LABI’s Hester endorsement perplexing given AFL-CIO’s endorsement and reliance on trial lawyer cabal to fund his campaign.

LABI President Stephen Waguespack.

In today’s Sound Off Louisiana feature, founder Robert Burns examines the campaign finance reports for the three (3) candidates for an an opening on the First Circuit Court of Appeals.  Republican candidate Chris Hester’s report is troubling to Burns due to Hester’s extensive reliance upon the Louisiana trial lawyer cabal to fund his campaign.  Burns found this fact perplexing given that the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), which fought so diligently for tort reform in the most recent Legislative Session, has openly endorsed Chris Hester.  From the preceding link:

For months, we have gathered information from the legal community and interviewed over 60 candidates, seeking out individuals who support greater efficiency and transparency in the third branch of government. We’re pleased to endorse this slate of candidates for the judiciary who embrace those ideas,” said Bo Staples, LABI PAC Director. “Our regional PACs have met for weeks, getting to know these candidates, their backgrounds, motivations and gain a feel for their judicial temperament, and were extremely encouraged by what they heard. We encourage voters to get to know these candidates and support their campaigns.

1st Circuit, 2nd District, SubDistrict 1, Division A
Christopher Hester

Beyond Hester’s extensive reliance upon the trial lawyer cabal to fund his campaign, perhaps only slightly less alarming is the fact that the Louisiana AFL-CIO, hardly an organization to closely align itself with LABI and its endorsed candidates, has also endorsed Hester as evidenced by the following Hester campaign material:

Let’s take a moment to view Burns’ concerns over LABI’s Hester endorsement both from the vantage point of Hester’s extensive reliance upon the Louisiana trial lawyer cabal to fund his campaign and Hester’s endorsement by the AFL-CIO:

Burns expresses his concerns over the LABI and AFL-CIO endorsements of Chris Hester for the open seat on the First Circuit Court of Appeal.

As mentioned on the preceding video, at 9:17 a.m. on Monday, October 19, 2020, we called LABI President Stephen Waguespack and left him a voicemail offering him the opportunity to contact us and state on-the-record why LABI had a high level of comfort with Hester given his extensive reliance upon the Louisiana trial lawyer cabal to finance his campaign and also the AFL-CIO endorsement of Hester.  We indicated we’d keep the window open until close of business on October 19, 2020 to hear back from Waguespack and, at 3:53 p.m., LABI PAC Director Bo Staples did call us.

Staples emphasized that the endorsement of Hester was made prior to the campaign finance reports being released and that, with the benefit of those reports, LABI may have requested a “follow up” with Hester.  Staples emphasized that, “through the questionnaire and interviewing process” that both Johanna Landreneau and Chris Hester were candidates that LABI “liked.”  He then stressed that he felt the need to issue a sole endorsement because of the “shifting demographics” of the district.  Staples then emphasized that, “it is not a sure thing that the district will remain in Republican hands.”  He said that the vote would likely end up being 52-48, “if Melanie (Jones – the sole Democratic candidate in the race) doesn’t win outright (in the primary).”

Staples further stressed that Hester’s endorsement was based upon Hester, “being the only judge in the race.”  He emphasized that Hester is the only one who has won an election having run twice and prevailing in one election.  He also said that Jones had run, “at least once, maybe twice” and that she had failed to win an election, and he stressed that Landreneau, “has never run in an election.”  He concluded by indicating that LABI feels that Hester is the most “electable” of the two Republicans in the race.

For anyone wishing to examine the other candidates’ campaign finance reports, here they are:  Johanna Landreneau’s campaign finance report and Melanie Newkome Jones’ campaign finance report.  In examining them, we certainly don’t see any reliance upon trial lawyers to finance the campaigns of either of these two Hester opponents in the race.  Meanwhile, here’s a table summarizing Hester’s extensive reliance upon the Louisiana trial lawyer cabal to finance his campaign:

Name of Campaign Contributor to Hester's CampaignDate of ContributionAmount of Contributioon
Balfour EmonetSeptember 15, 2020$2,500
Beall and Thies, LLCAugust 24, 2020$2,500
Bohrer Brady, LLCAugust 22, 2020$1,000
Brock and Palmintier Law, LLCAugust 19, 2020$500
Dana BrownSeptember 16, 2020$2,500
Michael V. CleggSeptember 15, 2020$2,500
Christopher DeaganoSeptember 8, 2020$1,000
Degravelles and PalmintierSeptember 12, 2020$2,500
Dodson and HooksSeptember 20, 2020$2,500
Donald Cazayoux (Campaign account)September 21, 2020$500
Dudley Debosier Injury LawyersAugust 9, 2020$2,500
Due Guidry Piedrahita Andrews LCSeptember 15, 2020$2,500
John N. Degravelles, LLCSeptember 16, 2020$2,500
Joseph JolissaintSeptember 15, 2020$500
Kleinpeter, Schwartzberg, BoutwellSeptember 1, 2020$2,500
Joseph J. LongAugust 5, 2020$500
Murphy Law FirmSeptember 15, 2020$2,500
John Greg MurphyAugust 31, 2020$1,000
Papillion Thomas Cullens Holdings, LLCSeptember 10, 2020$2,500
Piere and Shows, APLCAugust 24, 2020$250
Rozas Law FirmAugust 24, 2020$500
Saunders LTDSeptember 15, 2020$1,500
Scotty Chabert, Jr., LLCSeptember 15, 2020$1,000
Spencer H. Callahan, LLCSeptember 15, 2020$2,500
Tomeny Law Firm, LLCSeptember 21, 2020$2,500
Williamson, Fontenot, Whittington, and Campbell, LLCSeptember 15, 2020$2,500

So, by our math, a total of $45,750 out of Hester’s $85,575 in funds raised, or 53 percent, was derived from the Louisiana trial lawyer cabal.  That’s just a tad (okay, more than a tad!) too rich of influence by the trial lawyer cabal which has kept Louisiana in a “judicial hell hole” for decades for our blood.  In short, we don’t have a comfort level, given his extensive reliance upon the trial lawyer cabal to fund his campaign, with him being the next judge on the First Circuit Court of Appeal.

For the most part, we at Sound Off Louisiana are extremely supportive of LABI’s endorsements because they do not hand them out lightly.  Nevertheless, under these circumstances, we are letting this particular endorsement go in one ear and straight out the other, and we are openly endorsing Johanna Landreneau for the vacancy on the First Circuit Court of Appeal.

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