Is there a bigger attention whore in Louisiana politics than ex-Senate candidate, ex-state House candidate, and now ex-parish party leader Rob Maness?
Maness managed to insert himself into the news cycle last week when he criticized a statement by political activist Lane Grigsby concerning the state Senate District 16 contest. At the time prior to a recount, vote totals of two Republicans tied, trailing a Democrat. State law in this instance would have had all three on the ballot for the general election runoff, which likely would have handed the Democrat the victory.
However, the recount put GOP state Rep. Franklin Foil ahead by four votes. Grigsby, who has a long history of financial assistance to preferred candidates typically conservative (but not always; during Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ 2015 campaign he donated to him) had said he would back Foil in a future campaign if he had remained tied in votes and would withdraw from the SD 16 race prior to the runoff.
Despite the unimpeachable legality of that offer, this gave Maness an opening to attempt to make himself relevant again. He decried the Grigsby statement, calling it something activating his “duty” to resign from the Republican Party in opposition to what he asserted as “illegal activities and corruption.” This means he must surrender his District 1 seat on the St. Tammany Parish Republican Party Executive Committee, which he won in 2016. (He didn’t say whether his wife Candy would switch her registration and resign her state central committee Senate District 11B post as well in solidarity.)
It fits the pattern of Maness drawing publicity to himself ever since he returned in retirement from the military to the state and immediately set about running for the Senate in 2014. He came from the skies lecturing conservatives on how he was the only true one among their number in that contest – even though eventual winner GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy had excellent such credentials and a long history of political involvement in the state.
After Cassidy advanced to the runoff – who would have won outright without Maness inserting himself – Maness petulantly waited nearly a week to endorse him. He disappeared for a bit, then ran for Senate in 2016 (Louisiana allows dual officeholding only when one position is that of a party) and saw the 14 percent of the vote he racked up in 2014 shrink to 4 percent. Along the way, he made a ruckus when he claimed subjection to an offer similar to that of Grigsby’s, in this case allegedly on behalf of another Senate candidate who didn’t make the runoff, using similar rhetoric of outrage to describe that incident.
In 2017, Maness aimed lower, going for a state House seat in a special election – and lost again, with Republican Mark Wright, who had spent years active in local politics, besting him. Since then, he has sporadically made pronouncements concerning his political action committee Gator PAC, which appears to spend almost all of its money on fundraising from almost exclusively out-of-state retirees and has spent no money in the 2020 election cycle on candidates.
Most of the $320,000 or so raised has gone to the Wisconsin telemarketing firm American Liberty Group, which specializes in soliciting donations from retired veterans. The company came under fire in 2016 for allegedly deceptive practices and that little of what it raised actually went to the causes indicated.
Maybe Maness felt the need to use the SD 16 episode to put his brand out there as a reaction to the success of Republican Eddie Rispone, now poised with a decent chance to become the state’s next governor. Unlike Maness, who just showed up and announced himself as Louisiana’s conservative savior, Rispone worked behind the scenes for years aiding Republicans before offering his candidacy and campaigned in a way that convinced enough voters to prefer him over another conservative and sitting member of Congress, which Maness fell far short of doing.
A hobby is useful to have when retiring. In the case of Maness, it means calling attention to yourself first and foremost, with advancing conservatism as an afterthought.