Former U.S. Senator John Breaux withdrew from Democratic contention for governor of Louisiana late Friday after a crucial non-ruling by Attorney General Charles Foti.
Foti had earlier that day declined to rule on whether Breaux's recent residency disqualified him from running for governor in 2008. Republicans charge that Breaux, now a Washington, D.C. lobbyist, has not been a state citizen for five previous years as required.
And the loss of both Gov. Kathleen Blanco and Breaux as Democratic candidates has given Republican potential candidates renewed political hope, according to local reports.
Breaux's camp sent the citizenship issue to Foti late last month for a ruling. This effectively left Breaux's future candidacy for Louisiana governor in the attorney general's hands even though Foti's opinions are regarded only as legal guideposts.
Nonetheless, Foti clearly washed his hands of the issue in his opinion. He based his refusal to rule on "the restrictions imposed by law as well as this office's policies and historical practice" and said the issue "appears certain to be litigated."
Although a member of the same party as Breaux, Foti's unwillingness to jump was understandable, several analysts told the Shreveport Times. "Why make enemies if the opinion [is] non-binding?" political scientist Peterson Cross told the paper.
Prominent political blogsite BayouBuzz.com earlier pointed out that Foti, known as a bridge-builder, would alienate one party or the other whichever way he ruled, LegalNewsLine reported last month.
Breaux was clearly disappointed with Foti's non-ruling decision, which forced him to abandon his campaign for lack of certainty. "I am not criticizing the attorney general's office, but I wish they had been able to issue a positive opinion," he told the Times.
Attention in the race now shifts to Republican U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal, who now appears the front runner for the governor's mansion. Jindal, who lost a gubernatorial run-off in 2003, announced last week he'd raised over $5 million this year for fall's vote.
But Jindal could face solid opposition inside the GOP, according to a posting today on BayouBuzz by Jim Brown. He cites state Sen. Walter Boasso of Arabi and Metairie businessman John Georges as two who could match Jindal in financing a run for governor.
Brown also said Foti's own position as attorney general is now more vulnerable. That's because Republicans will likely switch their attention to him and other state officers now that Blanco and Breaux have been benched, he noted.
And Foti's recent punt, although it appears to have benefited the GOP's gubernatorial hopes, "gained [him] little Republican tangible gratitude" Brown wrote.