The state Republican Party has started fighting efforts to recall Gov. Bobby Jindal, House Speaker Chuck Kleckley and other legislative allies.
“We have seen what’s happened around the country, including in Wisconsin,” said Jason Doré, the state party’s executive director.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker survived a recall election earlier this month with 53 percent of the vote, after spending more than $63 million.
“We wanted to make sure we got on this early,” Doré said of the recall efforts against Republicans Jindal, Kleckley, of Lake Charles, as well as state Reps. Greg Cromer and Kevin Pearson, both of Slidell.
In addition to television commercials, yard signs and other activities, Doré said the party is making a public records request seeking to have the four active recall efforts to disclose copies of the signed petitions before the deadline. The petition organizers say the state party’s demand amounts to “intimidation.”
In Lake Charles, the party is running “I Stand with Chuck” television commercials produced by the political strategy firm On Message Inc., based in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. Timmy Teepell, Jindal’s chief political adviser and former chief of staff, is a principal in the firm.
“The governor stands ready to help Chuck in any way he needs,” Teepell said.
The recall efforts started in the wake of legislative passage of Jindal initiatives that allow state public school dollars toward students attending private and parochial schools, and a law to make it harder for teachers to earn and retain tenure.
Veteran Calcasieu teachers Angie Bonvillain and Brenda Romero launched petition drives against Jindal and Kleckley, saying the approach undermines public schools instead of helping them get better.
The Louisiana Political Action Committee has been formed as the campaign finance arm of all four recall efforts, said Romero. A hotline number has been established: (337) 263-0688 as well as a website, http://www.recallbobbyjindal.com, which contains downloadable petitions for those interested in any one of the four recall attempts.
Kleckley said he is not concerned. He said he had nothing to do with the Republican Party’s decision to get involved in his case.
“I’m getting phone calls, text messages from friends I have not heard from in years, and offering their assistance and help in any way they can help,” said Kleckley.
He said he has been reaching out to constituents and attending a lot of local events.
The Kleckley recall effort is halfway toward its signature goal to force an election, Bonvillain said at week’s end.
A signup event is scheduled at a park in the speaker’s district.
Under state law, recall petitions must gather roughly one-third of a district’s voters. Recall organizers will need roughly 9,000 signatures to recall Kleckley.
Kleckley’s District 36 is 24 precincts in the southwestern part of Calcasieu Parish. The 44,320 residents counted in the 2012 U.S. Census include 27,347 registered voters, of whom about 87 percent are white and 35 percent are registered Republicans.
Kleckley was elected in 2005 in a special election, but reelected without opposition in 2007 or 2011.
Recall drives have six months to gather sufficient signatures. In the case of Jindal and Kleckley, the signatures are due for verification by elections officials by Sept. 19.
For Jindal, a recall effort would need roughly 957,000 certified signatures from among the state’s 2.87 million registered voters. Jindal was re-elected governor in October 2011, winning 673,239 of 1,023,163 votes cast, according the Secretary of State’s Office.
State GOP leader Doré said the 9,000 signatures required in the House districts is “not insurmountable. … It’s a lot less likely to get statewide for governor.”
Doré has suggested that the recall organizers have not complied with the campaign finance law that he said requires reporting within 45 days of a petition drive’s start.
“They have not shown where their money is coming from. Somebody is paying for all this stuff, but we don’t know who,” Doré said. “We do know when the teachers’ (union) did their rally on the Capitol steps, they announced the recall petition.”
Romero said petition organizers are complying with the law. Their contributions have not been large enough to trigger a report, she said.
“This is strictly grass roots, no union money, no Democratic Party money. ... It’s a lot of word-of-mouth,” Romero said. “We have been talking to the secretary of state’s office and campaign finance people making sure we are adhering to that.”
Organizer Bonvillain said recall efforts are not required to turn over signed petitions until they are officially filed with elections officials. At that point, she said, they become public documents. The Republican Party’s maneuvers indicate concern about recall efforts’ progress, particularly when it comes to Kleckley, she said.
“They are trying to intimidate us. It’s like David and Goliath, and Goliath complaining that David has a slingshot. They are trying to use their influence to intimidate us and everyone else around,” said Bonvillain. “We know what they are doing is wrong. They are taking our education system and handing it over to people who don’t care about education. They care about money and that is wrong.”
Doré said the state GOP would monitor the situation in the other House districts. “We’ll keep it going as long as the teachers continue collecting signatures,” Doré said.