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As a state representative, John Bel Edwards was once a harsh critic of Bobby Jindal.

That was then. Now appears to be quite different.

Edwards the legislator was often a lonely voice in the legislature, speaking out in opposition to Jindal’s destruction of the Office of Group Benefits and the raiding of OGB’s $500 million surplus from which it paid medical claims for state employees. Then.

Edwards opposed Jindal’s attempts to privatize governmental services, including prisons. Then.

Edwards the legislator was the leading critic—sometimes the only critic—of Jindal’s destruction of the state hospital system. Then.

Edwards the legislator openly challenged Jindal’s constant budgetary cuts, often asking pointed questions of Jindal or his lackeys during committee hearings. Then.

Edwards the legislator said that he was fooled into voting in favor of an amendment at the end of the 2014 legislative session that would have given a hefty—but illegal—boost in retirement income for then-State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson. Edwards, in fact, led the call for an investigation into the maneuver by State Sen. Neil Riser of Columbia. Then

But when John Bel Edwards was elected governor he suddenly began to morph into Bobby Jindal 2.0.

The first indication that the more things change the more they remain the same was when he reappointed Mike Edmonson as State Police Superintendent and Secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections Jimmy LeBlanc at the behest of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association.

The sheriffs’ association is a powerful lobby and anyone who desires to be governor must pass in review before the association and receive its blessing. The local sheriff, after all, is the single most powerful political figure at the parish level. And when you multiply that local power by 64, the number of parishes, you have a formidable political force to overcome if you don’t have their collective endorsement.

Edwards’s brother is a sheriff. So was his father and his grandfather before that. So, it was no surprise when Edwards received the association’s seal of approval.

JINDAL was joined at the hip by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and he showed it by his penchant for tax relief for big business at the expense of public and higher education and health care.

Remember when people could actually afford to send their kids to college?

Remember when there were facilities available to those in need of mental health care?

Remember when the state budget reflected some degree of sanity?

Remember when teachers could count on a pay raise every decade or so?

I can remember when there were real Democrats in Louisiana politics and not pretenders who bend with whichever direction the wind blows (see John Alario, John Kennedy, et al).

Well, thanks to the abetting of compliant legislators beholden to corporate campaign contributors, those are now just fond memories.

But when John Bel was elected, there was hope.

Instead, he has cozied up to business and industry and rather than confronting legislators, he tried to get along with them without offending them. Apparently, he didn’t learn from Dave Treen, a Republican governor who tried unsuccessfully to get along with a Democratic legislature.

And now, today, he is in New Orleans to address, of all people, delegates to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). On a lesser scale, that’s the moral equivalent to Trump colluding with…well, never mind.

ALEC is, or should be, everything a real Democrat (as opposed to a DINO) should shun like the plague. A real Democrat truly interested in promoting what is best for Louisiana’s citizens would never set foot inside an ALEC Annual Meeting, much less appear as a speaker at one.

Retired State Budget Director Stephen Winham said as much when was quoted by a Baton Rouge Advocate EDITORIAL yesterday.

ALEC is a conglomerate of BUSINESS INTERESTS that promotes a Republican agenda exclusively. Members converge on a city (like New Orleans) for their Annual Conference, sit down in highly secretive meetings (no press allowed, thank you very much), and draft “model legislation” for member lawmakers in attendance to take back home and introduce as new bills, quite often without bothering to change so much as a comma.

That’s it. Legislative members of ALEC attend these meetings so lobbyists for corporations from other states can tell them what’s best for Louisiana citizens.

In 2011, when then-State Rep. Noble Ellington of Winnsboro was its national president, Jindal was the featured speaker and received the organization’s Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award.

Now, ALEC is back and so is Jindal 2.0 John Bel Edwards.

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Sean Morrison is fighting a tough battle in one of the reddest of a decidedly red state’s parishes. But he doesn’t make any apologies for his positions and he stands ready to take the fight to the special interests.

Morrison says he is not beholden to the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) or any other special interest group in his quest to fill the unexpired term of District 90 State Rep. Greg Cromer who resigned to become mayor of Slidell on July 1.

In fact, Morrison, chairman of the St. Tammany Democratic Parish Executive Committee, took the rather unusual step of releasing a copy of LABI’s candidate QUESTIONNAIRE, the answers to which are virtually certain to keep him from getting the organization’s seal of approval—which is fine with him.

The survey, he said, “asked candidates to oppose policies that are good for working families like workplace fairness, job safety protections, access to justice for all Louisianans in our courts, access to high quality healthcare, promoting wage fairness, and an ongoing review of Louisiana’s billions in corporate tax giveaways.”

He said, “We need leaders in Baton Rouge who aren’t already influenced before they get there. I’m promising this: to fight hard to do what is right under the circumstances every single time,” Morrison said.

