Former Gov. Edwin Edwards, who has been uncharacteristically quiet in his campaign to succeed U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy for Louisiana’s 6th Congressional District seat, came out swinging at his opponent at Monday’s appearance before the Baton Rouge Press Club.
At the same time, the campaign of his opponent, Garret Graves, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s hand-picked candidate, appears to be doing everything it can to go into a self-destruct mode with Graves following smear tactics against a first primary opponent with a vitriolic email-writing campaign to reporters perceived by him to be antagonistic.
One veteran Baton Rouge reporter described Graves’ strange behavior as the campaign enters its stretch drive as “weirdly Nixonian.”
Edwards was also critical of Graves’ role in attempts to stifle the lawsuit against 97 oil and gas companies by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E). “Someone needs to restore our coastal lands and who better than the ones who destroyed it?” he asked.
The event was intended to serve as a face-off between the two candidates, but Graves chose not to attend.
Edwards, meanwhile, took the opportunity of renewing earlier claims of $130 million contracts awarded to Graves’ father under his watch as President of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) and director of the Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities.
“Not only was he responsible for $130 million in contracts to his father’s engineering company,” Edwards said, “but 18 sub-contractors got another $66 million in contracts. Those companies gave $250,000 to Graves’ campaign and $360,000 to Gov. Jindal’s campaign. This is a scheme by Jindal and Graves to maintain and to perpetuate the control of the flow of dollars from the Corps of Engineers and the BP spill.
“Gov. Jindal took $160 million in BP grant funds and wasted it on the construction of a sand berm and gave the contract to a Florida firm. That berm, as was predicted, is long gone.
“Jindal then took another $35 million to $40 million to build the million-square-foot Water Campus in Baton Rouge,” Edwards said.
He said the Water Campus office complex and research center under construction in Baton Rouge, will house the agency Graves once headed. The leasing agent for office space in the facility, Edwards said, is Randy White, Graves’ brother-in-law. “They’re going to lease one million square feet of office space at probably $25 to $50 per square foot,” he said. “At a commission of 2 or 3 percent, that’s a $1 million a year. I guess it would be accurate to say Graves is a family man.”
More recently, Graves has ramped up an email-writing campaign to reporters that borders on paranoia, accusing veteran reporters of ganging up on him, not liking him, and being against him. The emails more resemble incoherent rants than logical communications with some making wild accusations, a tactic that has puzzled various recipients.
Edwards reserved most of his disgust, however, for Graves’ smear campaign against Paul Dietzel, III, in the Nov. 4 primary election. Graves intimated during the campaign that Dietzel, grandson of legendary former LSU football coach Paul Dietzel, was gay.
“At the time, the contest for the runoff position was between Graves and Dietzel,” Edwards said. “Dietzel is a fine young man and he never recovered from that scurrilous attack.” Dietzel finished third in the primary with 13.55 percent of the vote. Graves finished second to Edwards with 27.36 percent.
Edwards said that while he has not spent any money on media advertising “because I really didn’t think it was necessary,” he intends to begin a media blitz early next week.
He and Graves are scheduled to meet in their only scheduled head-to-head debate in Denham Springs next Tuesday.