Candidates already thinking about 2015 house election

Though state Rep. Joel Robideaux has almost two years left to his third term, two announced candidates and a third who is thinking about a run are jockeying for the position 20 months before the November 2015 election.

Robideaux, a popular Lafayette Republican who was first elected in 2003 as an independent, is term-limited from running for a fourth consecutive term.

André Comeaux, Jean-Paul Coussan and Jan Swift, all Lafayette Republicans, are at differing stages of raising money and setting up campaign organizations, according to campaign finance disclosures and interviews.

Comeaux, a risk management and insurance executive, at the end of 2013 had the most money in the bank — more than $62,000, with $6,000 from family members — and a circle of advisers that has met monthly since the middle of last year. He said last week that after Mardi Gras, his campaign advisers would resume their meetings.

Coussan, a real estate attorney, also has an advisory group and contributors who have given his campaign $30,500, which includes $2,500 from Coussan and his wife, Jennifer, and $500 from his mother, Jo Ellen.

Swift, who runs the nonprofit Upper Lafayette Economic Development Foundation, collected a little more than $9,000 from donors.

The contributions, which are registered with the Louisiana Board of Ethics, do not include those collected since Jan. 1.

Of the three, Comeaux and Coussan have formally announced, though Coussan said last week he’s retreated into wait-and-see mode.

Swift said that though she’s raised money and is talking to others about a run, she’s not ready to formally announce her candidacy.

Bernie Pinsonat, a Baton Rouge-based political consultant, said they are doing what they should be doing this far out from an election.

“It’s not too early to put the staff in place. And it’s never too early to start raising money,” he said.

“It would be unusual if they were running ads … or going door to door,” Pinsonat said.

Comeaux’s political résumé shows he’s worked in several legislative Republican campaigns — Robideaux’s in 2003 and Lafayette Rep. Nancy Landry’s District 31 race in 2007.

Though he’d worked in political circles for years, it was a 2011 committee debate at the Legislature on an insurance bill he crafted with Lafayette Rep. Page Cortez that convinced him to run.

“I saw how the process worked, and that’s how I knew that this is what I want to do, where I felt I could serve best,” Comeaux said.

Comeaux said earlier in his career he was a drilling engineer, and he could ably represent the industry in the State Capitol.

Coussan, who announced his candidacy in October to the monthly publication The Ind, was reticent last week when talking about his candidacy.

“At this point, I’m talking to friends and colleagues about who’s going to take the leadership in the future,” he said.

Swift acknowledged she was in the infant stages of a run that might not happen.

Swift, like Comeaux and Coussan, praised the way Robideaux is representing his district comprising middle, west and north west sections of the city and Lafayette Parish.

“It’s fun listening and talking to people,” Swift said. “What can we do at this point except listen and learn?”

The House hopefuls in 2013 spent little of what backers contributed.

Of the $62,000 he’s received, Comeaux spent less than $2,500, records show, mostly on printing campaign materials.

Coussan in August spent $3,000 on a political consultant, the only expense listed in 2013, records show.

Swift spent $269 of the $9,000 in her campaign chest to register her candidacy with the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office and $48.80 for a domain registry with GoDaddy.com.

Editor’s note: This story was changed on Monday, Feb. 24, 2014, to correct the name of Jean-Paul Coussan’s wife and include his mother as a campaign contributor.