anyone who clobbered a well-known, well-heeled opponent 56 percent to 44 percent, even if the winning candidate belonged to the dominant political party. Given Louisiana’s decidedly Republican leanings these days, the Democratic landslide would seem to carry extra weight.… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: We're now learning some 'behind-the-scenes tidbits' from Louisiana governor's race, campaigns

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Gubernatorial candidates U.S. Sen. David Vitter, center left, and State Rep. John Bel Edwards, center right, stand and shake hands Friday, Nov. 13, 2015 after the Together Louisiana Statewide Assembly at Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church in Baton Rouge. Others, from left, are the Rev. Jesse Bilberry (seated), Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church, NOVA Workforce Institute graduate Barbara Freeman, Linda Johnson, Plymouth Rock Baptist Church, Fr. Richard Andrus, St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church and Bishop Gregory Cooper, Antioch Full Gospel Baptist Church. The candidates responded to questions on issues like the state budget, health care and workforce development at the event.

How badly did Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s camp want to face Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards in the gubernatorial runoff? So badly that the super PAC set up to bolster his campaign briefly considered using some of the millions it had collected in unlimited donations to help shore up Edwards’ primary campaign. The… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: 'Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead!' Election ends Bobby Jindal, David Vitter eras; now what?

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Gov. Bobby Jindal answers questions at a press conference in front of the Governor's Mansion about his decision to drop out of the U.S. Presidential race, the state budget deficit, Syrian refugees coming into the state and other topics.

Advocate reporter Tyler Bridges’ account of Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards’ resounding victory ended with a virtual tour of election night celebrations, from the Monteleone Hotel suite in the French Quarter, where Edwards had gathered with family and close friends, to nearby Galatoire’s, where Republican Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand toasted the rare Democratic triumph in conservative… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: To describe David Vitter's plight, this Allen Toussaint lyric is perfect

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- Sen. David Vitter concedes to John Bel Edwards in the runoff for governor Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015, during his election-night party at the Airport Hilton in Kenner.

If the past couple of weeks around south Louisiana had a soundtrack, it would be the music of Allen Toussaint, the beloved New Orleans songsmith who died earlier this month, and whose vast catalogue has saturated the airwaves ever since. Maybe it’s fitting then, that one of Toussaint’s most pointed songs could… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Bobby Jindal 2015, say hello to the popular, genuine, inclusive Bobby Jindal 2003

Advocate staff file photo by Mark Saltz -- Bobby Jindal explains why he decided to run for governor in August of 2003.

You know all those people who met Gov. Bobby Jindal early in his career and figured he could be president one day? I have to confess. I used to be one of them. Long before the governor’s all-wrong campaign for the Republican nomination, which he ended Tuesday after five futile months on the trail, Jindal… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: It's been a topsy-turvy campaign, and there may be more plot twists after election

Up is down. Day is night. A Democrat is favored to win Louisiana’s highest office. And once-dominant U.S. Sen. David Vitter actually wants to debate more, while the onetime underdog in this volatile gubernatorial race, state Rep. John Bel Edwards, would prefer not to risk making a damaging mistake or allowing Vitter to change the… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: John Bel Edwards offers blank slate to many voters in run for governor

State Rep. John Bel Edwards’ impossible journey from sacrificial lamb to frontrunner has caused lots of folks to reassess their assumptions about this year’s gubernatorial race, myself included. The other day, someone asked me whether I thought New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu was in that number, and whether he’s kicking himself for staying out now that it’s clear… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: David Vitter the 'victim' 'perhaps the most improbable turn' in action-packed political season

Meet David Vitter: lawyer, Rhodes scholar, U.S. senator, gubernatorial candidate, legendary strategist and unapologetic political bomb thrower. Oh yeah, and victim. That’s right. Victim. Or so Vitter’s claiming to be, in perhaps the most improbable turn in a political season that’s brimming with them. In a pair of explosive joint appearances this week… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: As race narrows, 'nice guy' John Bel Edwards proves he can hold up his end of fight vs. David Vitter

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- In the first head to head meeting since the primary election, gubernatorial candidates David Vitter, left, and John Bel Edwards, right, meet in a forum hosted by the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

Last spring, long before the candidates for governor started going after one another, before attack ads flooded the airwaves and before a couple of super PACs, a well-known blog and, finally, U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s trailing Republican opponents began talking about his “serious sin,” I asked Vitter whether he thought his 2007 prostitution scandal was fair… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: What a John Bel Edwards term might look like

Democratic candidate for governor John Bel Edwards, left, speaks after Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, right, announced his endorsement of Edwards in the Louisiana governor's race,Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015, in Baton Rouge, La. Dardenne, who ran fourth in the primary, chose Edwards over Republican contender David Vitter in the runoff election. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte) ORG XMIT: LAMD101

For the longest time, the first, last and only question about Democratic prospects in this year’s gubernatorial races was this: Can a Democrat win? But now that state Rep. John Bel Edwards has emerged as an improbably viable contender against U.S. Sen. David Vitter in the Nov. 21 runoff, political insiders are starting to ponder a… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Neither 'ridiculous' nor 'obligatory' Jay Dardenne-John Bel Edwards a 'stand up and notice' endorsement

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Gubernatorial candidate John Bel Edwards, center, answers media questions tt LSU's Free Speech Alley after Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne endorsed Edwards for the governor's race.

