Alario? Seriously?

Comes today word that John Alario, Louisiana’s Mr. Democrat for decades in the state legislature, says he might want to switch parties and become a Republican. Alario says he’s “pondering” a switch and will make a decision by year’s end.

This is terrible news, and it ought to be denounced by the state GOP immediately.

Alario has been in the state legislature since 1972. He was in the House of Representatives from 1972-2008, and from 1980-84 and 1992-96 he was Edwin Edwards’ hand-picked House Speaker. Term limits, for which Louisiana owes Sen. David Vitter an eternal debt of gratitude, drove Alario out of the House.

So he ran for the Senate. And won. And he’s been a state senator since 2008, with his first re-election in that job set for next year.

In that 2007 Senate campaign, the Louisiana Republican Party put out a flyer hammering Alario over what has long been a reputation for old-time political corruption. The flyer, sporting a snappy “The Alarios” logo on it which knocked off the logo for the HBO series The Sopranos, read:

If you care at all about ending corruption in our state then we need your help!

The Republican Party is launching a massive effort to remove one of the most corrupt politicians our state has ever seen. . . John Alario. For more than thirty years, he has controlled the mechanics of our state government with a liberal, iron-fist. And now term limits have forced him out of the House and he running for a State Senate seat.

The flyer went into detail about a number of shady deals Alario has been involved in, including his son’s rather resilient career as a government bureaucrat despite the phenomenon of state dollars at times being redirected to various bookies thanks to the younger Alario’s nasty gambling habit. It also included a reference to Alario’s involvement in the River Birch landfill debacle – a classic case of a political shakedown Alario was involved in.

Alario’s voting record over the years isn’t particularly liberal. He’s usually slightly above 50 percent in LABI’s ratings. But Louisiana’s Democrat Party never has been; so long as everything runs through Democrat politicians and they manage to wet their beaks a little the Edwards/Alario genus is staunchly “pro-business” – at least, they’ll say so until they’re blue in the face. 

And now that the Louisiana Democrat Party Alario helped build has been eviscerated by the voters, he’s talking about jumping. “They don’t get the message that people are looking for them not doing what they’re doing,” he said of the more left-wing members of the national Democrat party, and he decried the lousy treatment of Blue Dogs such as himself.

State Republican Party chair Roger Villere, who has been a sworn enemy of Alario for years, hasn’t commented on the potential switch yet. But the AP story describing other reactions provides high comedy. To wit:

  • ULL political science department head Pearson Cross: “Democratic fortunes in Louisiana certainly are at a low ebb.”
  • Democratic party leader Buddy Leach: refused to comment.
  • State Sen. Eric LaFleur, of Ville Platte: “If it’s politically expedient, people switch parties. It’s not going to change John Alario one way or the other.”

Alario beat Republican John Roberts 63.4-36.6 in 2007, but the state – and his Senate district – have become more heavily Republican since that election. Villere and the state party can’t really stop Alario if he really wants to switch, but embracing him would be a major mistake – Louisiana’s electorate is turning more conservative by the day largely as a rejection of the kind of government control that Alario has practiced for almost 40 years as a legislator; giving him a seat at the table as the Republicans become a governing majority in the legislature would be tantamount to embracing precisely what the voters have rejected.

A strong Republican candidate should be found to challenge Alario in next year’s elections. He ought to be denounced as representing the failed politics of the past and encouraged to stay a Democrat. But under no circumstances should we be subjected to a press release by the state party or any Republican politicians welcoming this man into the GOP or endorsing his achievements as an Edwards henchman and political fixer.

That time is past, Louisiana is rejecting Alario politics. The Republican Party shouldn’t blow the opportunity the voters are giving it by diluting its brand with the likes of Edwin Edwards’ House Speaker.



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