Sunday, January 4, 2009

Critics: Jindal's not accessible

In Baton Rouge, the buzz says Louisiana's real governor is Bobby Jindal's chief of staff, Timmy Teepell. It illustrates the dangers that national ambition can inflict on local popularity, and superstar governors like Jindal and Sarah Palin would do well to remember that if the home back home is crumbling, they can kiss 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue goodbye.

2 The Advocate

Jindal made headlines in 2008 — sometimes in the scope of his job and other times with the buzz over his national appearances. He chatted with Jay Leno, flew on Air Force One, had his picture taken with President-elect Barack Obama and became a go-to person for Republican fundraising.

But lawmakers complained that Jindal was inaccessible.

There are days when Jindal enters the back door of the State Capitol, walks 10 paces from his parking space and rides the private elevator to his office with his lunch box in hand.

However, there are many days when he steps onto a helicopter or a plane. He holds town hall meetings in whistle-stops. He raises money for candidates in other states. He attends church across the state.

Some lawmakers jokingly refer to Jindal’s chief of staff, Timmy Teepell, as Gov. Teepell — a nickname that fails to provoke a smile from Jindal when he is asked about it.

Jindal said legislators need a new joke, noting that they gave a similar nickname to former Gov. Mike Foster’s chief of staff.

But there is no denying that Teepell is a constant presence on the sidelines of the legislative chambers. Jindal’s penny-adorned loafers rarely cross the first floor of the Capitol, where the historic chambers where legislators meet are located.

Jindal said his administration will be more involved in the future with the Legislature. Asked whether that means he personally will become more accessible, Jindal said he will meet with legislators as he always has.