Should Lt. Gov. job go with the wind?
Those bold enough to run for lieutenant governor this fall will have an uncertain political path before them – win or lose.
That’s because Gov. Bobby Jindal and Louisiana lawmakers have presented a series of political pitfalls for anyone who is brave enough – or foolhardy enough, perhaps – to try to capture the last two years of departing Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu’s term.
Landrieu, of course, has been elected mayor of New Orleans and will vacate the lieutenant governor’s chair in May to return to New Orleans. Jindal will appoint someone to serve in the No. 2 spot until elections can be held in the fall for the remainder of Landrieu’s term.
Here’s pitfall No. 1: Jindal has made it known he would like the office to disappear. Several lawmakers have filed bills that would make that happen.
Here’s pitfall No. 2: One of those above bills would transfer the duties of lieutenant governor to the secretary of state, who would then become next in line to replace the governor should his or her service end before the completion of his term.
Consider the ramifications for current Secretary of State Jay Dardenne, who has announced he is seeking the No. 2 position. If he wins, his new office could be eliminated in two years and the duties could be shifted to the office he vacated. No small irony there.
Other legislation includes a bill to eliminate both the lieutenant governor and the state treasurer, a bill to have the lieutenant governor assume the duties of commissioner of administration and a bill to make the secretary of state’s job a six-year term.
Of course, most bills affecting the position, which is listed in the Constitution, require a constitutional amendment. That means the voters, too, must get involved. And there’s no groundswell of support to dump the lieutenant governor’s position, because the previous office holders, Kathleen Blanco and Landrieu, both traveled widely and found much favor with voters from around the state.
The duties as defined say the lieutenant exercises powers delegated by the governor. If the governor is of the same political party, these could be substantial. But even if the governor and lieutenant governor are of different parties, the No. 2 still oversees the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. Given Louisiana’s unique culture and its extensive tourism business, that means an active lieutenant governor will find as many opportunities to meet the voters as he or she wants.
State voters should welcome reviews of constitutional offices and should embrace changes when they make sense, such as when they eliminated the election commissioner’s job. A compelling case to abolish the lieutenant governor’s office has not been made. So be careful.
– The News Star, Monroe, La.