In politics, not all endorsements are created equal. Many are perfunctory, simple reminders of overlapping agendas between the politician on the ballot and the person or group providing the plug. Endorsements in this category rarely resonate because they are entirely expected. Put business group endorsements for Republicans and labor for Democrats in… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Attacks jeopardize bipartisan prison reform

At the risk of stating the obvious, we live in politically polarized times. Issues that once united the parties and the country have turned fiercely partisan, and topics that once were merely contentious are now frequently framed as showdowns between good and evil. That makes the slow but steady progress on one huge problem facing… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Louisiana governor’s runoff a juicy drama that could hinge on personality vs. party label

John Bel Edwards, left, and David Vitter

In one sense, not much changed between the start of this year’s governor’s race and Saturday’s primary. We’re down to a two-party runoff, as basic math had long suggested. State Rep. John Bel Edwards had the Democratic field to himself, and his 40 percent showing, while impressive and high enough… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: There are too many challenges for Louisiana’s next governor to get distracted by the past

From left, Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, and State Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-72nd Dist. listen to a moderator's questions during a Louisiana Governor's Debate presented by NBC33, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, at The Dunham School in Baton Rouge, La. (Hilary Scheinuk/The Baton Rouge Advocate via AP) MAGS OUT; INTERNET OUT; NO SALES; TV OUT; NO FORNS; LOUISIANA BUSINESS INC. OUT (INCLUDING GREATER BATON ROUGE BUSINESS REPORT, 225, 10/12, INREGISTER, LBI CUSTOM); MANDATORY CREDIT

Barack Obama. Mitch Landrieu. Bobby Jindal. What do these three politicians have in common, other than a healthier-than-average level of personal ambition? That’s easy. None of their names appeared on Saturday’s primary ballot for governor, and none will be candidates in next month’s runoff. Voters might have missed that nuance, based on how… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Campaign season's ads push mostly negative vibe, leverage the anti-Obama catch-phrase

Turnout predictions for Saturday’s gubernatorial primary are low, and for those who’ve been following along on television, it’s not hard to guess why there’s not much enthusiasm. The ads have been relentless, and relentlessly negative, to the point where the whole campaign seems to have blurred into one prolonged sneer. There were a few bright… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: U.S. Sen. David Vitter has learned from Gov. Bobby Jindal that there's a strategy to dodging debates

Photo provided by Louisiana Tech University photo sevices -- David Vitter address the audience at ithe Louisiana Gubernatorial debate at Louisiana Tech on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015.

There’s a delicious irony to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s increasingly desperate pleas to be included in the next Republican presidential debate, set for next Wednesday on CNBC. Back when he was trying to get elected governor, Jindal made a point of debating his frustrated opponents as little as possible. There’s a… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Special interests pushing candidates already via donations, unlimited contributions to Super PACs

This much we know about what will happen once legislators take office come January: They should pack their bags for Baton Rouge. Each of the four major candidates for governor promises to call all those new and returning lawmakers into a special session to tackle Louisiana’s structural budget crisis. And one main focus of the debate is… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Despite small stakes, it wouldn't hurt to pay attention to Louisiana lieutenant governor race

If running for governor in Louisiana is tough, competing for the lieutenant governor’s post is a truly thankless job. While the title is impressive, the state’s No. 2 official plays no formal part in developing or implementing major policies. Louisiana’s Governor’s Office is famously powerful, but the lieutenant governor, whose office oversees culture, recreation and tourism,… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Governor candidates in 'remarkable' agreement on expanding Medicaid, as they should be

Gubernatorial candidates, state Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Baton Rouge, left, and U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., take their places before a debate, sponsored by WDSU television, at their studio in New Orleans, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

If you happen to catch the Republican Governors Association’s new ad attacking Democrat John Bel Edwards for wanting to “expand ‘Obamacare’ in Louisiana,” take the accusation with a big grain of salt. Not because he wouldn’t do it if elected. As head of the state House’s Democratic caucus, Edwards… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise may not get to be House Majority Leader, but he gets something more important - longevity

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La.,

If U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise is disappointed that he won’t be climbing yet another step up the GOP’s Congressional hierarchy any time soon, at least there’s a silver lining. Staying put as House Majority Whip — and not having to place his future in the hands of a wildly unpredictable, arguably suicidal, caucus — sounds like… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Bobby Jindal takes it too far with harsh 'sermon' over Umpqua shootings

Republican presidential candidate, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks at the Defending the American Dream summit hosted by Americans for Prosperity at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio, Friday, Aug. 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

Are there some lines that a presidential candidate, even one unlucky enough to run in an era when outrageousness reaps only reward, simply can’t cross? Let’s hope so. And let’s hope that Gov. Bobby Jindal, a candidate so blinded by his quest for attention, has finally stumbled across it. Jindal, who long ago abandoned… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: So far U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s gubernatorial campaign has been sadly lacking in substance

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--Sen. David Vitter, R-La., talks before the gubernatorial candidates debate at WDSU in New Orleans, La. Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015.

The frenetic end to this year’s governor’s race has gotten me pining, strangely enough, for its beginning. Months before the airwaves filled to the brim with nasty attack ads, the four major candidates spoke to an industry gathering of engineers and contractors about how Louisiana government works and doesn’t. Here was my take at the… Continue reading →

Stephanie Grace: Louisiana voters strong, negative feelings about Bobby Jindal could be a factor in the upcoming Louisiana governor’s race

Republican presidential candidate Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal  speaks during the Values Voter Summit, held by the Family Research Council Action, Friday, Sept. 25, 2015, in Washington. ( AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Looking for one statistic to explain how this year’s governor’s race is shaping up? The new Advocate/WWL-TV poll, rolled out all last week, offers a choice of them, from primary and runoff matchups to favorability ratings to questions on whether voters care if a candidate once voted to raise taxes (not so much) or has been… Continue reading →