Election Notebook, July 20 Edition

In this update: rising scrutiny for Traylor, Cassidy mastering the influence game and Villere pulls Tea Party endorsement.

SPOTLIGHT SHINES HOTLY ON TRAYLOR: Republican Senate challenger Chet Traylor, whose primary campaign against incumbent David Vitter depends on his casting himself as the squeaky-clean alternative to Vitter’s checkered personal history, continues to get national notice as his two-week-old campaign continues. Today’s Daily Caller has a story by Steven Powell on Traylor and his prospects to unseat Vitter, casting those prospects in an uncertain light but quoting longtime Louisiana political wag John Maginnis in casting a Traylor upset as a potential win for the GOP.

Despite Traylor’s confidence in Vitter’s vulnerability, John Maginnis, a Louisiana political analyst and the publisher of LaPolitics Weekly, offers a different view of the situation.

“Vitter still has support among Republicans, especially the Tea Party, religious and business groups,” he said.

Vitter has the right stances on political issues to win among Republicans – which is why Traylor mirrors Vitter’s stances on the issues, Maginnis said. But the biggest fear haunting Republicans is that the Democrats may be sitting on another Vitter scandal to release right before the general election. This will be Traylor’s main line of attack.

Maginnis said the best-case scenario for Democrats is for Vitter to win the primary after a hard-fought battle.

“Democrats are hoping for Vitter to win, they just need Traylor to bloody him up a little,” he said. “The down side to a Traylor victory for Democrats would be Republicans carrying momentum into the general election.”

Maginnis says Traylor will need to raise $700,000 to mount a credible campaign against Vitter, who has $5.5 million in the bank. He also says that’s an attainable number.

But today’s Monroe News-Star probably shoots down Maginnis’ hypothesis. The story the paper tells about the former Louisiana Supreme Court Justice isn’t exactly one which would cast him as the good-guy alternative to Vitter’s black hat. It largely corroborates the words of our Walter Abbott, who first stated Traylor’s issues with marital infidelity last week, and fleshes out in somewhat gory detail the circumstances of Traylor’s relationship with the family of state representative Noble Ellington.

But Traylor has his own ethical questions that could threaten the upstanding image his campaign has opted to present. They include:

– His complicated romantic history, including allegations of affairs with two married women.

– A lawsuit filed by Traylor’s stepsons, who say Traylor has resisted efforts to collect information on the estate of their dead mother, Traylor’s former wife, Peggy McDowell Traylor.

Traylor contends he’s done nothing unethical in his personal conduct.

“I’ve done nothing I’m ashamed of,” he said.

“I’ve done everything I’ve done in the open.”

The two alleged romantic affairs themselves present a tangled family web.

State Rep. Noble Ellington, D-Winnsboro, said that Traylor was “significantly involved” in the cause of his divorce from Peggy McDowell, who later married Chet Traylor and became Peggy McDowell Traylor.

Noble Ellington said in an interview Monday that Traylor was “certainly part of the reason” for his divorce from his then wife.

Traylor denies the accusation and said Ellington and the former Peggy McDowell, who died last year, were separated before his relationship with McDowell began.

“That’s absolutely untrue,” Traylor replied when asked if he played a part in Ellington’s divorce.

Traylor is also currently involved in a romantic relationship with Denise Lively, the estranged wife of his stepson, Ryan Ellington, the son of Noble Ellington.

Lively and Ryan Ellington remain legally married, but both he and Traylor said the Lively-Traylor relationship began while Lively and Ryan Ellington were separated.

A few months after the death of Peggy McDowell Traylor, Chet Traylor began the relationship with Lively.

Ryan Ellington said a divorce with Denise Lively is pending.

Beyond those relationship problems, a new lawsuit also could raise further questions about Traylor’s image.

Ryan and Noble Ellington III, both of Winnsboro, filed a lawsuit against Traylor last month in Fifth Judicial District Court stating that in the months since the death of their mother, Peggy McDowell Traylor, in August 2009, Traylor has resisted efforts by the sons to collect information on their mother’s estate and to take possession of some of her property.

Noble Ellington III and Ryan Ellington’s lawsuit asks the court to compel Traylor to turn over bank records, their mother’s property and other relevant financial records.

Peggy McDowell Traylor died without a will.

Noble Ellington III and Ryan Ellington were appointed by the court as the independent co-administrators of their mother’s estate, some of which is shared as community property with Chet Traylor.

The lawsuit states that Chet Traylor “resists production” of financial records and “exhibits no cooperation with the court appointed administrators.”

After Ryan Ellington and Noble Ellington III issued a subpoena to Franklin State Bank in Winnsboro for financial records, Traylor filed a motion to quash the subpoena.

The Ellingtons’ attorney, Paul Spillers of Monroe, contends that Traylor has provided no legal basis for refusing to provide financial records.

It’s pretty damning stuff, and it’s also the kind of thing which is nearly impossible to hide. You can’t conduct a romantic relationship with a state legislator’s wife, not to mention the son of a state legislator’s wife as well (who also happens to be your stepson), and then run for the U.S. Senate without that coming out pretty quickly. And this stuff isn’t a secret in the northern part of the state. As James H. wrote in the Opinionated Catholic yesterday…

I have to admit I am a tad surprised they are being talked about openly in the newspaper so soon.

Not only did he screw around and cause the divorce of a State Rep and his wife but now is involved with his Step Sons WIFE.!! Sounds like a porn film. Maybe I am old fashioned but I find Vitter’s problems less objectionable compared to that.

None of this is really news to me as a North Louisiana guy but I suspect it might be news to other down south.

Traylor’s issues might be overcome in a different race, but it’s hard to see how his market positioning against Vitter will be successful given this baggage.

CASSIDY BUILDING AN EMPIRE: The Baton Rouge Business Report has a blurb on Rep. Bill Cassidy’s burgeoning influence operation up in DC, and the Baton Rouge Congressman’s strategic use of campaign funds to promote conservative candidates.

According to the piece, Cassidy just contributed $125,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee and the political action committee he formed with the Baton Rouge accounting firm Postlethwaite & Netterville, CASS PAC, “raised more than $100,000 for the second quarter and is responsible for sending 66 financial contributions to 54 conservatives in races around the country.” CASS PAC, which stands for Continuing America’s Strength and Security PAC, has $60,000 left in the bank. Cassidy himself has $924,000 on hand for his campaign against Democrat Merritt McDonald, a contractor and former Baton Rouge Metro Council candidate.

VILLERE LANDS TEA PARTY NOD: Louisiana Republican Party chairman Roger Villere picked up a welcome bit of news in his campaign for Lieutenant Governor, as one of Louisiana’s largest Tea Party organizations announced an endorsement of Villere this morning. The Tea Party of Louisiana cited Villere’s low-tax, small-government platform as the reason for their backing.

“The Tea Party of Louisiana is pleased to endorse Roger Villere for Lt. Governor,” Tea Party of Louisiana Spokesman Chris Comeaux said. “For a quarter century, Roger Villere has served as a volunteer in the fight for less government and more freedom in Louisiana. As Lt. Governor, he will be a strong voice and lead the fight to usher in a new wave of conservative revolution in Louisiana,” Comeaux said.

“This is going to be a momentous year for those of us who value less government spending, reject government intrusion into business, want to stop socialized healthcare and believe in the Constitution as it was written by our founders,” Comeaux said.  “It’s time that we take our country back from career politicians who say one thing and then vote differently when they are in office. We are making it our mission across America this fall to shine the light of truth on those politicians who have made a career treating our tax dollars like their piggy bank.”



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