Former Senator John Breaux, who would have been a strong candidate in Louisiana's gubernatorial race this year against GOP Representative Bobby Jindal, has withdrawn (since he cashed in as a lobbyist and moved to Maryland in 2005, he couldn't prove Louisiana "citizenship"). Four years ago, Jindal came close to defeating Kathleen Blanco--who is so widely disliked, particularly after Katrina, that she won't seek reelection--so either Jindal sallies forth this fall into the governor's office, or the state's Democratic Party finds a widely respected, high-profile candidate to run instead (and fast). Problem is, except for Mitch Landrieu--who lost last year's mayoral election in New Orleans--nobody in Louisiana fits that description. I'd wager Jindal's a shoe-in.
But how bad is that, really? Louisiana politics is a deeply backward, machine-run affair. Officeholders are almost uniformly hackish, corrupt, or incompetent--or all three. (I grew up there.) Jindal, however, is a smart reformer who ran a large bureaucracy well. And, because he was drafted into state politics by Governor Mike Foster (who appointed him to run the state's Department of Health and Hospitals), he's not accountable to any political machine. In other words, he's a smart, honest wonk. And, while there's not much to recommend his ideas about the world--he's a hard-right Christian conservative--Louisiana is long overdue for an executive who wields a technocratic governing philosophy. As I argued last time Jindal ran for governor, a four- or eight-year setback for Louisiana liberals is easily worth a three-decade leap forward in terms of ethics and competence.
(Two important caveats: Jindal voted to weaken House ethics rules during the Tom DeLay scandal; and, again, if Landrieu entered the race, I believe he's smart and honest enough--though he's far from perfect--to offset Jindal's assets.)
--Adam B. Kushner