Louisiana voters have a very important decision to make in the November 21st election runoff for the Governor’s race between Senator David Vitter and Rep. John Bel Edwards. I’m well acquainted with both gentlemen and wanted to provide my thoughts on the two candidates, both of whom are good men who I have a high regard for.
My wife Karen and I have known David Vitter and his wife Wendy for a number of years and I have closely followed his career since his first election to the Louisiana House of Representatives. I have also spent the last eight years serving in the Louisiana House with Rep. John Bel Edwards and consider him an intelligent and capable legislator, and like him personally. I certainly respect his military service and the fact that he is a West Point graduate.
I don’t particularly care for some of his politics though, which in my opinion are a throwback to the “Dark Ages” of Louisiana when labor unions and the courthouse crowd ran our state in a backwards fashion and our best and brightest had to flee the state for opportunity.
In the current Governor’s election, Rep. Edwards is trying to deftly reposition himself as a “new” Democrat whose purportedly moderate stances on some issues distinguish him from the traditional Democrat policies that Louisiana has soundly rejected and moved away from in recent years. But, as outlined below, his record reflects him as one of the most pro-union and anti-reform legislators in the Capitol and that he has continually supported the “old school” political establishment.
Rep. Edwards is Pro-Union and Anti-Right to Work
In 2011, Rep. Edwards was one of only 4 members of the entire 105 member House who voted against Senate Bill 76 by Senator Danny Martiny of Metairie.
The bill, which passed overwhelmingly, prohibited governmental entities in Louisiana from requiring that private contractors use union labor to perform public works. The bill also prohibited discriminating against private contractors which did not use union labor. Since only 3% of Louisiana’s private construction workforce is union, Rep. Edwards favored the position that would prohibit 97% of the state’s construction workers from working on public construction projects.
Rep. Edwards Opposes Lawsuit Abuse Reform
Another area of concern with Rep. Edwards’ record is his position opposing lawsuit abuse reform. Lawsuit abuse not only raises all of our insurance rates, but deters new businesses locating in Louisiana. During his tenure in the Louisiana House, Rep. Edwards has opposed many measures which would help small businesses and end abusive lawsuits.
Legal reform measures that Rep. Edwards opposed included Senate Bill 308 in 2008 which would have required that experts in cases be qualified prior to trial, so that the expert testimony would be more reliable.
Rep. Edwards also opposed house House Bill 245 in 2009 which would have prevented the practice of venue shopping for lawsuits, which is trying to find the most favorable court for a claim instead of where the suit belongs.
In 2012, Rep. Edwards opposed House Bill 618, the “legacy lawsuit” bill, which favored the cleanup and remediation of environmental damage over high damage awards. A landowner could still pursue a damage claim, but the measure would focus on the cleanup of the property as opposed to simply enriching the property owner and their attorney.
The legacy lawsuit issue is very contentious, with the attorneys who profited most from the lawsuits filing an unfounded ethics complaint against the author of the measure and now spending millions attacking Sen. Vitter and supporting Rep. Edwards..
Rep. Edwards Opposes Education Reform
Despite Louisiana having one of the poorest education systems in the state, Rep. Edwards opposed many education reforms over the past eight years. In 2008, he opposed the school choice in Orleans Parish (House Bill 1347), which helped those children trapped in failing schools. Rep Edwards also opposed school board reform measures to take politics out of the classroom. In 2009, Rep. Edwards opposed House Bill 851, which prohibited school boards from interfering or coercing school superintendents or teachers. Rep Edwards also opposed term limits for school board members on two occasions (House Bill 410 in 2010 and House Bill 292 in 2012.) Despite Rep. Edwards opposition, House Bill 292 passed in 2012 and the voters overwhelmingly approved term limits for school board members.
Sen. Vitter Favors Reform
Sen. Vitter’s pro-reform record in both the state legislature and in Congress is in direct contrast to Rep. Edwards. As mentioned before, it is his reform position on lawsuit abuse that is earning him the most negative attention in the Governor’s race with the majority of anti-Vitter attacks being run and funded by major trial lawyers who are opposed to tort reform. Sometimes you can determine the high caliber of a person’s politics by their enemies. If we really want to move the state forward and not become mired down in unions and lawsuits which benefit just a few at the expense of many, then David Vitter is the clear choice for governor.
He has an exemplary pro-business pro-reform record that has frankly earned him a lot of enemies. Also, he has been very effective at his reform efforts, even while serving as 1 legislator out of 144 with the legislature that is not nearly as reform oriented as it is today. Vitter was able to pass term limits for the legislature, most important reforms in the state’s history. Even though I was personally impacted by term limits, I still think that it term limits are good policy and prevents a legislature from being too institutionalized to consider new ideas and policies. Also, many of the legislators offer fresh ideas and perspective and are more willing to make departures from the status quo.
But Vitter Isn’t Likable
Some of my friends have told me that they don’t particularly like Vitter. Much of this negative feeling is because of a past scandal that has been resurrected by his opponents and sensationalized and exaggerated. However, this conduct occurred over 15 years ago, has never been repeated, and was fully vetted in the media seven years and ago. Sen. Vitter has apologized repeatedly to the voters and his family has forgiven him and moved on.
The only reason that we’re hearing it now is because Sen. Vitter’s opponents don’t want him to be governor. I believe that anyone who is sincere about atoning for a past regression that they do not repeat deserves to be forgiven and given a second chance. Frankly there are few of us who have not done something in our lives that we are truly ashamed about. I’m not condoning Se. Vitter’s past behavior, but frankly, if his wife and family can forgive him and so can I. The only reason to keep harping on it now is pure politics.
Also, do we really want a Governor who is likable, or do we want one to tell it like it is and do what needs to be done, whether people like it or not. A lot of people didn’t like term limits. A lot of politicians didn’t like being challenged by Vitter or called down for ethics violations. The folks in Washington didn’t like him holding up appointments and extracting concessions from the political establishment. Governing is not about being liked, but rather about being effective and having the best interest of the state in your heart.
Sen Vitter has sponsored over 200 town hall meetings throughout the state and has always listened and been responsive to his constituents. He has a vision for moving the state forward, where all children can obtain a good education , where government is limited and small businesses have a chance to thrive and not worry about frivolous lawsuits.
It’s time to look to the future instead of the past. We need to ask ourselves the fundamental question we want to move forward with a progressive reform oriented governor who is business friendly and conservative and doesn’t mind upsetting the status quo. Our alternative to go regress back to the dark time when unions and the courthouse crowd ran the state and limited our opportunity to grow and prosper as a state.