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Democrat John Bel Edwards wins Louisiana governorship

Edwards defeats GOP U.S. Senator David Vitter, who announces he won’t seek re-election

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

louisiana mugNEW ORLEANS (CFP) — Democratic State Rep. John Bel Edwards will be the next governor of Louisiana after defeating Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter in a contentious runoff.

In his concession speech, Vitter announced that he will not seek re-election to  the Senate next year, opening a seat Republicans will have to defend to keep their majority.

Louisiana Governor-elect John Bel Edwards

Louisiana Governor-elect John Bel Edwards

Edwards took 56 percent in the November 21 vote, to just 44 percent for Vitter, easily winning a race few people thought Edwards could win when he announced his long-shot candidacy in 2013.

“The people have chosen hope over scorn, over negativity and over the distrust of others,” Edwards said at his victory party in a New Orleans hotel.

“I did not create this breeze of hope that’s blowing across our beautiful and blessed state, but I did catch it. And I thank God I did.”

Edwards, 49, an attorney and former Army Ranger from Amite, was the minority leader in the Louisiana House, where he was a strong critic of Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, particularly over Jindal’s refusal to expand Medicaid.

However, Edwards ran a race tailored to culturally conservative Louisiana–opposing abortion and supporting gun rights–to become the first Democrat to win a statewide race in seven years.

He will be one of just three Democratic governors in the 14 Southern states. The others are in Virginia and West Virginia.

U.S. Senator David Vitter

U.S. Senator David Vitter

Vitter, 54, started out the race for governor heavily favored. But he was dogged by two Republican challengers in the state’s all-party “jungle” primary and started the runoff far behind Edwards, who had the united support of Democrats.

So bitter was the primary that one of Vitter’s two Republican opponents, Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne, crossed party lines to endorse Edwards, angering the state’s GOP establishment. The other, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, sat out the runoff rather than supporting Vitter.

The senator was burdened both by Jindal’s marked unpopularity and continued fallout over a 2007 scandal in which he was linked to a Washington prostitution ring.

In the closing days of the campaign, Vitter tried to make the possible resettlement of Syrian refugees in Louisiana an issue, but it was not enough to catch Edwards, despite the state’s strong GOP tendencies.

“I have lost one political campaign in my life–tonight–and, ironically, it’s the campaign and the political effort I am most proud of, particularly these last few weeks, fighting shoulder to shoulder with you,” Vitter said during his concession speech at a hotel in suburban New Orleans.

Vitter then announced to his supporters that he would not seek re-election next year, ending his 23-year political career that took him from the State House in Baton Rouge to the halls of Congress.

“I had decided when I decided to make this race … that I wanted to pursue new challenges outside the Senate, no matter what,” he said. “I’d reached my personal term limit.”

While Republicans would be favored to keep the seat, Vitter’s decision gives Democrats their best chance outside of Florida of flipping a Southern Senate seat in 2016.

 

U.S Senator David Vitter airs mea culpa ad in Louisiana governor’s race

Vitter admits he “failed family,” as his opponent accuses him of choosing “prostitutes over patriots”

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

louisiana mugNEW ORLEANS (CFP) — Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter has gone on the air with a personal mea culpa in the Louisiana governor’s race after his Democratic opponent accused him in an ad of choosing “prostitutes over patriots.”

U.S. Senator David Vitter

U.S. Senator David Vitter

The new ad from Vitter — who acknowledged committing unspecified “sin” in 2007 after being publicly linked to a Washington, D.C. prostitution ring — begins with the line, “Fifteen years ago, I failed my family.”

“But I found forgiveness and love,” Vitter says, as a video plays of him sitting around a dining room table with his family. “I learned that our falls aren’t what define us but rather how we get up, accept responsibility and earn redemption.”

“You know me. I’m a fighter, and as your governor, I’ll get up every day to fight for you.”

Vitter’s new ad appeared just days after his Democratic opponent in the November 21 runoff, State Rep. John Bel Edwards, went up with a hard-hitting ad touting his military experience and drawing a sharp contrast between himself and Vitter.”

