State Journal: All in the family

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In the never-dull world of Louisiana politics, the state has turned to showcasing kinship and education.

Tom Clausen, who served as the state's last elected schools superintendent from 1984 to 1988, announced this month that he plans to join about a dozen other candidates seeking to become Governor. In 1991, he ran for lieutenant governor and garnered 8 percent of the vote.

Meanwhile, his younger sister, Sally Clausen, will leave her post as chief education adviser to Gov. Edwin W. Edwards on July 1 to become the president of Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, a four-year, 13,000-student public university about 50 miles from New Orleans.

Ms. Clausen will be replaced by Mari Ann Fowler, the state education department's assistant superintendent for research and development. Governor Edwards, a Democrat with a long and controversial political career, is not seeking re-election. (See Education Week, 6/22/94.)

The Clausen brother-and-sister duo used to have a sort of monopoly on education in the state: When Mr. Clausen was superintendent, his sister was commissioner of higher education.

Mr. Clausen has raised a few eyebrows with what many are calling a long-shot campaign.

He has been dubbed by some in the local news media as "Mr. Mustard Seed" because of his plan to dole out $1 million worth of mustard-seed packets to would-be voters with cards that read: "Plant these seeds and bring the green back to Louisiana."

The green, Mr. Clausen explained, refers to money--in the form of more jobs--and environmentalism. The seeds also represent the biblical message of the power of faith, he said. It is faith, he said last week, that will carry him to victory in the race.

Mr. Clausen has made education and crime the focus of his campaign, and he calls for boosting teacher pay and early-childhood education.

While Mr. Clausen, who says he will run as a Democrat, said he is confident that he will draw the support of the state's educators, the head of the state's largest teachers' union isn't so sure.

"As a state superintendent, we wouldn't consider him the most effective we've had," said Mary A. Washington, the president of the 23,000-member Louisiana Association of Educators.

Sister Sally said that while she wishes her brother well, she's staying out of this race. The Louisiana primary is Oct. 21.

--Lynn Schnaiberg

Vol. 14, Issue 39

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