Born in Missouri, he grew up in Texas and moved around a lot as a child. From small towns like Egan, Louisiana, to Stillwater, Oklahoma, Sean saw all aspects of American life. His father, Michael, has worked in the oil and gas industry his entire career. His mother, Christy, is a school teacher in Houston.

Morrison studied political science, psychology, and philosophy at Tulane. He graduated with honors from Case Western Reserve Law School with a focus on international law and war crimes. He went to law school with one goal – to prosecute war criminals. Case Western Reserve had just the program, so Sean packed a U-Haul and drove it all the way from New Orleans to Cleveland. The gambit paid off. For six months he worked with the prosecution for the Special Court for Sierra Leone in the aftermath of their brutal civil war.

Following law school, he got a job working with a large Cleveland law firm. One morning he woke up and saw his whole future laid out before him. It was full of billable hours, corporate meetings, and Cleveland winters. So, he hopped on a plane to American Samoa and became a criminal prosecutor there. It was not long until the island was hit with a devastating tsunami. He immediately transferred to the Department of Commerce, where he worked on rebuilding the community, revitalizing its broken economy, and planning to prevent future disasters. “It was there that I learned that serving people through government was the most rewarding work anyone could do,” he says.

When he returned, he began working to conserve the Gulf Coast, it’s beaches, wetlands, and fisheries for future generations. He entered the job in the wake of scandal, as the Executive Director and others were jailed for corruption. As part of the new team, Sean helped reorganize the department, put in place new legal and fiscal systems, and rebuilt the reputation so that today the Department of Marine Resources is considered the gold standard of government in Mississippi (though Louisianans, after eight years of Bobby Jindal, are leery of anything bearing the label “gold standard”).

“I have dedicated my career to helping people through public service,” he says. “I have seen how the government is supposed to operate, and what gets in the way. Too often it is the legislators enacting laws that make it impossible to provide decent service to the people. As more and more politicians claim that there’s nothing to be done (and then set about proving it), I’ve come to know that all we need is public servants willing to roll up their sleeves, stop playing politics, and start doing the hard work of government. I have that experience and I can get the job done.”

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So STEVE SCALISE says he would vote in favor of IMPEACHMENT of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Isn’t that special? Especially considering House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) went on record opposing such a move and even though Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) subsequently announced he was TABLING his efforts to impeach Rosenstein.

Maybe Scalise was just having a little problem with premature calculation of his re-election odds in a district that elects the likes of David Duke, Bobby Jindal and….Steve Scalise.

Maybe that’s why Tammy Savoie has decided to challenge him in this fall’s elections.

Or maybe it was because Scalise was one of Louisiana’s five Republican representatives who cast a big, fat NO vote to funding election security.

That’s right. Every single Republican House member from Louisiana voted against HOUSE RESOLUTION 6147 last Thursday. In fact, of the 235 Republicans in the House, 232 voted against funding for election security against Russian hacking. The remaining three just didn’t vote. Of 193 Democrats in the House, 182 voted in favor with 11 not voting.

Scalise is most likely in lock-step with the Republican Party that thinks the Mueller investigation has gone on too long and cost too much.

Let’s COMPARE.

Since Nixon was elected in 1968, Republicans have held the White House for 28 years and Democrats for 20. During the Republicans’ 28 years, there were 120 criminal indictments, 89 criminal convictions, and 34 prison sentences in the Executive Branch.

During the Democrats’ 20 years, there were three criminal indictments, one criminal conviction, and one prison sentence.

Even more telling is the COST COMPARISON of the various presidential investigations.

For all the hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth Republicans are doing about the escalating cost of the Russia probe, it’s interesting to note the costs of presidential investigations:

  • Nixon: $47.1 million;
  • Carter: $1.2 million;
  • Reagan: $81.1 million;
  • George H.W. Bush: $.65 million;
  • Clinton: $83.3 million;
  • George W. Bush: $3 million;
  • Trump: $17 million (revised from the $6.8 given in the link above).

And those figures don’t even include the $30 million or so spent on investigating Benghazi or Hillary Clinton’s emails—a 789-day investigation (Mueller’s probe is just over a year old to date) that produced zero indictments. And don’t forget this investigation was carried out by a Republican-majority Congress.

Is Hillary Clinton clean? Is she spotless? I doubt it. I’m not particularly fond of her or her husband but when you combine the investigations of Bill and Hillary ($111 million) and you get one criminal conviction, it comes off as a bit whiny of Republicans to piss and moan about the Russia investigation.

In fact, Trump has spent more than FOUR TIMES AS MUCH on his golfing trips ($80 million to $90 million) to Mar-a-Lago as Special Prosecutor  Robert Mueller has on the Russia investigation.

Scalise appears to have chosen to ignore that fact and that makes him look a tad petty.