“The choice for governor couldn’t be more clear — John Bel Edwards, who answered our country’s call and served as a Ranger in the 82nd Airborne Division, or David Vitter, who answered a prostitute’s call minutes after he skipped a vote honoring 28 soldiers who gave their lives in defense of our freedom.”

The ad ends with the tagline, “David Vitter chose prostitutes over patriots. Now the choice is yours.”

The vote raised in the Edwards campaign ad was taken in 2001. After the prostitution scandal broke six years later, media reports of telephone records linked to the prostitution ring showed Vitter making a phone call to a D.C. madam at the time he was missing the vote.

Although the prostitution scandal is nearly eight years old and Vitter won re-election to the Senate in 2010 despite the lurid headlines, the controversy has continued to dog him in the governor’s race, particularly after a former prostitute claimed that Vitter got her pregnant and encouraged her to have an abortion. She said she refused and gave the child up for adoption.

Vitter has vehemently denied the allegations.

Vitter trailed Edwards by 17 points in the state’s all-party “jungle” primary in October. However, the Republican vote was split between Vitter and two other major Republican contenders, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle and Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne, while Edwards was the only major Democrat in the race.

Dardenne has since crossed party lines to endorse Edwards in the runoff; Angelle has so far remained neutral.

Watch the new ad from U.S. Senator David Vitter:
Watch the ad from State Rep. John Bel Edwards:

Democrat John Bel Edwards posts strong win in first round of Louisiana governor’s race

U.S. Senator David Vitter edges out two fellow Republicans for second spot in the November 21 runoff

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

louisiana mugBATON ROUGE (CFP) — Democratic State Rep. John Bel Edwards has made a strong showing in the first round of Louisiana’s gubernatorial election, easily outdistancing Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter and giving himself a chance to become that rarest of creatures — a Democratic governor in the South.

Louisiana State Rep. John Bel Edwards

Louisiana State Rep. John Bel Edwards

In the state’s October 24 all-party “jungle” primary, Edwards took 40 percent, easily outdistancing the eight other candidates and advancing to the November 21 runoff. Despite having won statewide twice before, Vitter could only manage 23 percent, although that was enough to edge out two other major Republican contenders, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle and Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne.

Although the Republican vote is expected to congeal around Vitter in the runoff, the senator — who has been plagued by a persistent sex scandal and trailed Edwards by nearly 188,000 votes in the first round — has a lot of ground to make up. If Edwards wins, he will be one of just four Democrats holding governor’s posts in the South, with the others being in Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia.

If the candidates’ election night speeches are any indication, the runoff is likely to be loud and nasty .

“Over the next few weeks, David Vitter is going to spend millions of dollars lying about my record, lying about my values (and) lying about my service to our country and to our state, ” Edwards told cheering supporters in Baton Rouge. “He’s desperate, and all he offers are lies and hypocrisy.”

“Somehow, the least effective senator in the United States Senate wants to be our next governor. We’re not going to allow that to happen.”

U.S. Senator David Vitter

U.S. Senator David Vitter

But Vitter told his supporters in suburban New Orleans that “even after President Obama shut down drilling in the Gulf and tried to limit our gun rights and belittled our religious beliefs and pushed amnesty for illegals, John Bel Edwards personally renominated President Obama in the Democratic National Convention.”

“So let’s be clear. Jon Bel Edwards not a casual supporter of Barack Obama. He is a true believer.”

Linking Edwards to Obama and more specifically, Obamacare, is replay of the 2014 U.S. Senate race, when Republicans managed to sink Democratic U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu in a state which Obama lost by 17 points in 2012.

However, unlike Landrieu, Edwards is opposed to abortion and gun control, positions that are likely to help him in the culturally conservative Pelican State. But he has come out in favor of expanding Medicaid for uninsured Louisianians, which is a part of Obamacare that many conservatives strongly oppose.

Edwards, 49, a West Point graduate and former Army Ranger from Amite, has been in the legislature since 2008. This is his first bid for statewide office.

