I hate primary elections. And even though I don’t like Louisiana’s jungle primary and think party primaries are the best way to generate good candidates in a general election, I’ve got to admit that “necessary evil” is the best way to describe them.
Take the 3rd District race between Hunt Downer and Jeff Landry, which is now officially Over The Top.
Basically, the two camps have established a pair of competing narratives. And no, neither narrative is really about the issues. On the issues it doesn’t appear there’s much daylight between the two. Some, but not a lot. Landry is more conservative than Downer is, but not by a margin you could immediately discern. We’re not talking Ronald Reagan vs. Walter Mondale here.
Landry’s narrative is that Downer is a centrist Republican at best. He was a Democrat for a long time, voted for a lot of stuff as a Democrat in the legislature that conservatives don’t like, had some Democrat bedfellows even recently and can’t really be trusted to act as a conservative in Congress. Some of the messaging from Landry’s campaign – like for example that Downer has been associated at times with pro-gay and pro-abort candidates and legislation – is a little overheated and excessive, but on the whole what they’re saying about Downer is true. If you’re a Tea Party type or if you’re a Republican who views the Mike Foster-style newcomers to the state party with skepticism, then Downer isn’t really your bag. His record in the state legislature is, on the whole, a pretty good one – but it’s not a pillar of conservatism.
Downer’s narrative is that Landry is a liar and a crook. They’ve hammered on a lawsuit Landry was involved with several years ago, a suit in which he was sued and countersued and the thing ultimately was settled. Landry got accused of some stuff in that suit which would, were it true, likely have prevented him from being admitted to the Louisiana state bar – if not getting him arrested. That neither denial of his bar license or his freedom occurred or that ultimately the dispute was settled with Landry getting more than $100,000 from the other side of the suit should tell you it’s not the smoking gun Downer claims it to be. In business, stuff like this tends to happen on a not-infrequent basis; if there was a string of incidents involving Landry or a bunch of old ladies he’d charmed out of money, etc., maybe Downer would have something, but this isn’t exactly Bernie Madoff.
The other part of the narrative is that Landry is a Washington insider. This one is a little harder to understand, but its source seems to have come from the fact that Landry got the endorsements from the American Conservative Union and the Family Research Council, among other national conservative organizations. Right now those don’t quite qualify as “insiders;” the insiders are on the left in D.C. Landry doesn’t really sound like an insider, either. He sounds a little more like a coonass from New Iberia, which is what he is.
But the newest part of the narrative is that Landry is making personal attacks, and this one’s a head-scratcher. From an e-mail Downer sent out this morning:
My opponent, Jeff Landry, has been attacking me for weeks. Recently, Mr. Landry attacked my family.
On many occasions, Mr. Landry has tried to label me as a pro-abortion candidate who has supported pro-abortion issues and campaigns. This is completely opposite to reality.
I am pro-life…always have been and always will be. Being pro-life isn’t a about politics for me. This attack is personal because Linda and I have an adopted daughter.
This week my daughter, Mary, voiced her anger at Mr. Landry’s lies. We will be running a TV commercial and radio spot over the next week to make sure everyone knows the truth about our life.
I feel strongly about the issue of life and have always been a strong advocate for protecting the life of the unborn. As a State Representative, I was the co-author of Anti-Abortion legislation.
If Mr. Landry will lie about life, he’ll lie about anything.
Now, it’s fair for Downer to take exception to Landry’s picking at his pro-life record. Downer is pro-life, and Landry hasn’t exactly accused him of being pro-abortion. What Landry has done is point out that Downer was Bill Clinton’s state chairman in 1992, and Clinton was certainly pro-choice. Downer himself, in the WDSU debate eight days ago, said there were instances where he thought abortion was appropriate, or at least ought to be legal. But we’re in the weeds here. It’s probably a bit of a stretch for Landry to make too much of Downer’s “pro-choice proclivities,” but that’s a party primary for you.
But attacking Downer’s family? Where does he get that from?
And trotting out the kids is just plain goofy. I think it’s great that the Downers adopted Mary. I think it probably goes a bit toward showing they’re pro-life. It’s not exactly dispositive. And questioning Downer’s pro-life commitment has pretty much nothing to do with attacking his family. That’s the reach of reaches.
Not to mention it has nothing to do with what really matters to the district – the oil spill, the moratorium, energy policy and economic development. Both sides could be talking a lot more about that kind of stuff, and maybe they don’t really differ on those issues.
But what this latest round of screaming looks like is The Kitchen Sink. And when The Kitchen Sink comes out, it usually means you think you’re going to lose.
I like Landry, and I like Downer. I like Kristian Magar, too, though he doesn’t have the money to be a viable candidate – even if you like him better than Downer or Landry, he’s not going to beat the Democrat Ravi Sangisetty in the general election with $20,000 in cash on hand (his reported total on August 8). I’d be happy with any of the three.
Like I said, I can’t stand to see party primaries go down the tubes like this one has. The candidates are usually pretty close on the issues, so the races tend to get nasty and personal and petty. This one has gotten worse than usual. And while there’s some blood on Landry’s hands, Downer’s latest is inexplicable. The 3rd District deserves a little better than that.
Election Day is Saturday.