By the time the dust from the gubernatorial primary election had settled late Saturday night, there were several conclusions that can be drawn from the results, all of which can be traced back to one overriding fact:
David Vitter is in trouble. And it shows.
Moreover, based on what transpired in the campaign leading up to Saturday’s voting, we can reasonably predict that the next four weeks before the Nov. 21 General Election will see more of the same attack ads by David Vitter, this time aimed at State Rep. John Bel Edwards.
Edwards entered the race with little name recognition outside the Florida parishes of Louisiana. He was pitted against three Republican incumbents: Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, popular Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and the state’s senior U.S. Senator David Vitter who had—and still has—more money than his three opponents combined, thanks to a Super PAC formed on his behalf. That Super PAC, the Fund for Louisiana’s Future, ironically is headquartered not in Louisiana, but in Washington, D.C.
But Vitter had that enormous negative—his reputation as a whoremonger who reportedly cavorted with prostitutes in Washington and New Orleans.
But despite the lack of name recognition and a campaign war chest that nowhere approached that of Vitter, Edwards, a state representative from Tangipahoa Parish, still managed to pull in 40 percent of the vote to only 23 percent for Vitter.
Granted, Edwards was the only major Democratic candidate in the primary but still, fully 77 percent of those who voted preferred someone other than Vitter as our next governor.
Angelle received 19 percent of the vote while Dardenne got 15 percent.
Vitter led or won outright in 10 parishes while Angelle won a majority or plurality in nine. Edwards won or led in the remaining 45.
That leaves Edwards needing only another 11 percent from Angelle’s and Dardenne’s 34 percent and the 3 percent that went to three other minor candidates to put him over the top while Vitter needs to pick up 28 percent.
There’s no love lost between Vitter and his two Republican opponents.
In fact, on Saturday, the campaigns of both Dardenne and Angelle campaigns sent out emails to supporters calling attention to the arrest of a private investigator working on behalf of the Vitter campaign. http://www.jaydardenne.com/vitter-staffer-arrested/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=sp&utm_campaign=20151024_23829285_Jay%20Dardennne&utm_content=body_txt_directlink&action=email_click&ha1=
Vitter’s campaign has paid J.W. Bearden & Associates of Dallas $135,000 since August of 2014 and on Friday, an employee of the firm, Robert Frenzel of Dallas, was arrested for secretly recording Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand, a Dardenne supporter, and State Sen. Danny Martiny of Metairie.
Bearden acknowledged that Frenzel worked for the firm but Vitter campaign spokesman Luke Bolar said the intent was to conduct surveillance on an Edwards supporter and not Normand. Oh, well, that’s different.
When arrested, Frenzel was found to have in his possession a dossier on New Orleans blogger Jason Brad Berry who recently has been publishing a series of interviews with prostitutes who claim to have had sexual relations with Vitter, including one who says Vitter fathered a child by her in 2000.
The email from Dardenne’s campaign said of Frenzel’s arrest, “I hope that you will share this with every one of your family and friends. We’re no strangers to political corruption, but usually these crooked politicians wait until after they get elected to betray our trust. We now know the real David Vitter.” Dardenne added, “He’s cheated, he’s lied and now he’s been caught spying.”
Likewise, Angelle said, “A man who has been unfaithful to his wife and (who has) been caught spying on Louisiana citizens does not have the moral character to be governor of our great state.” Angelle, like Dardenne, did not endorse anyone in the runoff.
So, why is it that two Republicans who failed to make the runoff have thus far refused to endorse fellow Republican Vitter?
For that, Vitter has no one but Vitter to blame. His onslaught of negative ads—he had more than twice as many TV ads as Angelle, his nearest competitor—had to leave a sour taste in Angelle’s and Dardenne’s mouths. Vitter relentlessly attacked the records and characters of both men which could force each of them to simply sit on the sidelines with no indication to supporters on whom to support.
