Jindal to appoint interim for Landrieu’s seat

Published 10:51 pm Monday, February 8, 2010

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Preparing for his new job as New Orleans mayor, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu will leave behind a position sought by a lengthy list of politicos vying to be second-in-line to the governor.

But before anyone can run for the vacancy, Gov. Bobby Jindal will make a temporary appointment to the post and lawmakers will decide whether they want to abolish the job entirely, as Jindal is proposing.

The governor said Monday that he was talking with people hoping to become the interim replacement for Landrieu until either a new lieutenant governor is chosen in fall elections or until the office is scrapped.

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Besides being first in the succession line if something happens to the governor, Louisiana’s lieutenant governor oversees the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism and manages parks, museums, the state library and tourism efforts.

Jindal wouldn’t give names of contenders to fill Landrieu’s job, but he said he is looking for an appointee who doesn’t intend to run in the fall.

‘‘Literally, dozens of folks have expressed interest either directly to me or indirectly to me. I’m certainly more than happy to meet with the folks that have an interest,’’ Jindal said. He added that he’s heard mainly from elected officials so far.

Landrieu said he’ll stay in the lieutenant governor’s job until May, so Jindal said he won’t rush a decision for the appointment.

Among the names mentioned as possible appointees are Hunt Downer, a Republican former state House speaker and major general in the Louisiana National Guard, and Scott Angelle, a Democrat who works as the governor’s legislative liaison and natural resources secretary.

Many others are weighing a run for the office in the Oct. 2 election.

With the rare opportunity of an open statewide office and term limits looming for many lawmakers, a vacant lieutenant governorship offers an appealing opportunity. But anyone winning a fall special election would have to run again a year later in the regular statewide election cycle to keep the seat — if the job isn’t abolished.

At least one name can be crossed off the possible contender’s list: Former Gov. Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat who was lieutenant governor from 1996 to 2003, has no intention of seeking the number two job again, her spokeswoman Marie Centanni said Monday.

Still on the list of potential candidates are Secretary of State Jay Dardenne, Senate President Joel Chaisson, Treasurer John Kennedy, Sen. Sharon Weston Broome, Sen. Mike Michot, Sen. A.G. Crowe and Rep. Rick Gallot.

Though several are the governor’s allies and floor leaders, they’re running headfirst into a dispute with the Jindal administration over the worth of the position.

Jindal said he’s backing a constitutional amendment in the upcoming legislative session that would do away with the lieutenant governor’s job as a cost-cutting and government streamlining move.

Tourism duties would shift to the economic development department, parks management would move to the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, museum oversight would go to the secretary of state, who would become next in line to the governor, said Jindal chief of staff, Timmy Teepell.

‘‘We think it’s a good opportunity with the seat being vacant to allow voters the chance to decide if we can get by with six statewide elected officials instead of seven. You don’t get these decisions very often,’’ Teepell said.

Opponents to the proposal are emerging, and the idea faces a tough hurdle to passage. Constitutional changes require support of two-thirds of the Legislature and a majority of voters.

The issue creates uncertainty, though. If approved by lawmakers, the constitutional amendment to get rid of the lieutenant governor’s job could appear on the fall ballot the same time candidates are running to fill it.