Aug 312017
 
Danae Columbus

Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

Westbank native Derrick Edwards is leading every poll in the race for State Treasurer. As the only Democrat, he is almost sure to make the runoff against one 0f three Republicans- former Commissioner if Administration Angele Davis, State Senator Neil Riser or former State Rep John Schroeder. The election will be held October 14.

The Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee, the 70-person locally elected body, gave Edwards their support. The Louisiana Democratic Party did not.

In a conference call, state party leaders chided Edwards to get his house in order including beefing up his campaign team, increasing fundraising, and filing required paperwork on time. Edwards says all reporting requirements have now been met. He still hasn’t built a campaign team beyond his family and has raised little money.

Generally speaking, it is the role of state party organizations to help get candidates elected by providing campaign expertise and fundraising support. Some — including LSU professor Jeffrey Sadow — believe that the Democrats might not agree with Edwards’ core message that “Louisiana politicians have a spending problem, not a revenue problem.” Edwards is also campaigning on a theme of accountability and transparency.

Perhaps Edwards is sounding too much like a Republican for some Democrats. Still licking their wounds after Hillary Clinton’s defeat, the national party should be developing new middle-of-the-road policies to make candidates like Edwards more attractive to a broader constituency.

In 2016 Edwards ran a grassroots campaign for the US Senate. He received 51,774 votes and finished 7th in a field of 22. Even if Edwards had been better funded, he would have faced long odds in that race. Only one African-American has ever won statewide office in Louisiana.

In 1868 African-American Oscar Dunn was elected Lt. Governor. In 1861 Dunn became acting governor. In 1872 P. S. B. Pinchback was appointed governor, the first African-American to reach that pinnacle of power in Louisiana or the U.S. Though African-Americans have continued to run statewide, none have been elected.

Edwards had a very compelling personal story of overcoming obstacles that is at the heart of American values and resonates with voters. In 1989 he became paralyzed after a devastating football injury. Edwards still graduated in time with his class. He went on to Tulane University where he received an undergraduate degree in accounting and later a law degree also from Tulane. Edwards currently practices disability law and serves as an advocate and mentor.

Political insiders believe if Edwards could raise enough money to tell his story statewide, large numbers of voters would gravitate to him. During the 2016 US Senate campaign “Louisiana Weekly” editor Renette Dejoie Hall asked Foster Campbell who Campbell would support if he were not in the race. Without hesitation Campbell replied, “Derrick Edwards.”

Though the state party could revisit their possible endorsement, Edwards is moving forward without them. “I am speaking directly to the voters,” he said last Saturday at the Alliance for Good Government banquet.

The Alliance postponed their forum in the treasurer’s race earlier this week. Also last week the Alliance honored Stacy Head as Legislator of the year and the Sisters of the Holy Family for their historic contributions.

MCKENNA REDOUBLES CAMPAIGN EFFORTS

With Coroner Jeff Rouse’s not-so-surprising announcement that he would cease campaigning, the lone remaining candidate Dr. Dwight McKenna is ramping up his efforts to defeat Rouse in the voting booth. If McKenna does not win the popular vote in October, other candidates are sure to qualify for the special election which could be held next spring.

McKenna is actively seeking every endorsement and is already mounting an aggressive get out the vote campaign.

Danae Columbus, who has had a 30-year career in politics and public relations, offers her opinions on Thursdays. Her career includes stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board and former clients such as District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, City Council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, Foster Campbell, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell. Her current clients include District B City Council candidate Seth Bloom and At-Large City Council candidate Helena Moreno.

  • Linda Kocher

    If his core message is that the state doesn’t have a revenue problem, if he really doesn’t believe business has too much power in the state, then I have a problem with him.