What has happened to our candidates in Louisiana and the U.S.? In the old days, qualifying for public office was a sacred vow people took (men only for so many years) when they put themselves on the line for the public good.
Unfortunately, in our modern election cycle we have candidates who have no qualms lying about where they live, whether their taxes are properly filed and paid, and what their sexual habits might be. More than a few elected officials also commit crimes while in office and end up in jail.
No wonder voter turnout was down during early voting (especially among African-Americans) and is projected to be exceedingly low this Saturday. The public is just plain fed up with our politics and our politicians — and it shows.
Our senior senator David Vitter, who could end up being our next governor, was quick to criticize Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, but is trying — and doing a pretty good job — of deflecting the heat regarding his previous sexual activities. While bloggers like Jason Berry of American Zombie continue to bash away with more videos of women alleging knowledge of Vitter’s old habits, the mainstream media doesn’t consider the information newsworthy. That doesn’t stop some voters from talking and emailing to their personal networks. Vitter was going to run first, but has been passed up by John Bel Edwards in all the recent polls. A runoff between these two would be nasty with Vitter skipping debates and using millions to tie Edwards to President Obama even more.
A West Point grad who lives by his West Point ideals, Edwards has integrity and is a sincere, genuine intellectual. If you agree with the Democrats’ view of government, Edwards has several good ideas and a solid history of bashing Governor Bobby Jindal. One of us is solidly in Edward’s corner. Edward’s supporters will gather this evening at a union hall in Metairie to rally the troops for Election Day. Let’s see if he inspires folk.
Though Scott Angelle originally planned to focus heavily in metro New Orleans during the campaign, he never really did. Angelle is now reaching out to area African-American voters in an effort to identify those who are not thrilled with Edwards’ charisma. Angelle’s personal style and delivery could definitely remind them of former governor Edwin Edwards who African-American voters always supported. Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne is a smart guy and an attractive candidate but hasn’t been able to push himself to the top.
The many millions Super PACs are spending on Louisiana elections have provided voters an opportunity to hear about every indiscretion of the major statewide (and some local) candidates. In the Lt. Governor’s race, where the two leading candidates have been thoroughly dissected on sexual harassment and other negative claims, we predict that John Young will and face Billy Nungesser in the runoff. Young has used the millions well and should run first. Even though Baton Rouge mayor Kip Holden is a Democrat and an African-American, he appears to have taken the state’s African-American voters for granted, and they may be looking at the other candidates.
African-American Secretary of State Candidate Chris Tyson has done a much better job of reaching out to that base, but doesn’t have the traction to catch current SOS Tom Schedler who will win reelection. Incumbent Buddy Caldwell might run first in the Attorney General’s race, but former Congressman Jeff Landry is nipping at his heals for the other run-off slot.
In our ethics watch in the metro races, one candidate was disqualified for not living where he registered, and another was disqualified for not filing his state income taxes every year. The gossip mill is churning about potential scandals and allegations involving other candidates as well; how many more October surprises will turn up before Election Day?
Many fewer people are seeking elected office these years as campaign costs increase and candidates’ personal lives are dissected. We’re glad most of the region’s elections will be over this Saturday. We hope the most ethical, honest, and intellectual candidates win. Citizens deserve the best minds available to address the state’s problems.
Allan Katz spent 25 years as a political reporter and columnist at The Times-Picayune, and is now editor of the Kenner Star and host of several television programs, including the Louisiana Newsmaker on Cox Cable. Danae Columbus is executive producer of Louisiana Newsmaker, and has had a 30-year career in public relations, including stints at City Hall and the Dock Board. They both currently work for the Orleans Parish School Board. Among the recent candidates who have been represented by their public relations firm are City council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.