HITHER AND YON: Election Season Has Begun In Louisiana

In case you missed the Twitter war between Rob Maness and David Duke over the weekend, you were treated to an announcement that we are now in an election cycle here in Louisiana.

And the coming races for House and Senate, not to mention mayor-president in East Baton Rouge Parish, look to be as chaotic as the presidential race has been.

Duke’s entry into the Senate race has kicked over an anthill of angst, particularly on the Republican side, as GOPers who were mortified at his ability to garner 40 percent of the vote in two statewide races in 1990 (for the Senate) and 1991 (for Governor) still remember how terrible the feeling was that a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan – the former paramilitary wing of the Democrat Party, after all – would generate so much support among Republican voters.

Duke proved that there is a segment of the electorate willing to vote for more or less anybody so long as that anybody will throw enough bombs at the political establishment. Duke managed to enlarge that segment of the electorate in 1990 and 1991 not because he was particularly persuasive but because his opposition was abysmal. In 1990, the hand-picked Republican candidate to oppose Democrat incumbent senator J. Bennett Johnston was Ben Bagert, a longtime Democrat state legislator and New Orleans blue-blood whose voting record was punctuated with an emphasis on coastal conservation. Bagert might have been a decent legislator, but nobody cared about him as a candidate for statewide office (he would prove that the next year by getting slaughtered by Richard Ieyoub in a race for Attorney General). And despite the entire national Republican Party coming to Bagert’s aid in a furious attempt to drive Duke out of prominence, Bagert ended up withdrawing from the race two days before the election and endorsing Johnston, who won a 57-43 re-election.

In 1991, Duke ran against the largely unknown GOP hand-picked nominee Clyde Holloway, then a congressman, and the Democrat-turned-Republican governor Buddy Roemer, who was seen by the voters as politically unskilled and ineffective, and Edwin Edwards as he mounted a political comeback. It was the perfect storm of Republican failure, Roemer running quite possibly the worst statewide re-election campaign in Louisiana’s history and the electorate being fed up with the state’s status quo which pushed Duke into the runoff.

Could that happen again this time? No. The difference between Duke’s two “successful” statewide runs and this Senate race, besides the 25 years of changes in Louisiana’s people, is that this year there is a Republican frontrunner in the race who is actually popular with the public. More, John Kennedy has taken great pains to present himself as something Duke got votes with – Kennedy has cultivated a reputation as an anti-establishment figure by crusading against the waste of public money and calling out the wasters of it. Kennedy has reaped great benefits from that presentation without making himself seen as a racist or otherwise vulgar personage. As such, Duke can’t beat Kennedy in any formulation of this race.

And Kennedy isn’t alone. Lots of others among the Republican field in the race can argue against leftist misgovernance without carrying the baggage and disqualification that Duke, a convicted felon, does. John Fleming and Charles Boustany might be less exciting to voters for having slogged through the congressional mud, but it takes a rare bit of electoral stupidity to consider membership in the House of Representatives a worse line on a resume than status as a Klan leader and federal inmate. And as Maness demonstrated in his Twitter scrape with Duke, he’s more than capable of shouting down the political has-been (and we’re being generous). The newcomer to the race, Abhay Patel, will also look fresh and interesting compared to Duke.

It’s not surprising that Louisianans who came of political age in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s would be terrified of Duke’s entry into a statewide race. But Duke is old news. Nobody is going to vote for him.

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The Senate race isn’t the only race of interest developing at present. It’s beginning to appear difficult for the other contenders in the U.S. House District 3 race to gain much of a foothold against Scott Angelle. Late last week Erick Knezek, the businessman and Lafayette School Board member who had been both the first into the race and the first out of it, endorsed Angelle. It was thought that Knezek’s endorsement of a Grover Rees, Gus Rantz or Greg Ellison might give one of those candidates a boost and potentially serve to galvanize the race, but that didn’t happen.

“I am humbled and excited to receive Erick’s endorsement,” Angelle said. “He’s been an outspoken voice for veterans, our ports and our energy industry. He elevated the conversation on the campaign trail and brought a breadth of knowledge to the race. I want to wish him success in his business ventures regarding the two patents he recently received. I look forward to working with him in all of these areas and more to build a stronger South Louisiana.”

Angelle also has a TV ad out, which so far as we can tell makes him the only candidate in the LA-3 race on the tube.

Who does that hit? It’s not hard to figure out. Angelle runs out with a “Back the badge” message before Clay Higgins, the former St. Landry Parish sheriff’s deputy who is right now in second place, can get on TV with anything, and all of a sudden Higgins doesn’t have a signature issue he can use to any great effect.

