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Louisiana Politics: Gubernatorial campaigns put more people on payrolls

As January gives way to February, the three declared candidates for governor are building up their staffs in anticipation of the campaign to come.
Incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards is shouldering the additional burden of having to juggle personnel in his own administration. For instance, his former deputy chief of staff, Richard Carbo, is now serving as the campaign manager. Linda Day, Edwards’ 2015 campaign manager, will be on staff as a senior advisor. Two other veterans from the 2015 race, media consultant Jared Arsement and GOTV constant Ben Jeffers, will be returning to their old posts.
The fresh faces over at Edwards HQ include pollsters John Anzalone and Zach McCrary, digital strategist Julie Ager and finance director Katie Penland, who comes to Team JBE from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. She’ll be working with Emilie Tenenbaum, who has handled the governor’s fundraising since 2016.
Congressman Ralph Abraham’s effort will be led by campaign manager John Vick, who perviously worked for U.S. Sen. John Kennedy and the Republican Party of Virginia.
Courtney Alexander, a former staffer for Abraham’s congressional office and U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy’s 2014 campaign, will be taking over as the campaign’s political director, while Bill Skelly and Causeway Solutions will be handling polling and data analysis. Lionel Rainey III will be Abraham’s general consultant, while fundraiser Allee Bautsch Gruenwald will be tasked with keeping the doctor’s war chest full.
Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone has named Bryan Reed as his campaign chief. Reed was previously the deputy political director for U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s 2016 presidential campaign. Sarah Harbison, who formerly worked for U.S. Sen. John Kennedy and Treasurer John Schroder, is the new political director, and veteran fundraiser Sally Nungesser will be raising money. Tony Fabrizio, who was the chief pollster for President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, will be crunching the numbers for Rispone, too.

Ruckerts Make BOLD Moves
After three years of running his own shop, BOLD Strategies, consultant Kyle Ruckert is expanding his portfolio again by adding his wife Lynnel and Andree Miller to the rolls. Both worked in the trenches for former U.S. Sen. David Vitter, alongside Kyle.
Lynnel spent the majority of her career on Capitol Hill, including an eight year stint as Minority Whip Steve Scalise’s chief of staff, and recently left her position in Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office. Miller previously worked for St. Jude’s before joining Vitter’s Senate staff and eventually working for Lynnel.
In addition to handling the Louisiana Committee for a Conservative Majority, BOLD’s clients include Landry, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy and Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon.
Political History: Where
dat? (The followup)
In the summer of 2001, the talks between the New Orleans Saints and the state of Louisiana seemed at an impasse. Owner Tom Benson and his executives wanted a new stadium for the NFL team, while the state wanted to find the cheapest way to keep the Saints in New Orleans.
The state’s lead negotiator was Stephen Perry, then-Gov. Mike Foster’s chief of staff. Through his contacts in Mississippi politics, Perry had found out about a series of clandestine meetings that Benson had with Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and U.S. Sen. Trent Lott in an effort to move the Black and Gold to the Magnolia State.
Musgrove and Lott had put together a formal proposal for large retractable-roof stadium and an accompanying development just off of I-10 in Hancock County. Benson and his executives had heard the final pitch from Mississippi officials just days before heading to a meeting with their Bayou State counterparts.
Perry, incensed at the idea that the Saints could be leaving, opened the meeting by telling Benson, team vice president Arnie Fielkow and the assembled teams of negotiators that he was well aware of the discussions over in Mississippi. “You’re not negotiating with us in good faith,” he said.
After a few more minutes of tense talks, Benson’s team, visibly frustrated and enraged, stood up and announced to the room that they were ending the negotiations with the state of Louisiana. “It was a very short meeting and it broke down quickly,” Fielkow told LaPolitics.
Perry then headed for the Superdome where he called a press conference and announced that the he Saints had walked out of talks with Louisiana and appeared to be inching away from New Orleans. While rumors had been bouncing around for months, Perry’s statements were the first official confirmation. “It would be a catastrophic mistake for the franchise on every conceivable level,” he told reporters.
Later that evening, Benson responded in his own press conference. “I’m particularly disappointed and frustrated by the allegations that the Saints have acted in bad faith during these negotiations,” he said, his voice rising with emotion.
After about a week of silence, tempers cooled and the two sides agreed to meet in Baton Rouge. While Gov. Foster had let Perry lead the talks, he sat in on this meeting, speaking directly with Benson himself. “The governor was pretty clear that a new stadium was going to be very difficult,” Fielkow said.
Leaving Foster and Benson, a small team of negotiators from both sides huddled in a small room. After some haggling, they worked out the framework of a deal. The state would pay the Saints $186 million over ten years to help supplement the team’s revenue. In return, the franchise would drop their demands for a new stadium.
The deal was overwhelmingly approved by the Legislature, giving the Black & Gold a permanent home (again) on Poydras Street.
For more Louisiana political news, visit or follow Alford and Rabalais on Twitter via @LaPoliticsNow.


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