Edwards and Duke clashed in 1991. Duke was attempting to radically change his image as the former Grand Wizard of the KKK. Edwards had his own rebranding to do. Four years prior, he had finished his second term as governor which was marked by scandal and indictments. This Duke Edwards bout was characterized by a bumper sticker urging Louisianians to “Vote for the Crook, It’s important”.
On Tuesday, only a day following the death of Edwards, Jim Brown and I engaged in a Facebook Live discussion. Jim Brown had been a State Senator, Secretary of State and Insurance Commissioner. He ran against Edwards and others in 1987 in a battle won by then Congressman, Buddy Roemer, who had come from nowhere but promising to scrub the budget. Brown was also the publisher of the biography of Edwin Edwards, written by Leo Honeycutt.
In our discussion, Brown responded to a short video snippet I played of a Duke-Edwards debate. Brown took us back to an interesting moment in Louisiana history that took place in Breaux Bridge Louisiana in which the “crook” met the “wizard”. Below is the transcript and the video of this segment:
The state was doing the best I was governor. And when it's gonna do better, again, I'll be the Governor.
Edwin for business to vote for you. They have to hold their nose, close their eyes and cover their ears. And business, you have been paying us to
You that have to get out of the sheets, but nevertheless,
they you go
That's a cheap shot.
This state was doing the best I was governor.
Hopefully you saw that. That was part of the debate between Edwards and David Duke and David--and Edwards, launch into the fact that that Duke had wore some sheets.
I guess referring to the joke about the wiz wizards, between the sheets. Why don't you tell us now since I played that, why don't you tell us about the experiences you had with David Duke and Edwin Edwards. And as you do that, I'm going to put up a picture. As you do that, I have a picture that I think will be symbolic of that. Okay, so go ahead and tell us
I'll be glad to state and by the way, the question that was submitted was by john Michael Lockhart, who was for years, the publisher of the West Baton Rouge journal, a newspaper across the river in, in Port Allen in Louisiana, and very knowledgeable in his own right about Louisiana politics. He's referring to the race from hell, Duke Edwards in 1971. I was running for insurance commissioner, my first term at that particular time so I was a close observer, because you went toward where the crowds were--retail politics was much more prevalent in the 90s. And it is today to date, you raise money you just get on television and beat up on your opponent is what happens in politics, whether you're Democrat or Republican, I wish we could just turn the TV off all together, quite frankly, and get back to the retail politics. Edwards and Duke would go to festivals and fairs and travel the states. They were often there together and I was there because if there's a crowd, I was there to shake hands and try to get votes for me as insurance commissioner. Well, one night my wife and I decided decided to take a break from all the political activity and drive over to Breaux Bridge Louisiana about 45 minutes drive from Baton Rouge to a place called crawfish town USA. A huge restaurants can probably seat I would say eight or 900 people and the best crawfish in the area. So we took some friends. If I remember right, I think maybe football coach Mike Archer might have been with us back with LSU days but we drove over to the Breaux Bridge about three weeks before the election. And I was feeling very confident that I was going to get elected as insurance commissioner. So we sat there eating crawfish, thick platters of crawfish came down. And just as we started eating, the door opens and Governor Edwards walks in. He'd been doing some campaign stops and he saw us and made a beeline for our table, sit down and took over the discussion had about 10 people there mesmerized all the ladies. Ordered him a big platter of crawfish and we decided we'd use they're telling stories and of course everybody in the restaurants looking because here's Edwin Edwards in the restaurant. Maybe 10 minutes later, the door opens up again, Steve and in the restaurant walks David Duke. On the screen right now is a picture me eating crawfish, as Governor Edwards comes over to join us. So Duke comes over to the table and the three of us are sitting there talking and I'm looking around and of course every guy in the restaurant is on us, mesmerized by these two giants that were in the runoff for Governor Louisiana. So both are very cordial. Edwin Edwards never was not a gentleman and I found Duke to be very much of a gentleman when he was in a crowd or with people, other other elected officials. So after a while they all went their separate ways. Steve, one to the Duke to his table Edwards to his table and then slowly people in the tables would get up and walk over to their candidates, many to Duke, many to Edwards. There were a line of maybe 30 or 40 people in line waiting to shake their hand, and often to give them some money $5, $10, maybe $100 in some instance, to support their campaign. Now I'm saying, "My God, this is surreal". I'm in the middle of all this, as the two are raising money and carrying on. I said, this is very unique in this country, all part of Louisiana politics. So they both got up and went their separate ways. And we sat there laughed about it for hours afterwards eating our crawfish, but it was quite an event quite a gathering of the Duke Edwards campaign.
And of course, Edwards was so quick witted, you mentioned the fact that he said that he too, was a wizard under the sheets was one of the comments you would often make. And then the bumper stickers, vote for the lizard, not the wizard and vote for the crook. It's important. We've heard so many of those, I'm sure so many things talking about Edwards and Duke together. And I know that I talked to Edwards and I say, "are you raising money governor?" Because, you know, in politics, it's all you've always you can't have enough money, obviously, when you're running. And so he said (unintellgiable) it's unbelievable. I'm getting money, not just from throughout the country. I'm gretting money from all over the world. There was such a concern that David Duke might be elected governor in Louisiana. And by the way, I've never seen this happen before. It never happened, the history the state, but for five straight days, the times Picayune, conservative publication very much anti Edwards for years, ran a front page editorial, not just on the editorial page front page, Steve for five consecutive days, saying why Louisiana had to endorse Edwin Edwards. Republicans, Mike Foster, Buddy Roemer all supported Edwards, although they were of a different party. And so Edwards won handily against Duke, but it was quite a surreal event to be in the middle of all that. And I probably has a closer view the two of them operating together of anybody else since I was running and since I was with them on many, many occasions,