Endorsements don’t have a lot of influence in political campaigns when voters have already decided on their candidates. However, citizens who are looking for some inside information to help them pick a favorite often find them helpful.
Buddy Roemer was a virtual unknown when he ran for governor in 1987, except in the northwestern part of the state where he lived. He had served in Congress, and earned a reputation there as a maverick.
I became acquainted with Roemer when he hooked up with some prominent people in Southwest Louisiana who liked what he had to say. It was easy to buy into his argument that what this state needed was a “Roemer Revolution.”
We had experienced three terms with former Gov. Edwin W. Edwards, and voters were looking for change. Edwards was a reform candidate during his first two terms from 1972 to 1980. But Edwards seemed more concerned in his third term (1984-88) about what he could do for his friends and political supporters.
Governors couldn’t serve consecutive terms until the two-term limit was approved when John McKeithen was in his first term (l964-68). He was elected again in 1967, but experienced an up-and-down second four years.
Roemer was a great speaker and it was easy to get caught up in what he was selling. However, nothing launched his campaign better than a newspaper endorsement from the Times-Picayune of New Orleans. His popularity mushroomed almost overnight.
I had never been an Edwards fan, and did all I could to help promote Roemer and his reform platform. When other endorsements followed, they helped Roemer win the election after Edwards dropped out of the runoff.
Gov. Bobby Jindal doesn’t need any endorsements in his re-election campaign, but he’s getting them anyway. Because of his popularity at the moment, the endorsement emphasis has turned to the lieutenant governor’s race.
Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne is being challenged by Billy Nungesser, president of Plaquemines Parish. And Nungesser has put up $1 million of his own money to try and characterize Dardenne as a liberal, career politician who needs to be turned out to pasture. Most of the charges Nungesser has leveled against Dardenne have no factual basis.
Nungesser has no qualms about doing whatever it takes to win this election. Consider, for example, what happened this week. Nungesser’s campaign sent out an email listing his endorsement by 15 mayors from Acadiana and the Gulf Coast.
Three of those mayors have flatly denied they endorsed Nungesser during a meeting in a Breaux Bridge cafe.
“We went to the meeting. There was nothing about endorsements,” Carencro Mayor Glenn Brasseaux told The Independent Weekly of Acadiana. “I don’t endorse anybody.”
New Iberia Mayor Hilda Curry told the newspaper the same thing. She said she attended the meeting at the request of another mayor.
Brasseaux is president of the Louisiana Municipal Association, and Curry is its vice president. Both said the LMA bylaws prohibit officers from making endorsements.
Breaux Bridge Mayor Jack Dale Delhomme said, “Nobody ever mentioned (an endorsement) at the meeting.”
It’s easy to see why most of the major newspapers in the state that make endorsements are supporting Dardenne. Among those are the Times-Picayune, The Times of Shreveport, The News-Star of Monroe, the Houma Courier, the Thibodaux Daily Comet and Gambit of New Orleans.
The Times-Picayune said Dardenne has streamlined the office of lieutenant governor, eliminated executive positions and is an expert in the state’s history, “which makes him a good fit for the culture and tourism work.”
The News-Star said Dardenne has taken on the responsibilities of the secretary of culture, recreation and tourism, which is saving the state the secretary’s $130,000 annual salary.
The Alliance for Good Government chapters in Orleans, Jefferson, St. Tammany and St. Bernard parishes, a major part of the home base of Nungesser, have also endorsed Dardenne. His campaign announced Wednesday he has been endorsed by 23 mayors across the state, including mayors in DeQuincy, DeRidder, Hornbeck and Leesville. It added that a number of prominent Acadiana area legislators will announce their support of Dardenne today.
The importance of getting the right man elected lieutenant governor has become the focal point of Saturday’s election, and endorsements help. They demonstrate that Dardenne is the clear choice because of his long, distinguished record of government service.
Jim Beam, the retired editor of the Lake Charles American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or [email protected].