State Dem Shakeup Bad News For Louisiana Republicans…Sort Of

Today comes news that the state Democrat party chair, Chris Whittington, is getting out of politics and going back to suing people full-time.

“I’m not going to be able to give that much time to it,” said Whittington, 44. “My business and private practice has gotten to such that I know I can’t do both.”

For Louisiana Republicans, news of Whittington’s resignation is, at best, bittersweet. As one wag said, Whittington has done more to elect Republicans in this state than anyone else since his ascension to the post atop the Louisiana Democrat Party apparatus in 2005 – Mitch Landrieu is the only statewide Democrat in office in Baton Rouge, and if he gets elected mayor of New Orleans in the spring his position will almost certainly be taken by a Republican. Meanwhile, Charlie Melancon is the only Democrat in the state’s House delegation, and he heads into what most believe is certain political death in next year’s Senate race against David Vitter – and Melancon’s House seat is considered a likely GOP pickup. Mary Landrieu, whose name is mud among statewide voters, might be the only statewide or Congressional official in Louisiana by this time next year.

Given such results, it shouldn’t be a big surprise that Whittington’s time in his job has been marked by frequent revolts among the apparatchiks, and he’s not being mourned. From the Advocate piece on his resignation:

“It’s time for the Democratic Party to move on,” state Rep. Sam Jones, a member of the state central committee, said Tuesday. “The last couple cycles of election results were so disastrous. It’s time to rethink where the Democratic Party should go in this state and articulate that.”

Jones, D-Franklin, said the inclusion of centrist and right-leaning Democrats, and issues relating to women, business and financial security are things that have been missing from the state party. He said the state party has also failed to protect candidates during elections.

“We need the leadership in the state party … to at least get the facts out there,” he said.

So Republicans have to be at least a little sad to see Whittington go.

Then again, the word from both the Advocate and Picayune stories has it that former congressman and serial vote-buyer Buddy Leach, who last surfaced on the statewide scene as a failed 2003 candidate for governor. Leach’s political career has exemplified the word “hack;” he’s run for governor, state treasurer, congressman (twice unsuccessfully and once successfully) and most recently the state senate (he lost). Leach also holds a record of sorts, in that in 2003 when he ran a fourth-place campaign for governor he spent $8.3 million (almost all of which came from his own personal fortune) to get 187,000 votes, which came to over $44 per vote.

Leach is a political ally of Dollar Bill Jefferson’s, having contributed financially to his legal defense fund. He’s also an ally of Kathleen Blanco’s, and some say his 2003 candidacy was a front to siphon off black voters from then-attorney general Richard Ieyoub so Blanco could make the runoff against Bobby Jindal, who she managed to beat in the general election. Leach was elected as the state Democrat party’s national committeeman in 2006.

In other words, it’s “back to the future” for the state’s Democrats, from the looks of it. And while Republicans ought to be sad to see Whittington go, if Buddy Leach is his replacement they’ll get over it.



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