Higgins doesn’t have any money, and can’t get on TV this early in the game. Instead, if he wants to leverage himself as the anti-Black Lives Matter candidate he’s going to have to resort to political stunts to get earned media – and that’s going to make him look unserious as a candidate.

Let’s be honest here – Angelle is going to win this race unless Rantz, Rees and Ellison get together behind one of their number and present a campaign with a better argument for representing the district, including dredging up dirt on Angelle and exploiting resentment over his refusal to back David Vitter against John Bel Edwards last year. Even then, it’s anything but a sure bet.

Higgins? Right now he’s a poor second-place finisher. And nobody seems to care about Brett Geymann as a candidate in this race. There are six other candidates, including two Democrats, a Libertarian and an independent, that nobody has ever heard of. We’d call it an even-money bet that Angelle wins in the primary; it’s going to be tough to see him losing the runoff unless somebody can galvanize the anti-Angelle vote on the Right and then appeal to Democrats as swing voters in the second round.

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What might be the most fun race of the bunch is the mayor’s election in Baton Rouge.

Right now the candidate rushing forth to make the most of current events is state representative C. Denise Marcelle. After the Alton Sterling shooting Marcelle did everything she could to glom onto the “protest” movement. She was everywhere there was a demonstration, campaign paraphernalia on hand.

Like these fans, for example, which showed up at Sterling’s funeral…

denise campaign fan

And then there was Marcelle not waving the bloody shirt but rather wearing it…

denise marcelle sterling tshirt

All of which had her poised to ride the Alton Sterling business right past the race’s frontrunner Sharon Weston Broome into the runoff. Until a black separatist nut from Kansas City named Gavin Long rode into Baton Rouge and shot six law officers, killing three, that is, and going a long way toward exploding Marcelle’s electoral hopes. Some joked that was the main reason Marcelle made two tearful appearances on local news coverage of the shootings within an hour of each other.

The blowback was inevitable, and last week it came in the form of a scathing letter the Baton Rouge police union sent referencing Marcelle…

The Baton Rouge Union of Police is also calling for our local and state leaders to STRONGLY condemn this senseless act of violence, to provide increased support for our department and to provide real solutions going forward. We have all witnessed one of our local “leaders” wearing an inflammatory t-shirt at the recent protests which only served to instigate and validate violence against law enforcement. Now she claims to grieve with all of law enforcement. The future of our Country and the safety of our citizens should take precedence over rhetoric and political gain. Now is not the time to give uninformed personal opinions that only serve to undermine law enforcement and incite hate and chaos during this crucial time.

Oops.

There are polls showing Broome with a comfortable lead over Marcelle among the half of the parish which is black, while the white vote is less defined at present (pollsters working for John Delgado’s campaign show him a few points ahead of Bodi White, while pollsters working for White have the numbers reversed).

It’s notable, in the aftermath of all the turmoil in Baton Rouge, that some candidates in the race rushed to microphones in order to use the Sterling shooting and the dead policemen as an infomercial. One candidate who didn’t insist on mugging for the cameras was White. Instead, he quietly went to meet with families of the slain officers and law enforcement to do his job as a state senator and the chair of Louisiana’s homeland security committee. That’s what you’d hope your elected officials would do, but it’s a bit old-fashioned for politicians to stick to their responsibilities rather than use tragic events for marketing.

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Louisiana is going to run the Democrat Party. Or at least, a Louisianan will run it.

After Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is leaving after this week’s Democrat National Convention (which I happened to write an American Spectator column about today) in the aftermath of Wikileaks disclosures showing how rancidly corrupt the party is, the Democrats are turning to our old pal Donna Brazile as “interim” party chair.

But it turns out Brazile is dirty on the effort to rig the party’s process against Bernie Sanders that Wasserman Schultz went down for. The Daily Caller has some juicy details

The new interim chair of the Democratic National Committee, Donna Brazile, is no fan of the Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign, a leaked email shows.

Brazile was emailed on May 13 by a Washington Post reporter to comment on the “fight between the Sanders camp and DNC over adequate representation on the platform committee and others ahead of the convention.”

Brazile then forwarded the press inquiry to DNC officials and wrote, “I have no intentions of touching this. Why? Because I will cuss out the Sanders camp!”

The same WikiLeaks release of nearly 20,000 emails contained multiple instances of Florida Democratic Rep. Wasserman Schultz talking negatively about Sanders and his campaign. Wasserman Schultz is currently the DNC chairwoman but will resign at the conclusion of the Democratic Party convention Thursday.

What a mess. Both parties are in a state of disaster at present on the national level.

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Up for a Today’s Last Thing? We have something important to show in this segment – namely, a justification for the high cost of a Tulane education. Watch and be enlightened…

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