Vitter’s ads against the two were particularly vitriolic in their content and now that he has disposed of them, he will no doubt turn his guns on his Democratic opponent. But Edwards made it clear on Saturday night that he was prepared.
“This is going to be a real tough runoff to watch unfold on TV,” he told supporters. A West Point graduate, Edwards referenced the West Point Honor Code which says, “A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do.” He then said to a chorus of cheers, “David Vitter wouldn’t last five minutes at West Point. He’s desperate and all he offers are lies.”
Edwards predicted that Vitter would do everything possible to link him to President Obama and Vitter didn’t let him down. In his own address to supporters following Angelle’s concession, Vitter said, “Voting for John Bel Edwards would be like voting for Barack Obama to be governor of Louisiana.”
Edwards, calling Vitter “Jindal on steroids,” noted that all four candidates supported “in some form or other,” expansion of Medicaid for Louisiana so that more low-income families can have health care.
Saying that he had avoided negative ads, Edwards then fired a shot across Vitter’s bow when he said, “If David Vitter wants to talk about who we associate with, I’m more than ready to do that.”
From hookers to private investigators illegally intercepting others’ communications, Vitter’s obnoxious behavior goes back at least to 1993 when then-State Rep. Vitter physically assaulted a woman who questioned his vote against killing a bill that would protected gays and lesbians from employment discrimination. http://cenlamar.com/2015/03/24/in-1993-david-vitter-physically-assaulted-woman-accusing-him-of-supporting-gay-rights/
Not only does Vitter have The Fund for Louisiana’s Future, a Super PAC, but Baton Rouge lobbyist and attorney Jimmy Burland, writing on Vitter’s behalf, sent an email last week to several hundred state lobbyists in which he solicited individual $5,000 contributions from each in a series of Vitter meet-and-greet events which began today (Sunday, Oct. 25). He said in his email that the Vitter campaign needed to raise $3 million.
It didn’t take long to get a reaction to that brazen pay-to-play proposal. The Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE) on Oct. 23, two days after LouisianaVoice published news of the email solicitation, announced that it had severed all ties with the Burland and Associates lobbying and political affairs group, effective immediately.
“The parting of ways comes in light of a recent letter distributed by the firm’s owner, James Burland, soliciting contributions for the David Vitter campaign. LAE President and LAE-FCPE Chair Debbie Meaux said the move is troubling, as it is a blatant contradiction of the whole foundation of the firm’s business focus,” LAE said in a news release.
So now it comes down to choosing between a graduate of West Point and platoon leader of the Army’s 82nd Airborne who fought Bobby Jindal for eight years or a man who spies on opponents, cheats on his wife, physically attacks women who question him, avoids answering questions about his records, avoids debates or appearing at venues at which he does not have pre-screened questions and who has any reporter who questions him fired.
That’s the choice, folks. Forget about the Democrat and Republican labels and for once, let’s vote for leaders, for character, for trustworthiness. For all you people out there who puff up your chests and proclaim that you “don’t vote for the party but for the best candidate,” now is the time to put up or shut up.
If Vitter wins this election, LouisianaVoice will be watching his every move.
If Edwards wins and the Republican legislature attempts to block his programs which we believe would be best for the state, we will track campaign contributions, contracts and legislative votes that benefit large donors like banks, oil companies, pharmaceutical firms, nursing homes and insurance companies like never before. Votes on equal pay for women, anti-discrimination, higher education and health care will be scrutinized and chronicled for all to see.
If an Edwards administration becomes a smaller version of Congress where Republicans use parliamentary moves to block good legislation or if they try to tack on amendments like the infamous Mike Edmonson retirement enhancement amendment, we will by-God subject you to more exposure than you ever dreamed possible.
You are on notice.
One more thing: The Fund for Louisiana’s Future and all other out-of-state PACs need to stay the hell out of Louisiana politics. Forever. We don’t need outside money telling us how we should vote. We’ve seen what big money does to politics: it amplifies the voices of the special interests while muting our own.
And we don’t like that.