Editor’s Note: A guest post by state Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Bossier City)…
Many people are calling and writing me to ask for my take on the governor’s race. For the sake of efficiency, I wanted to articulate my position in one place. Kelly and I are happy to support our longtime friend, Senator David Vitter, and we hope you will help us elect him our next governor on November 21 (or by early voting November 7-14). There are many important reasons why we believe you should make the same choice, because the stakes for Louisiana’s future could not be any higher. What follows here are two important questions that I think should be prayerfully considered.
1) WHICH POLICIES DO YOU WANT TO SUPPORT?
When we elect a person to the top political post in our state, our primary objective is not to ensure that person has never made a mistake. What we want to confirm is whether the candidates have learned from their past mistakes, how they are living now, and HOW THEY WILL GOVERN. What is each candidate’s central philosophy of government and what are their positions on the critical public policy issues and challenges at hand?
David Vitter is a PROVEN conservative who has CONSISTENTLY stood and voted over the years for less government, lower taxes, and traditional American values like religious liberty, the sanctity of human life, and traditional marriage. He is highly intelligent (a Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Harvard and Tulane Law), and is a tireless public servant (e.g., he has personally conducted over 200 town hall meetings in all parishes in Louisiana). While serving in the U.S. Senate, he has managed to balance and devote ample time to both north and south Louisiana.
David is not a typical politician. He doesn’t back slap and tell funny stories, and he doesn’t make political promises he can`t keep. He is not part of the Baton Rouge “good ol’ boy” club, and thus he will not be afraid to come into the Capitol and shake things up. He sets goals and achieves them, and he does not suffer fools. When your state is in a crisis, this is exactly the kind of no-nonsense leadership you need.
Opposing David is my legislative colleague John Bel Edwards. The distinction between the philosophies of the two men could not be clearer. John Bel is the Louisiana leader of the Democrat party, which openly advocates for bigger government, higher taxes, and radically liberal social stances on abortion, the redefinition of marriage, amnesty for illegal immigrants, and all sorts of other leftist policies. They don’t hide it, but rather boast about it in their party platform. (For an objective, side-by-side comparison of the Republican and Democrat platforms on major issues from abortion to taxes, please see this example.)
The contrast between the two parties today is shocking, and John Bel Edwards owns and leads that blue column in Louisiana. He helped to proudly LEAD the campaigns for President Obama and served as his convention delegate to be elected twice. At their last national convention in 2012, the Democrats openly booed the mention of God and Jerusalem.
As we watched the eleventh horrific Planned Parenthood sting video released to the public this week, I was reminded again of the importance of every governors’ race. While the calloused Planned Parenthood officials giggle about harvesting and selling baby body parts, remember that Barack Obama is the most radically pro-abortion president in U.S. history and he and John Bel’s party supports Planned Parenthood 100%. (Again, see their platform language in the link above.) I’m not sure how anyone can lead two statewide campaigns for Obama in today’s far left Democrat party and then claim to be legitimately “pro-life.”
For the past six years in row, Louisiana has been ranked as the #1 most pro-life state in America. The only way to maintain that status is to elect an ardently pro-life governor who will push good legislation, appoint pro-life department heads, and battle the abortion industry. John Bel Edwards won’t do any of that, because his party platform and its other leaders are vehemently opposed to all of it. Indeed, in a 2006 survey, John Bel himself called abortion “the freedom of choice,” and earlier this year he said that abortion after the first trimester of pregnancy should NOT be illegal.
By contrast, David Vitter and his wife, Wendy, have been true champions for life their entire careers. David will definitely appoint pro-life leaders to top positions, push our legislation, and be the worst nightmare of the abortion cartel. Most recently, he’s been fighting tooth and nail to stop the construction of the new Planned Parenthood “abortion supercenter” in New Orleans. John Bel has done nothing to fight the supercenter. His party and its platform openly SUPPORT it. (For a revealing exchange between the two candidates on this issue, check out this link to part two of the October 1st gubernatorial debate, beginning at 4:47.)
Before the Supreme Court imposed same-sex marriage on our nation and our state this summer (and Obama lit up the White House in rainbow colors), I authored a bill in the Legislature last spring (HB 707) that would simply have prevented the state from ever taking adverse action against Christians or others who have a sincerely held religious belief that marriage should only be between one man and one woman. The bill merely sought to provide a safeguard so the state could never have the power to punish traditional marriage believers by taking away their professional licenses, certifications, accreditation for Christian schools of every denomination, non-profit status for ministries, etc. One legislator led the dramatic charge to stop my religious liberty bill and get it killed in our Civil Law Committee before it could make it to a full vote on the House floor. That legislator’s name is John Bel Edwards. (See my summary of the bill and our exchange at the end of the 3 hr committee hearing, beginning at 2:53.)