Of course, Trump’s aides defend the expenditures by saying the president is working while there. That being the case, why doesn’t he just stay in Washington and work? Of course, if he did that, his properties couldn’t make a profit from the staff members, Secret Service agents and media that accompany him to Mar-a-Lago.

And Scalise is front and center in his defense of Trump and his condemnation of Mueller and Rosenstein.

And perhaps that is why Tammy Savoie is offering the voters of Congressional District 1.

A native of Jefferson Parish, she enlisted in the Louisiana Air National Guard in 1978 while studying psychology at the University of New Orleans.

As a single mother with a baby on her hip and a Ph.D. in her pocket, she went on active duty as an Air Force psychologist in 1984, treating service members and their families at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.

She served as Chief of Psychological Services at Kadena AFB in Okinawa, Japan in 1999, where she created drug abuse and prevention programs. As Mental Health Flight Commander at Laughlin AFB, Dr. Savoie formed the first-ever Critical Incident Stress Team, coordinating the city’s emergency response teams, Border Patrol, and base agencies to provide crisis intervention services.

She was appointed Deputy Commander of the Air Force’s research office in London in 2008 and in 2011, she was deployed to Afghanistan to improve mental health services for U.S. troops. She traveled throughout the Middle East as the Chief of International health.

She retired as a lieutenant colonel in 2016 after a 22-year career with the Air Force. A resident of St. Tammany Parish, she now provides mental health services to veterans and to the Red Cross. She also is an adjunct professor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

In making her formal announcement upon qualifying to run last week, she said she is running on a platform of campaign finance reform. She said she is not accepting any PAC money in her campaign, preferring to running a grass-roots campaign.

“I will not put partisan politics above the interest of the citizens of the First Congressional District,” she said. She said she wants to close gun legislation loopholes that currently allow easy access to guns.

She also said she will work for salary equity for women and for other women’s rights issues and for a reduction in the infant mortality rate.

“I believe all Americans should have a right to health care,” she said. “Steve Scalise is happy to vote to knock 23 million Americans out of health care.

“We are hurting economically in Louisiana,” she said. Scalise voted against increasing the minimum wage not once, but twice. He has demonstrated his indifference to the interests of the people of Louisiana. He has voted against bills to reduce violence against women. He is against collective bargaining and he supports President Trump’s tariffs that will hurt Louisiana’s farmers.

“Donald Trump is no fan of American institutions. He supports a regime that has infiltrated our electoral process.

“Steve Scalise is complicit in Trump’s programs. He has sold our country to the highest bidder. He has not kept the executive branch in check.

“I will not give in to the corporate powers that control the Republican Party,” she said.

Savoie said her campaign will target the Independent and Democratic voters of the district, who she said outnumber Republicans.

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Facing discipline that included recommendations of demotion, reassignment, removal from the SWAT team and a 160-hour suspension without pay, he RESIGNED from the Opelousas Police Department.

When he next popped up, he was working as a public information officer for the St. Landry Sheriff’s Office where he tried to transform his image into that of some sort of John Wayne-George Patton clone.

But that went south as well when it was learned that his salary was being garnished by the FBI because he had paid NO FEDERAL INCOME TAXES for several years and that he was about $100,000 behind in his CHILD SUPPORT payments.

So, it was only natural that Clay Higgins would benefit from the 2016 Trump wave that would sweep him INTO OFFICE as U.S. Representative from Louisiana’s Third Congressional District.

During the 2016 campaign, he was taped by his ex-wife in a TELEPHONE CONVERSATION in which he said, “I’m just learning really about campaign laws…but there’s going to be a lot of money floating around.”

Higgins has established himself in the same mold as state and federal offices-holders Leander Perez, John Rarick, and David Duke in the two short years he has served in Congress.

Mildred “Mimi” Methvin wants to alter the image of the 3rd Congressional District to reflect a more rational approach to addressing the district’s problems at what she calls a “pivotal moment” for the district, state and the country.

Former U.S. Magistrate Judge Mimi Methvin, right, discusses her candidacy for U.S. Representative from the 3rd Congressional District with Ellen Torgrimson, New Orleans, of the League of Women Voters.

She is one of six challengers to Higgins—three other Democrats (one of whom just switched from Republican a few weeks ago), a Libertarian, and a Republican. If qualifications and past performance are any kind of barometer, she would be the hands-down selection as the candidate with the best chance of unseating the enigmatic Higgins.

Mildred “Mimi” Methvin, left, formally qualifies to run for U.S. Representative from Louisiana’s 3rd Congressional District last Wednesday. Looking on is Meg Casper of the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office.

