That Lt. Gov. Race Is Starting To Get Ugly

It’s amusing to hear people whine about how Republicans and Democrats can’t get along. Folks who decry partisanship clearly don’t follow elections much.

Sure, races between Republicans and Democrats are often nasty. But intraparty races are very often every bit as bad.

We give you the Louisiana Lieutenant Governor’s race.

The contestants, Republican Billy Nungesser and Republican Jay Dardenne, are busy hacking each other to pieces of late, with a loud back-and-forth over Nungesser’s choice to skip scheduled debates with Dardenne on Friday and Monday. That occasioned the Dardenne campaign to hit Nungesser as afraid of a debate. Nungesser’s response was pointed in its own right…

Due to scheduling conflicts that required me to be in other parts of the state, I could not be in Baton Rouge Friday night or this afternoon. This is no different than Mr. Dardenne not being able to attend a debate in New Orleans on September 9th with the Louisiana Crimefighters, attend a rally with the Republican Women in Caddo Parish on July 17th or be at a forum with the Republican Women of Central on September 19th because of his own scheduling conflicts. It is disappointing that Mr. Dardenne takes these opportunities to direct personal insults towards me, but I guess that is to be expected from a career politician trying to hide a record of pay raises for his political cronies, taking a $30,000 pay raise for himself and vote to give himself lifetime healthcare benefits.

That wasn’t a particularly convincing explanation to Jeff Sadow, who nonetheless was supportive of Nungesser and noted that the Plaquemines Parish President is acting like a favorite who picks his battles in protecting a lead…

Perhaps this circumstance has encouraged Nungesser to embark on an odd tactic. Scheduled for early next week, Nungesser personally passed on appearing at two East Baton Rouge candidate forums even though he had committed to them previously and the events he asserted he would attend instead used as excuses to beg off from the forums seem themselves to have been long in the making. Typically, challengers desire these opportunities and incumbents avoid them, because they present chances to snipe at the incumbent’s record and make it appear the challenger has equal status.

That they take place on Dardenne’s home turf may discourage Nungesser from attending, but the audiences (Republicans, at least some of whom would support Nungesser despite being in Dardenne’s backyard, and media reporters, the majority of whom in this contest probably sympathize with Dardenne but knowing the public nature of the event probably would be restrained in displaying any overt favoritism) would not be expected to convey much bias against Nungesser. In this sense, Nungesser acts like a favorite playing it safe, with a set of explanations for his absence that don’t seem very convincing (he did say he would send a surrogate, but that creates distance between him and any controversy that might erupt from his surrogate’s answers, makes Dardenne look less the incumbent, and may cheapen the event in the eyes of the sponsors so that they would reject the notion).

Confirmation that Dardenne feels the office slipping away from him would come with increasingly shrill attacks on Nungesser while decreasingly talking about the office – a typical maneuver for someone perceinving himself as an underdog – and that if Nungesser senses he’s in the lead he’ll respond by avoiding chances to make mistakes. As such, this would represent an interesting role reversal.

Sadow’s column was written Sunday. Today, Dardenne’s camp has a web ad out which is pretty rough – Sadow might call it shrill and give himself a pat on the back for nailing his analysis…

Nungesser says those tax liens are not what they look like…

“This entire issue is concerning the filing of W-2 employer forms for one of my companies, which I own a minority interest in, following Hurricane Katrina. There was some confusion in the filing, but this situation was cleared up years ago and the lien is in the process of being removed by the IRS. This truly shows Jay Dardenne’s complete disregard of the devastation Katrina caused for so many families and businesses in LA. How sad that he would twist the truth for his own personal political gain. But what else should we expect from a lying, career politician that is trying to cover up a record of increased taxes, legislative pay raises and lifetime health benefits for himself and his cronies?”

And back and forth, and back and forth.

We’re really just getting started here. Because the fact is that both candidates are supportable for the Lt. Governor position – Nungesser became a media star in the aftermath of Katrina for having stood up for the coastal parts of the state, while Dardenne won the office with a strong 57 percent showing last year and hasn’t done anything to alienate the people who voted for him (or anybody else, for that matter, as even Nungesser has yet to come up with a substantive criticism of the job Dardenne has done as Lt. Governor so far). That said, some conservatives haven’t really forgiven Dardenne for some of the votes he took while in the state senate as Mike Foster’s floor leader. And while Nungesser might have an answer for some of the dirt Dardenne is flinging at him, some of it might well leave a stain.

And there is still no polling available on the race, so nobody really knows where it stands at this point. Sadow might be right that Nungesser has assumed the favorite’s role and Dardenne is seeing his job slip away. Or Nungesser might be making major mistakes in failing to engage on the issues with a difficult incumbent to unseat. Either way, we can be sure that these two aren’t going to stop calling each other names in what promises to be a nasty, ugly race.



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