Jeff Landry’s Calcasieu Parish Raid Against The Asleep-At-The-Switch Establishment

A Calcasieu Parish Republican Party official who lost his five-year position with U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany of Lafayette got his revenge last month. Bob Dewey plotted behind the scenes to orchestrate a political endorsement for the congressman’s toughest competitor.

Dewey, who is president of the parish GOP executive committee, pulled off the perfect con job when he worked in secret with eight other committee members to endorse U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry of New Iberia.

The 9-3 vote on Aug. 16 to endorse Landry in the 3rd Congressional District race was added to the agenda after the 12 party members who attended got to the regular meeting of the Calcasieu Parish Republican Executive Committee. A called meeting on Aug. 23 in an effort to rescind the endorsement failed on a 9-7 vote.

One member of the committee said not having the endorsement on the agenda was the first mistake and candidates shouldn’t be endorsed in a primary.

“Let me go one step farther,” the member said. “When phone calls are made to gain advantage on an agenda — it makes me very angry. If the agenda is changed and it is that important ‘ALL’ members of the CPREC should be called and made aware of the changes … not just the ‘selected few’ to gain an advantage.”

Tore Carlberg, former chairman of the committee, resigned after the vote. Carlberg echoed the sentiments of other party members who said Dewey has been openly bitter towards Boustany “because of his past history.”

Dewey was a campaign aide for Boustany from 2005 to 2009. No one will go on the record and say whether Dewey resigned or was fired. However, if he resigned, it’s because he had no other choice.

As you might expect, many Republicans across Calcasieu Parish who are Boustany supporters were outraged over the Landry endorsement. A number of them have purchased a full-page advertisement in today’s American Press to express their sentiments and support for Boustany.

Unfortunately, considerable damage has already been done. The fact that Landry was able to pick up an endorsement in a parish considered a Boustany stronghold made headlines across the state. Calcasieu is expected to be a major player in who wins the newly drawn 3rd Congressional District seat, and the appearance that Landry is strong here helps his cause.

The 32,449 other Republican voters in Calcasieu Parish have only themselves to blame for letting nine party members exercise so much stroke. Most stayed on the sidelines during the March presidential preference primary when the 20 members of the CPREC were supposed to be elected.

Dewey and three others ran for the five at-large seats and only five Republicans qualified for the other 15 seats. Seven members of the committee either volunteered or were appointed to fill some of the vacancies, but four seats are still vacant.

Landry is the darling of the tea party folks, and this is how they hope — and are trying to convince themselves — he will win:

Three other candidates are also in the race. They are Democrat Ron Richard, Republican Bryan Barrilleaux and Libertarian Jim Stark. All are from Lake Charles.

The tea party theory is that Barrilleaux will help split the Republican vote, and Richard will pick up many of the 231,194 Democratic votes in the 3rd District that might otherwise go to Boustany. Party loyalists would also love to see the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee pump loads of money into the race to back Richard.

The DCCC is the official campaign arm of the Democrats in the U.S. House. Its principal mission is to support Democratic House candidates.

Whether the committee believes its money would be well-spent on behalf of Richard remains to be seen. The Nov. 6 election is getting closer, and we haven’t seen much activity in that area yet.

Some Landry supporters even believe he is going to end up in a runoff with Richard, leaving Boustany out in the cold. That isn’t likely to happen, but the Boustany campaign had better be on its guard from here on out.

Landry proved during his 2010 congressional campaign in the old 3rd District that he will say or do anything to win elections. He continues that pattern during the current campaign. He is even trying to paint Boustany as a liberal with close ties to President Obama, which is about as far-fetched as you can imagine.

Anyone who criticizes Landry comes under heavy fire from the ultra-conservative wing of the Republican Party. Stephanie Grace, a political writer for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, incurred its wrath when she called Landry “Louisiana’s reigning stunt congressman” and added, “It’s easier to be against something than to figure out what to be for.”

Boustany has built a record of serving the people of the old 7th District well for the last eight years, and that is where he needs to concentrate his campaign efforts.

Meanwhile, Calcasieu Parish Republicans had better do whatever is necessary to retake control of their executive committee. They have let Dewey use it to fuel his personal vendetta against Boustany and to promote his opportunity for future employment with someone else.

Jim Beam, the retired editor of the Lake Charles American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 337-494-4025 or [email protected].

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