PORT OF IBERIA: Betting on the wrong horse

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Betting on the wrong horse is a common saying we are accustomed to. Taken literally, it is when you bet or place money on the horse that doesn’t win the race. But it has also come to mean everything from making bad investments to wrong decisions. In the political world, it indicates that someone has financed or supported the losing candidate. That is the meaning we will explore today.

Why is our legislature so focused on horse wagering?

Before we get into the actual ‘betting on the wrong horse’ scenario regarding the Port of Iberia, is anyone else curious about our legislature’s fascination with regulating horse racing? During the 2022 Regular Session, seven separate bills pertained to the horse racing industry. All of these laws were passed by both chambers and signed into law by Governor John Bel Edwards. The 2023 Regular Session saw five separate bills that pertained to the horse racing industry. Three passed both chambers and were signed into law by Governor John Bel Edwards. The 2024 Regular Session has also found six bills related to this industry.

Former State Senator “Blank” Page Cortez brought two of the seven bills (SB272 and SB314) in 2022 and two of the five (SB144 and SB160) in 2023. Cortez, of course, has had and is deeply invested in the horse racing industry. He even has a stakes race named for him at the Fairgrounds.

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J. Edgar Hoover was also an avid horse racing fan. He would even send his special agents to place bets for him to avoid detection, misuse, and abuse of government resources we would quickly denounce these days. However, we may never know whether J. Edgar Hoover received payoffs from the mob at their controlled horse racing tracks, as speculated. Which begs the question: who benefits from all this horse racing legislation?

Back to the Port of Iberia

Craig Romero, the Executive Director for the Port of Iberia, bet on the wrong horse. Despite the language in Craig Romero’s employment contract expressly stating that he shall “remain free of active involvement in any political campaigns,” Romero seems to have been actively supporting Hugh Andre for State Senator. The good ole boy network repeated the tagline “Out with the old, in with the Hugh!” on their failed march to keep the status quo the same.

The campaign went so far as to use public dollars, which appears to be a violation of Louisiana Revised Statute 43:111.1, to pay for advertisements that featured select elected public officials to the exclusion of many others. “No public funds shall be used in whole or in part for the payment of the cost of any advertisement containing therein the name of any public official whether elected or appointed…” Much like the language in Romero’s contract, it was ignored.

The Port of Iberia Commissioners allowed Craig Romero to engage in these activities and even renewed his contract amid all of it. Romero’s horse, Hugh Andre, ultimately lost to Blake Miguez. The continued actions of Romero also created further distance from him and other important Republican leaders in the Acadiana Delegation, such as Julie Emerson (R 9/10) and Phillip DeVillier (R 8/10). Regular readers may remember when Romero omitted the Ways and Means chairman and Speaker of the House, respectively. No big deal, right?

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The Future of the Port

Will any of this impact the Port of Iberia? Well, some folks believe it already has. The Port of Iberia, despite receiving millions of dollars in past years, only received monies in HB02 to complete their ongoing Acadiana Gulf of Mexico Access Channel (AGMAC) dredging project. While the number looks significant, it’s mostly leftovers from last year. Reportedly, Romero used the eCORTS (Capital Outlay Request Tracking System) to apply for millions of dollars in road maintenance around the Port of Iberia. Why that request wasn’t taken up is anyone’s guess. However, we have our suspicions


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