“He may have changed parties, but he hasn’t changed his way of life. He can’t fool me. I know him too well.”
– Edwin Edwards, on John Alario
“If it’s politically expedient, people switch parties. It’s not going to change John Alario one way or the other.”
– State Sen. Eric Lafleur, Democrat
I’m going to go out on a rather short limb here and say that the entire purpose of putting Democrats out of power in Louisiana was to do away with the crony capitalism, special-interest giveaways and outright corruption that party so completely signified in our state for decades. Republicans run Louisiana because over time, and particularly after Katrina laid bare the effects for everyone to see, the electorate became violently fed up with the banana-republic character of Louisiana politics as practiced by the party of Edwin Edwards, the Longs and Dollar Bill Jefferson.
Which is why it’s important for Republicans, if they expect to govern Louisiana very long, present voters with a very different outlook on governance from what Democrats operated under. Voters will probably forgive mistakes made in finding that new model – so far Bobby Jindal has fairly broad support and faces no challengers to speak of for re-election this fall, for example, despite a few well-publicized errors in governance over the last three-plus years – but will react very unfavorably to seeing a Republican governing establishment operate in the same way with the same people as Democrats did.
Talk to folks on the street and this is a fairly uncontroversial notion. But among the state’s politicians, heads are a bit thicker. Or so it seems.
Nothing exemplifies this more than the growing possibility that John Alario, the most laughable example of a Democrat switching parties out of pure political expediency, might be on the verge of cutting a deal with his old Democrat buddies, some Democrat turncoats and a few new Republican friends to become president of the Louisiana Senate next year.
That this is an uncommonly bad prospect should go without saying. Alario was Edwin Edwards’ Speaker of the House when the latter was busy stealing the state blind, and Republicans in Louisiana at the time considered him as signifying everything that was slimy and corrupt about Louisiana politics. The backroom deals, the Chicago-style pay-for-play, the lack of transparency and the petty agendas lending a Byzantine quality to the formulation of policy rather than the honest debate of substantive ideas were what infuriated Louisiana voters into getting rid of Democrats, and Alario was neck-deep in all of it.
But when it became patently clear that Louisianans no longer had any stomach for the kind of Capitol politics Alario’s Democrats had on offer, he simply switched parties. After all, his sheepish defenders say, his voting record looks pretty good for business and he can make the case that he was a conservative Democrat all along.
Which is beside the point. This isn’t so much a matter of ideology as it is propriety. Changing parties in control in pursuit of a completely different style of operation ought to mean changing personnel. If your football team stinks running an option offense when Gerry DiNardo is the coach, going to a spread passing attack with DiNardo still at the helm isn’t going to make you a champion.
This is a legislator who has his own lobbyist, for crying out loud. And the stories about exactly how Alario’s relationship with that lobbyist are legion – the perfect example of which being the much-publicized River Birch landfill case in Jefferson Parish, in which Alario and said lobbyist have been involved for over 15 years.
It’s possible that the latest round of River Birch investigations will miss Alario. One would think making him the Senate President wouldn’t be possible unless he’s absolutely clean in that case. Nobody I talk to thinks he is, which means that the possibility exists that RINO’s and Democrats might collude – shamefully enough with the acquiescence of Jindal, or so I’m told – to make Alario the Senate President just in time for him to run afoul of the U.S. Attorney in a highly-publicized case. And at that point the Democrats who established the slimeball politics which normalized a River Birch in Louisiana in the first place would get to score political points over the downfall of one of their most notorious products.
And if that isn’t a political “own goal” waiting to happen I don’t know what is.
After this fall’s elections there will be a legitimate conservative majority in the Louisiana Senate. Shouldn’t that majority be reflected in the leadership of that body?
Apparently it won’t. Not unless the voters who got rid of the Democrats also insist that having done so actually means something.
This is where our readers come in.
There are Republican candidates contesting 31 Senate districts, 30 if you don’t count Alario. At this point it’s almost inconceivable that the GOP would have less than 24 seats in hand after Election Day on Oct. 22. There is a decent chance of getting 26 seats.
In other words, there are enough likely Republican state senators to block Alario from getting 20 votes for Senate President – but it’s going to require a great deal of pressure to make them realize they can’t allow it to happen.
Public outrage killed the legislative pay raise in 2008. We need something at least as hot to kill this.
Below are the 30 Senate districts where Republican candidates are running, complete with contact numbers for those senators and candidates who are registered as Republicans. You’d be doing Louisiana a favor by contacting those senators and candidates and making it very clear that supporting Alario is not acceptable. And in the case where the election is still undecided, you’d be doing Louisiana a favor by making it clear that prospective support for Alario would be a factor making a candidate toxic on Oct. 22.