Again, by contrast, David Vitter openly supported my legislation this year, and has a long legislative record defending religious liberty for decades. He understands the critical nature of this issue more than any other elected official I know, and he is committed to do all within his power to defend this fundamental constitutional right. Sometime in the near future, we expect that a Louisiana pastor or ministry will be on trial for standing by the biblical definition of marriage. When that day comes, we MUST have a governor who will boldly race straight to the front lines with us to defend our “first freedom.”
When the Louisiana ACLU launched an assault this fall on the students and principal of Airline High School, here in my district, my legal organization stepped up to provide a pro bono legal defense. The ACLU tried to bully the school into submission because the principal closed a newsletter with “God bless you,” and the FCA club wanted to collect prayer requests from fellow students. When the community rallied to pray and stand for the First Amendment, my friend David Vitter was here, on the ground, praying quietly. It was not a campaign stop, and he never asked or expected to speak or to be announced. He just wanted to stand in the back and pray in solidarity with those kids and that principal—in defense of religious freedom. While many public officials around the state (and all other major gubernatorial candidates) spoke out against the ACLU’s rabid intimidation tactics in Bossier, John Bel Edwards was eerily silent. His party and its platform openly SUPPORT the ACLU and its mission.
Professor Jeff Sadow is one who did a good job this week explaining in The Baton Rouge Advocate why John Bel is no social conservative. While the social issues are vitally important considerations, John Bel Edwards and his platform are wrong on virtually every other issue of concern to the people of this state as well. Those views on education, labor, taxes, energy, the environment, illegal immigration and “sanctuary cities”–just to name a few issues–are far out of step with Louisiana. They don’t want you to do your homework before you vote, but you must.
Throughout his career, John Bel Edwards’ voting record has shown a disdain for small business owners and free markets. His lifetime score from the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry is only 25%, which is one of the lowest “F” rankings in our state’s history. His policies have been terrible for our critical oil and gas industry and all other business sectors as well. John Bel wants to raise the minimum wage when 85% of studies since 1990 prove that doing so forces business owners to cut low-skilled jobs and raises the level of unemployment.
In the past few years, John Bel has also voted to create a mechanism to increase collection of taxes on internet sales to Louisiana residents (HB 641, 2011), expand entitlements such as Medicaid (HB 233, 2013), and allow illegal immigrants to receive welfare payments (HB 59, 2011). While David Vitter declined to accept his Congressional pension, John Bel Edwards voted to double his own legislative pay (SB 672, 2008).
One of the current PAC ads is hammering John Bel for cutting millions of dollars from education (HB 1, 2010), but there are other concerns about his views on the proper role of public schools. Last year, John Bel voted to authorize the State Department of Education to survey students on their sexual practices (HB 393, 2014), and this summer, I watched in dismay as he helped support a bill to require comprehensive sex education in New Orleans public schools for children as young as 3rd grade (HB 359, 2015).
I think it is important for me to say here that I like John Bel Edwards as a person. He and I are colleagues, and we have known each other for almost 20 years. He graduated a year behind me in law school, we have engaged in amicable debates, I have served with him on two legislative committees, and we have publicly stated our mutual respect for one another. However, in spite of our friendship, we are diametrically opposed on many important issues of public policy, and I believe that elevating his philosophies to the Governor’s Mansion would be a huge mistake. My opposition to his candidacy is not personal. I just think a candidate’s voting record matters more than the rhetoric of his campaign. I don’t oppose John Bel Edwards the man. I oppose his political plans and ideas. If you believe in traditional moral values, religious liberty, and economic freedom, you simply cannot vote to advance Edwards and his party platform.
2) CAN YOU VOTE FOR AN IMPERFECT CANDIDATE?
I hope this is not a news flash, but every single political candidate you have ever supported is an imperfect person and a wretched sinner in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. Every single one.
There will be a lot of heated discussion about the governor’s race between now and the runoff on November 21. I’d like to submit that those conversations provide my Christian friends with a real opportunity. We may never be given a better moment to discuss the central premise of the Christian faith–that ALL men have fallen short of the glory of God, and every single one of us is in desperate need of the mercy and redemption that is found only in Jesus. Period. If living a sinless life was a prerequisite for public office, every single political post would remain permanently vacant.
