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About Town… U.S. Senate Challengers Create Four Way Race…

30th June 2014   ·   0 Comments

By Christopher Tidmore and Christian Villere,
Contributing Writers

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Col. Rob Maness passed the fundraising threshold into being a real candidate last week. That might be good news for Mary Landrieu, and it certainly makes life difficult for the GOP frontrunner Rep. Dr. Bill Cassidy—who is also facing a challenge from well-funded Republican State Rep. Paul Hollis.

In the aftermath of the defeat of establishment Republican Eric Cantor in Virginia by a nearly unknown university professor, and the neck-and-neck contest in neighboring Mississippi between establishment giant Thad Cochrane and an less well known State Senator, Maness’s feat in raising a million dollars in his quest to beat out the GOP establishment pick to face Mary Landrieu, shows the Tea Party contender’s candidacy for the U.S. Senate is far from quixotic. With a million dollars, Maness could be a real contender against Landrieu, especially considering how he raised the funds.

The Retired Air Force Colonel has over 17,000 donors, who have given to his campaign 22,000 times. His average donation is just under $50, showing the grassroots conservative appeal of his insurgent campaign. The breath of support comes from his constant campaigning, visiting all 64 parishes and put over 50,000 miles on his truck during since announcing his bid for the U.S. Senate at the beginning of 2014.

The 32 year Air Force vet, Iraq War Wing Commander, graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, the Naval War College, & the Air Command and Staff College, is not Cassidy’s only GOP obstacle to facing Landrieu in November. State Rep. Paul Hollis, a conservative favorite and self-made millionaire who represents St. Tammany Parish in the legislature, but who also is the son of the late, popular Jefferson Parish State Senator Ken Hollis, has pledged a million of his own dollars to deny Cassidy that position.

This is all good news for Mary Landrieu. Cassidy’s fundraising, of course, dwarfs either man. He has banked $6,394,560 and only spent: $1,388,312. His cash on amounts to $5,006,246 with no debts, and $1.2 million of that sum coming from the first quarter of 2014 alone.

Money is not his problem, nor is Louisiana’s increasingly conservative lean in a year that the Republicans have momentum nationally. It’s a challenge of stopping Landrieu from reaching 50 percent in the primary.

Logically, multiple candidates should mean that Landrieu gets forced into a December runoff, lacking the support to win 50 percent of the vote in November. That does not mean she loses. Exactly this scenario of three GOP candidates forced such a result in 2002, only for the New Orleans Democrat to prevail over Republican Suzie Terrell in the runoff, even in an otherwise GOP year.

However, many political observers on the Right worry that Republican divisions could let Landrieu pull off for the Democrats what David Vitter accomplished for the Republicans in 2004. As the sole GOP candidate against a field of three Democrats, Vitter unexpectedly managed to garner 50 percent in the primary.

Neither Maness nor Hollis may match Cassidy’s money, but that’s a threshold they need not reach. The Cantor and Cochrane races show that conservative anger matched with just enough resources is enough to cause an upset.

Naysayers note that those are closed party primaries, but a similar state of affairs may be on the horizon in Republican South Dakota. Listed by the influential Cook Political Report as Number one most competitive U.S. Senate race in the nation (LA is fourth), The Jackrabbit state’s GOP Gov. Mike Rounds remains a strong favorite against Democrat Dick Weiland, but he has a very Louisiana problem.

Two other candidates are running as Independents, that could cut into his conservative vote, Republican State Senator Gordon Howie and former three-term GOP U.S. Senator Larry Pressler. In other words, a Tea Party insurgent and a candidate with great name recognition could draw away enough support to make the contest competitive for the Democrat.

The Republicans could, in theory, win control of the U.S. Senate without either South Dakota or Louisiana, but with 12 truly competitive Senate races, the math becomes difficult.

Regardless, when it comes to playing the money game against her opponents here at home, Mary Landrieu, utilizing her new Chairmanship of the Senate Natural Resources Committee has raised more than all the LA GOP candidates put together, $11,324,447, spending just $3,821,675. She has as much cash on Hand, $7,519,217, as all of them put together with no debt.