We need public pledges from electable candidates in 20 of these districts not to vote for Alario. We get that, and he’s done.
Who are the alternatives? That’s not clear. Neil Riser’s name has surfaced. So has Mike Walsworth, Danny Martiny and Jack Donahue. Frankly, I don’t care who outside of Alario would get the job. None of the four abovementioned possibilities are Democrat turncoats who contributed to the climate of corruption perpetuated by Alario’s buddy Edwin Edwards, who he’s still cozy with. This isn’t about fronting for any particular candidate; once Alario is removed from the mix let the best guy win.
Please call one or more of the folks listed below and let them know they’ve got to take a stand against a way of doing business which should have gone out with the old Democrat majority. They’ve got to take a stand against Alario, and they need to know it.
1st District – A.G. Crowe is the incumbent and likely retainer of the seat.
A. G. Crowe: 985-788-7551
“Nita” Rusich Hutter: 504-920-9020
2nd District – Republicans are longshots in this one.
Alfred “Al” Carter: 985-870-5548
Zaine “The Queen” Kasem: 225-747-6288
6th District – an open seat that will be Republican.
“Mike” Mannino: 225-261-8346
Mack “Bodi” White Jr.: 225-261-3903
8th District – Alario’s seat.
John A. Alario Jr.: 504-347-3556
You won’t likely get anywhere calling Alario and telling him not to run, and he’s unopposed, but this entry wouldn’t be complete without including contact information for him.
9th District – uncontested GOP seat.
Conrad Appel: 504-887-6026
10th District – uncontested GOP seat.
Daniel R. “Danny” Martiny: 504-464-9045
11th District – Jack Donahue is the incumbent.
“Jack” Donahue Jr.: 985-727-7949
Gary J. Leonard: 985-845-3766
12th District – Democrat Ben Nevers is the incumbent.
“Beth” Mizell: 985-839-3508
13th District – Dale Erdey is the incumbent.
Derek Babcock: 225-505-9505
Dale Erdey: 225-686-7405
14th District – Democrat Yvonne Dorsey is the incumbent.
Christopher Toombs: 225-590-1225
16th District – uncontested GOP seat.
“Dan” Claitor: 225-757-0159
18th District – uncontested GOP seat.
“Jody” Amedee: 225-647-1300
19th District – outgoing Senate President Joel Chaisson’s seat and a crucial pickup if Alario is to be prevented from getting the Senate presidency.
Garrett C. Monti: 985-240-4114
20th District – uncontested GOP seat.
“Norby” Chabert: 985-232-9882
21st District – open seat sure to go Republican (no Dems are running).
R. L. “Bret” Allain II: 337-828-9107
Darrin Guidry: 985-872-6658
22nd District – uncontested GOP seat.
Fred “T-Fred” Mills Jr.: 337-332-3475
23rd District – open seat that went uncontested to the GOP.
Patrick “Page” Cortez: 337-993-0603
25th District – uncontested GOP seat.
Dan “Blade” Morrish: 337-477-7754
26th District – uncontested GOP seat.
Jonathan Perry: 337-643-2057
27th District – open seat that went uncontested to the GOP.
“Ronnie” Johns: 337-625-4431
28th District – Democrat Eric Lafleur is the incumbent.
Paul “Doc” Miller: 337-331-2550
29th District – open seat; Democrat Rick Gallot is the favorite and inexplicably was endorsed by Jindal.
Tony “Bo” Vets: 318-419-2235
30th District – John Smith, a Democrat party-switcher, is the incumbent.
James David Cain: 337-328-7266
John Smith: 337-397-7222
31st District – uncontested GOP seat.
Gerald Long: 318-354-2879
32nd District – uncontested GOP seat.
Neil Riser: 318-649-0977
33rd District – uncontested GOP seat.
Michael A. “Mike” Walsworth: 318-614-0336
35th District – Bob Kostelka is the incumbent.
Harris Brown: 318-388-2500
“Jeff” Guerriero: 318-325-4306
Robert W. “Bob” Kostelka: 318-323-7591
36th District – uncontested GOP seat.
Robert Adley: 318-965-9513
37th District – open seat likely to remain Republican.
Barrow Peacock: 318-518-0812
Jane Smith: 318-560-3748
38th District – Sherri Cheek is the incumbent.
Sherri Smith Cheek: 318-687-4820
Troy Terrell: 318-773-1111
39th District – Democrat Lydia Jackson is the incumbent.
“Jim” Slagle: 318-375-3536