There were reports of robocalls with John Bel Edwards’ voice exhorting voters – Republican voters – to come out and pull a lever for Robbie Gatti over Ray Crews in one of the most conservative house districts in Louisiana today.
If that sounds bizarre to you, welcome to the District 8 house race, a campaign necessitated by Mike Johnson’s victory in last fall’s Congressional race. Gatti, whose brother Ryan has the most left-wing economic record of any Republican in the legislature and is arguably an even friendlier GOP state senator to the governor than former Democrat John Alario is and whose background is akin to a closet full of skeletons, was the scariest of the candidates in this spring’s special elections from a conservative standpoint. That’s why so many conservative groups poured resources into the race on the side of Crews, a former B-52 bomber pilot stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base whose maiden voyage as a political candidate was marked by a steady hand and a consistent conservative message.
Crews turned out to be the least controversial candidate in the race, and it paid off. Tonight’s result was a slaughter.
While the result isn’t surprising – Johnson’s district can be reliably counted on to elect the most conservative candidate available – the magnitude of the spread can’t be denied. This, after all is someone who supplied Edwards with his office space in Shreveport when the latter was running for governor. His repudiation by a nearly 2-to-1 margin is Edwards’ repudiation.
It’s also occasion to ask why Edwards would put so much behind Gatti given the somewhat comical negatives he carried with him. This was, after all, a candidate who had appeared in blackface in a photograph the origins of which he never gave a credible account. Gatti also leased office space – in the same building where he donated space to Edwards! – to not one but two “happy endings” Asian massage parlors quite obviously engaged in the sex trade. And then he very obviously attempted to bus black voters to the polls in time for early voting, which was a less-than-savory tactic for most of the voters in the district, particularly the Republicans Gatti claimed to merit.
The governor’s name is attached to Gatti’s failure, and it’s a sizable blow to his agenda for tonight’s result to have been such a rout.
Not to mention the fact Crews can be counted on as a die-hard opponent to Edwards’ agenda when he’s sworn in as a House member next week.