Is New Orleans Really Retaining Its Young Talent?…

The narrative around the city of New Orleans these days is young people, who are coming to the city for school or work, are staying in numbers not seen in prior years or time periods. There is no shortage of media reports saying that is the case. Forbes, in particular, seems eager to jump to this conclusion. In the past year, they named New Orleans, “the #1 brainpower city in the U.S.A.,” “#1 in the U.S.A for In-Migration of ‘Workers in their Prime,’” and “#1 on the list of ‘America’s Biggest Brain magnets.’”

Some local demographers have begun to question the stats from which these rankings are derived, though. Most notably, one Louisiana State University sociologist argued in an interview with The Louisiana Weekly, they do not correct for people who are coming back to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

Remove that segment of the population, and the numbers touted by Forbes look far less impressive. Moreover, few stats delve into whether the college-educated arriving to the city are even likely to stay.

Surveys by LSU Sociology Professor Frederick Weil indicates that that they might not. Utilizing figures from the NOLA YURP Initiative (Young Urban Rebuilding Professionals) in 2008 and 504ward program in 2010, Weil realized that the intention of young professionals to stay begins to fade over longer periods of time.

The figures start off hopefully. For those from the YURP initiative, the percentage of young people who think they will remain in New Orleans over the course of the next year is almost 80 percent. Then, the percentage decreases to a little more than 20 percent in the next 10 years. The percentages are nearly identical for respondents of the 504ward survey.

The data does not provide reasons for the out-migration, but interviews by this newspaper seem to suggest a myriad of reasons the city’s newfound young adults believe they will not lay down roots.

The strongest motive, of course, there is the pull to return home. According to Mike Eller, an engineer with Lockhead Martin and Ph.D graduate from the University of New Orleans, “UNO does a great job of recruiting its students, who wouldn’t put UNO at the top of the list” of schools they are considering. His specialized engineering program only had, “12 people in the program and only 2 English names. There’s a ridiculous statistic with Chinese students leaving to go back to their home country.” Part of the reason for that is some companies, “wouldn’t hire a foreign national.”

This problem exists in other highly educated fields as well. Tendai Makina, a graduate of Xavier University’s pharmacy school this year, says, “the students from New Orleans tried to stay. Some ended up going to Baton Rouge, Lafayette, and Mississippi.” She went on to say Mississippi is appealing because it has a lack of pharmacists.

That isn’t the fault of New Orleans, but a lack of incentive for the University to develop infrastructure to keep those students in the city. That lack of incentive is why adequate resources are not appropriated to find opportunities in the city for college graduates to explore beyond enrolling in more school. Among the 2013 class of Tulane University polled in an exit survey, 35 percent plan to stay in New Orleans following graduation, with 59 percent of those staying for graduate school at the university.

Regardless of the Crescent City’s positive reviews in Forbes, the 2010 census noted the median age of those living in New Orleans is actually one year older than ten years earlier. If New Orleans is attracting young people at the rate perceived, why is the city’s demographic older than it was before Katrina?

Despite the data saying young people are not staying in New Orleans at quite the rate believed, there is some encouraging news from another survey conducted by Professor Weil, where 7,000 area residents were surveyed to determine how well New Orleans, and surrounding communities, had recovered from Hurricane Katrina.

The poll asked the same question as those for the young professional organizations: how likely is it that you will move away from New Orleans within the next year, two years, five years, and 10 years?

Half of the respondents planned on staying in New Orleans ten years out.

The high-stakes nature of issue becomes more for residents born and bred here. When a young person leaves, some of the studies suggest that locals take the choice a little more personally than in other parts of the nation. New Orleanians typically cannot understand how another city could be better.

And, in that, is the answer to growing our population. According to the research, the best way to keep people in New Orleans is to make them residents as early on in their lives as possible, and preferably to bear them here. Anecdotally, the best way is to hope they marry a resident of the city.

Gear your economy to draw college students and recent graduates, and the longer they stay, the greater the likelihood is that they will remain. Experts have suggest a variety of incentives, from exempting those under the age of 30 from income taxes, to providing generous state/local incentives for first time home ownership—beyond the city’s soft second program, to simply gearing even more our professional, social atmosphere to young transplants.

Of course, the main method of retention, there is not a whole lot the government can do. Eller says, “at one point I talked about leaving.” However he ended up staying in part because he’s in a relationship with a native New Orleanian. “Yeah, that definitely helps.”

This article originally published in the June 30, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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