Methvin has worked as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s office and served 26 years as a U.S. magistrate judge. Magistrate judges are selected on the basis of merit and she was vetted for each of her three terms. In that position, she mediated several complex litigation cases and in 2009, she returned to private practice, having just won a $1.2 million award for a Rapides Parish teacher.

“Our Constitution is a moral covenant,” she says. “The question that must be addressed is this: Does the voice of the average American still count or is the voice of corporate America the only voice heard?

“The people of the 3rd District need to be independent, not bought by the special interests,” she said.

To that end, unlike Higgins, she has eschewed PAC contributions while Higgins has accepted nearly a quarter-of-a-million dollars in PAC money thus far, including contributions from political action committees representing big oil, utilities, defense contractors, health care companies, insurance companies, chemical companies, the NRA (through Russian operatives perhaps?), and even an outfit called the “Support to Ensure Victory Everywhere PAC.”

Methvin listed health care, coastal restoration, and income equality as issues that are important to the district. She was harshly critical of what she described as the transfer of wealth to corporations and of recent attacks by the Trump administration on NATO—and of Higgins’ voting record in Congress.

“Congressman Higgins has turned his back on promises he made as a candidate. Ninety thousand of his constituents have lost their health care while he has put dollars in the pockets of the rich. He is in lock step with the corporations.”

She accused Higgins of “incontrovertible fealty to party loyalty” over the interests of his constituents.

Having once presided over a major case in which a sheriff’s department was held liable for beating an innocent suspect with a metal baseball bat, Methvin definitely has the chops to be tough while standing up for the interests of the citizens of the district.

Higgins’ unwavering devotion to Donald Trump notwithstanding, this could be the most interesting race of all six congressional districts.

 

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Justin DeWitt is the only challenger to 6th District U.S. Rep. Garret (one “t”) Graves to meet the July 8 Federal Election Commission (FEC) deadline for financial reporting and unlike the incumbent he is challenging, you won’t fine any PAC contributions in his report.

Democrat DeWitt, the only openly LGBTQ candidate to ever seek a congressional office in Louisiana, has raised a little more than $23,000 in a grassroots effort to dislodge Republican Graves, whose federal campaign finance report reads like a Who’s Who of Political Action Committees:

Airlines for America PAC, Allied Pilots Association PAC, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association PAC, Ally Financial, Inc. Advocacy PAC, Amazon PAC, the American Academy of Dermatology Association’s SKINPAC, American Academy of Physician Assistants PAC, American Airlines Inc. PAC, American Bankers Association PAC, American Air Liquide Holdings PAC, the American Cable Association PAC, American Chemistry Council PAC, American Commercial Lines PAC, Acadian Ambulance Service Employee PAC, Action Committee for Rural Electrification, AECOM PAC, Agricultural Retailers Association PAC, Airline Pilots Association PAC, Airbus Group PAC.

And those are just the first three pages. The entire list of PAC contributors is 38 pages long.

That $23,000 isn’t nearly enough to mount any kind of campaign and DeWitt is keenly aware of that fact but he says he’s running “because I flooded in ’16. I lost everything and got nothing but TAPs (thoughts and prayers) from Graves.”

Thousands of people lost everything in that flood, so what inspired him when no one else is running for that reason?

“I’m running because I’m pissed. Graves wants to take FEMA appropriations for victims and funnel that money into the Amite Diversion Canal. Those victims need help now.

“I want to change the entire flood insurance program,” he said. “We need an overall disaster insurance program. Instead, we have a national flood insurance program that has rates that are impossible for the average family to afford. It’s evil to profit off people who are suffering.

“I’m a political newcomer,” the 30-year-old member of a surveying crew says. One news report identified him as a surveyor—he’s not—and to show how those with power work to protect each other, the Louisiana Professional Engineering and Land Surveying Board threatened DeWitt with disciplinary action. “I never described myself as a surveyor because I’m not,” he said, “but that didn’t deter the board from trying to take action.”

He describes himself as “a working man from a working-class background” as opposed to Graves, who, like his mentor Bobby Jindal, never worked in the private sector.

He said if he is elected, “I will continue to work hard for all the people of the 6th Congressional District, Louisiana, and the nation—not for the corporations and special interest groups. I will work to protect our environment and the rights of all people, and to protect the vital program that ensure a good quality of life for working and middle-class people. That includes healthcare for all who need it and, importantly, Medicare and Social Security for our seniors who have paid into those programs for a lifetime and who should not have to fear a future without the financial resources to live comfortably.”

He said one of the biggest problems with congress and any other elective office is the influence of money from special interests. “The PACs have drowned out the voice of the people to the point the average person cannot be heard over the lobbyists and special interests,” he said. “That’s why you won’t see any PAC contributions in my finance reports. And it’s not because they haven’t offered—they have. We turned them down. We’re depending on social media to get our message out.”

Candidate qualifying runs from July 18 to July 20.

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