Contributions key in high court runoff

The last two candidates battling for the District 5 seat on the Louisiana Supreme Court spent a combined total of $435,392 on the campaign through Nov. 18, according to records filed Wednesday with the Louisiana Ethics Administration.

But a political action committee reported spending an additional $468,701 for the benefit of one of those runoff candidates.

Judge John Michael Guidry, of the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal in Baton Rouge, spent $175,477, his filings revealed. Guidry, a Baton Rouge Democrat, topped the eight-candidate field in the Nov. 6 primary with 27 percent of the vote.

Judge Jeff Hughes, also of the 1st Circuit bench, finished second with 21 percent of primary votes. The Republican jurist reported spending $259,915 through Nov. 18.

Citizens for Clean Water and Land PAC, however, is a committee that is independent of Hughes, but which reported Hughes was the only candidate who benefited from its money this year. That Baton Rouge-based committee reported spending $468,701 for television and radio commercials, polling, political consulting and other items that benefited the Walker resident.

Guidry had no television commercials in the primary, but said Wednesday night he will attempt to raise additional money for commercials that would run in advance of the Dec. 8 runoff election.

Until then, Guidry said, he will continue to buy air time at area radio stations and make appearances at high schools, churches and senior citizen organizations.

“It’s what I’ve been doing for 30 years,” said Guidry, who was a state senator and state representative before moving to the 1st Circuit 15 years ago.

Guidry frequently speaks to groups of young people, encouraging them to earn at least a high school education.

“If I can catch these young kids at the church house or the schoolhouse, maybe something I say will keep them out of the courthouse and the jail house,” Guidry said in a recent interview.

Guidry said his fair approach to court cases earned him campaign contributions from average residents as well as the four political action committees of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, or LABI; The Dow Chemical Co.; and Louisiana Manufacturers Political Action Committee.

Through Nov. 18, though, Guidry was his largest contributor, $77,588.

Hughes contributed even more to his campaign — $250,100 — before the Citizens for Clean Water and Land committee collected $695,595 and spent $468,701 of toward Hughes’ election.

That committee, funded by a number of attorneys who represent landowners in civil suits aimed at forcing oil and gas companies to pay for cleaning their properties, reported spending all but $1,713 of those big dollars by Nov. 18.

Hughes’ television commercials and website have focused on his “pro-life, pro-gun and pro-traditional-marriage” philosophy. He also has stated that he favors the death penalty.

In interviews, he has insisted that any decisions he makes on the appellate bench will be based on Louisiana law, not his personal opinions.

“I think the majority of the country is now pro-life,” Hughes said in one video appearance on his website. He added that exceptions should always be made “for the life of the mother or in the case of rape.”

That video was produced during the primary campaign when Hughes also said: “I’m a big supporter of the Second Amendment” right to bear arms. “I’m pretty sure I own more guns than all the other candidates in this race combined.”

Hughes said: “I have gay friends,” before adding, “I’m really a live and let live kind of person.” He then concluded: “The traditional definition of marriage is the one we should maintain.”

In a recent interview, Hughes said: “My issue is experience. Would you choose a surgeon who had never worked in the operating room?”

Of Guidry, Hughes said, “He’s never been a trial judge. He went from the legislature to the appellate court.”

Hughes noted that he tried cases as a district judge for 14 years before becoming an appellate judge eight years ago.

Guidry noted: “I have the most appellate court experience (15 years),” adding that the Supreme Court is the state’s highest appellate court.

The runoff will be decided Dec. 8 by voters in East and West Baton Rouge, East and West Feliciana, Livingston, Ascension, Iberville and Pointe Coupee parishes.

John Michael Guidry

Contributors of at least $5,000 in John Michael Guidry’s latest campaign finance reports:

Baton Rouge: East Political Action Committee (LABI); Milton Graugnard; Todd W. Grigsby; L. Lane Grigsby; Louisiana Manufacturers Political Action Committee, $10,000; Michael Moran; East Political Action Committee (LABI); North Political Action Committee (LABI); South Political Action Committee (LABI); West Political Action Committee (LABI).

Port Allen: Tony Clayton.

Midland, Mich.: The Dow Chemical Co.

Jeff Hughes

Contributors of $5,000 in Jeff Hughes’ latest campaign finance report:

Lake Charles: William B. Baggett; Baggett McCall Burgess Watson & Gaughan; Jeffrey Gaughan; Wells Watson.

Sulphur: Burgess Property Management.

Citizens for Clean Water and Land PAC, of Baton Rouge which lists Jeff Hughes as the only candidate it supported:

Contributors of at least $25,000

Baton Rouge: Carmouche & Associates LLC, $100,000; Donald T. Carmouche Attorney LLC, $85,000.

Gonzales: John H. Carmouche Attorney LLC, $85,000; Victor L. Marcello Attorney LLC, $75,000.

Lake Charles: David Bruchhaus, $25,000; Mudd and Bruchhaus LLC, $100,000; Chad Mudd, $25,000; Veron Bice Palermo & Wilson LLC, $100,000.

Opelousas: Morrow Morrow Ryan & Bassett, $50,000.

New Orleans: Weeks & Gonzales APLC, $50,000.