Well, here’s a bit of good news for Louisiana as the state desperately attempts to move on from a half-century of corruption and graft.
To say we needed this is grossly insufficient.
John Alario was first elected to the Louisiana legislature in 1971, the year Edwin Edwards first won election as the state’s governor. In case you’re counting that was 48 years ago – twelve terms at the state capitol for one man.
Alario was turned out of the House, where he’d been a fixture and had been a wildly corrupt Speaker – complete with the tawdry spectacle of his handing out campaign checks to members from casinos in the 1990’s and being caught up in an investigation of a pay-for-play legislative scam involving what became the River Birch landfill in Jefferson Parish which to this day remains one of the most incredible unprosecuted scandals of our time – due to term limits. He then ran for the Senate in 2007 and won, and four years later he was the Senate President during Bobby Jindal’s second term. That time represented four years of abjectly wasted opportunities for reform.
Alario was caught by the Times-Picayune, and investigated once again by the feds, for using his campaign fund as a personal checkbook to buy things like football tickets and other entertainment items. Nothing ever came of it.
And then John Bel Edwards was elected governor and Alario, who switched from Democrat to Republican in order to make his inevitable Senate presidency palatable to Jindal for his second term, got in bed with the Democrat governor. In the last four years he has acted, through dubious committee assignments and other legislative skullduggery, to kill virtually every piece of good legislation coming from the House in the Senate so Edwards wouldn’t have to veto it.
To say Alario has been an abject cancer on the Louisiana legislature is not at all too strong a statement. It is – at long last – God’s mercy that we are done with him.
Interestingly enough, Alario might well be making the decision not to run for the House seat he occupied for 36 years before term limits drove him out not because he’s weary of the halls of power but because of demographics and the consequences they impose on him due to that party switch in 2011. Alario’s House district is 57 percent black, and it is not friendly to politicians with “R’s” next to their names. In 2016 Donald Trump only managed 33 percent of the vote in District 83; John Kennedy fared only a little better, with 34 percent. Those were excellent numbers compared to the 24 percent David Vitter managed against Edwards in the 2015 gubernatorial runoff.
By all rights District 83, which has been represented by Robert Billiot, a white Democrat, should be held by someone from the Legislative Black Caucus. That’s what’s likely to happen. Kyle Green, an attorney who lost twice to Billiot in 2011 and 2015 for the seat but managed 48 percent of the vote despite getting into a political mess over a domestic abuse charge his wife had filed against him one year before (the two reconciled and the wife has since defended Green against criticism over the charge), is said to be running again and might be the favorite in the race.
Either way, moving on from Alario gives the Louisiana legislature, and particularly the House, the opportunity to become more independent and reform-minded. Which is the best political news we’ve seen in the Bayou State in as long as we can remember.
Goodbye, Sen. Alario, and good riddance.