Monday, March 20, 2006
LOS ANGELES TIMES
By P.J. Huffstutter, Times Staff Writer
BATON ROUGE, La. — Less than two weeks before the state begins its regular legislative session, Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco has found herself in a tenuous position.
The debate over next year's budget and the fate of Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina — including how to rebuild a crumbling healthcare system and develop cheap rental housing — promises to be fierce, and she lacks the political support to push through her ideas.
Blanco knows she needs help.
Historically, Louisiana governors have kept a relatively strong hold over the Legislature. State law allows the governor to appoint a host of legislative positions, including House speaker and Senate president. That gives governors influence.
But loyalties to Blanco faded after the storm, amid finger-pointing over the delayed evacuation of New Orleans and the region's overall pace of recovery. Blanco acknowledged she must regain legislators' confidence to push through her agenda in Baton Rouge: The next gubernatorial election is nearly two years away, but she has already been dismissed as a longshot.
Blanco isn't faring much better with voters. A recent Gallup poll showed Blanco's approval rating around 33%. Roadside signs read "Impeach Blanco!"
Talk to anyone in the political world here about Blanco, and they will usually say the same thing: Blanco is a very nice lady. But in the ruthless arm-twisting world of Louisiana politics, "nice" isn't a flattering term.