Vitter, 54, opted to seek the governor’s post instead of running for re-election to the Senate in 2016. He continued to be dogged throughout the campaign by details of a 2007 sex scandal in which he was linked to a prostitution ring in Washington and publicly admitted to unspecified “sin.”

The issue was re-ignited in the closing days of the gubernatorial campaign when a blogger published claims by a former prostitute that she had a relationship with Vitter and that he had pressured her to have abortion after she became pregnant with his child. Vitter denied the allegations.

Edwards made it clear on election night that he would put Vitter’s character front-and-center in the runoff.

“I live by the (West Point) honor code — a cadet will not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do. And David Vitter wouldn’t last five minutes at West Point,” he said.

One area in which the two men agree is in their critical assessment of incumbent Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, whose approval ratings have plunged as the state dealt with a fiscal crisis. The term-limited Jindal is now running for president.

“Whoever you voted for, we can agree on one big thing: The politicians in Baton Rouge have created on heck of a mess — the state budget in disarray, eight years of cuts to higher education, and so many of our best and brightest having to leave the state for good opportunity,” Vitter said. “We’re going to take our future back.”

While Vitter stopped short of mentioning Jindal by name, Edwards showed no such reticence.

“For eight years, our people have been sacrificed on the altar of Bobby Jindal’s ambition. No more,” Edwards said. “We need a committed, honest, disciplined governor with the leadership ability to bring people together, regardless of race, gender, party (or) geography.”

U.S. Senator David Vitter running for Louisiana governor

Vitter says the governorship will be his last political job “period”

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

louisiana mugNEW ORLEANS (CFP) — Trying to swap the swamps of Washington for the bayous of Baton Rouge, Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter will seek the governorship of his home state of Louisiana in 2015.

U.S. Senator David Vitter

U.S. Senator David Vitter

“I can have a bigger impact in addressing the unique challenges and opportunities we face in Louisiana, helping us truly reach our full potential,” Vitter said in YouTube video announcing his candidacy posted January 21.

Vitter, 52, who served five years in the U.S. House before being elected senator in 2004, also said the governorship “will be my last political job, elected or appointed, period.”

Because Louisiana holds its state elections in off years and his Senate term doesn’t end until 2016, Vitter can pursue the governorship in 2015 without giving up his seat. And if he is elected governor, he will be in the unique position of being able to appoint a successor for the rest of his Senate term.

He will face at least one fellow Republican in the governor’s race, Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne, 59, who issued a statement saying Vitter’s entry was “expected.”

“It is my hope that the governor’s race will offer Louisianians the opportunity to compare and contrast the records of all the candidates, as well as the merits of their ideas to keep our state growing,” Dardenne said.

In Louisiana, Vitter, Dardenne and all other candidates from any party run together in a single primary, with the top two vote getters vying in a runoff if no one gets a majority.

One Democrat has also announced, State Rep. John Bel Edwards, 47, from Roseland. There has also been speculation that another prominent and popular Democrat, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu might make the governor’s race if he wins re-election in February.

Landrieu is the brother of Vitter’s seatmate in the Senate, U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, who is up for re-election in 2014.

One question in the 2015 governor’s race will be whether any of Vitter’s opponents dredge up a prostitution scandal that ensnared the senator in 2007.

After Vitter’s number turned up in a published list of phone records of a Washington madam, Debora Jeane Palfrey, he admitted to what he termed “serious sin,” although he did not directly admit to patronizing prostitutes. Vitter, a Roman Catholic, said he had been forgiven by God and his family.

In 2010, his Democratic opponent, former U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, attempted to make the prostitution scandal an issue, even airing TV ads about the allegations. But in the end, Vitter buried Melancon, capturing 57 percent of the vote.

A poll taken in November by Southern Media and Opinion research put Vitter’s approval rating in Louisiana at 58 percent,  compared to 46 percent for Senator Landrieu and just 38 percent for President Obama.

Vitter’s approval rating was 42 percent among Democrats and 84 percent among Republicans.

Watch the video of Vitter’s announcement:

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