As we grow older, we learn in life that people who have truly received and appreciated forgiveness and mercy tend to have more empathy and are more willing to extend grace to others. Eight years ago, David Vitter confessed to serious sins that he had committed in the past. He owned it, and explained that he had already worked through it with his family years before it became public. He had asked for forgiveness, worked towards restoration, and sought reconciliation. He was forgiven by God and his extraordinary wife, they saved their marriage, and they are faithful believers. They have a truly inspiring Christian testimony.
Adultery is a serious sin, indeed, but it is not unforgivable. Jesus said so repeatedly. In fact, He explained that virtually every single person has been guilty of it at one time or another. (Matt. 5:27-28) When the Pharisees were about to stone the terrified adulterous woman, Jesus knelt down in the dust before her, drew a line in the sand, and challenged the crowd: “Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.” (John 8:3-11) The accusers slipped away one by one, and what follows is one of the most liberating pictures of grace and forgiveness recorded in the Bible: “Then Jesus stood up and said to the woman, ‘Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?’ ‘No, Lord,’ she wept. And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I. Go and sin no more.’”
Something that has always fascinated me about the Apostle Paul is how he grew in humility as he matured in his faith. As his understanding of and esteem for God increased, his perspective of himself became much more real. At the beginning of his ministry, the man who previously persecuted Christians before he met his Savior was filled with a sense of unworthiness. In 54 A.D., he described himself as “the least of ALL THE APOSTLES.” (1 Cor. 15:9) Eight years later, he said he was “less than the least of ALL GOD’S PEOPLE.” (Eph. 3:8) And by 65 A.D., he wrote to Timothy that he saw himself as “the worst of ALL SINNERS in the world!” (1 Tim. 1:15-16)
Thankfully, for Paul and for us, there is more grace in God’s heart than there is sin in our past. Because of that amazing grace, every person can be saved, and then grow in that kind of wisdom and humility that made men like Paul the chosen vessels of our Holy God. Though King David committed a series of devastating mistakes after his sin with Bathsheba, he is still described in the Bible as “a man after God’s own heart.” We can all find tremendous comfort in that.
Sometimes, a baptism of fire is necessary preparation for leadership. Indeed, I am a bit wary of any aspiring leader who has never endured great trial. There is a depth of insight and authenticity that can only be known by one who has limped through the darkest of valleys and emerged with an iron embrace of the love and sovereignty of God. Dark valleys help us to develop the kind of eternal perspective that sustains and satisfies the human heart–and keeps us humble and useful to our Creator.
I know for a fact that David Vitter is already privately assembling an incredible group of some of the most wise and widely-respected pastors in our state, from multiple Christian denominations, to serve in a spiritual advisory capacity once he is elected. This is not something that has been mentioned as a campaign ploy, because it isn’t. Throughout America’s history, some of the greatest governors and presidents have wisely relied upon small groups of trusted clergy to help keep them humble, faithful, and accountable through the pressures of such public service. A leader who recognizes such a need is precisely the kind of leader we want.
I know both David Vitter and John Bel Edwards. They are both good men–and I mean that–but they have fundamentally different ideas about the role of government in our lives and how our state should be run. It is critically important—now, more than ever—that every voter understands those distinctions. I think the Edwards policies would be disastrous for Louisiana, its economy, and the traditional values that the people of our state still cherish.
I do believe David Vitter is the best candidate because he is positioned to be the courageous conservative reformer and intelligent leader that our state desperately needs and must have for the next four years. He has committed that this will be his last political job. I believe he will be a great governor for our state–not because he is a perfect man, but actually because he is not. I think he is a wiser, more spiritually mature, and a stronger leader now than he was a decade ago. I believe he emerged from his valley a better man. And I pray that for all of us.
As Ronald Reagan always reminded our country, “An INFORMED patriotism is what we want.” Before you go to the polls for this runoff on November 21 (or you vote early November 7-14), please ask yourself these important questions: Do you want to keep more of your hard-earned money (Vitter), or pay more to an expanded government in higher taxes (Edwards)? Do you want to support job growth and sound economic policy (Vitter), or increase entitlements and run small businesses out of our state (Edwards)? Do you want to elect a leader who will go to the mat for life and religious freedom (Vitter), or equivocate on those critical issues to appease his party bosses (Edwards)?
This election should be about the issues and what direction we desire for our future. The hour is late and the crisis is great, and I pray our people make the correct decision in this critical election. Louisiana’s best days are ahead of us, but we have to advance the right policies in order to reach our potential. I think the choice this time is an easy one: David Vitter for Governor.