Friday, 11 September 2015 20:53

Chehardy: Vitter vs. the World in Louisiana governor's race

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VITTER--CHICKENThe race for Louisiana’s next governor is on.  Qualifying for the state’s top job ended Thursday with the four announced major candidates all in and several last minute minor candidates signing up prior to closing.  Simply put the primary election on October 24th will boil down to two camps, pro-David Vitter and anyone but David Vitter (R).  The battle lines are drawn, and the fight will be ferocious. 


In the eyes of many, Mr. Vitter, like Hillary Clinton, is a divisive politician.  He is liked and admired by many but not everyone.  Those who don’t like him really don’t like him.  The anti-Vitter forces will stop at nothing to defeat his candidacy.  Upmost will be the resurrection of Mr. Vitter’s “serious sin.”  Voters have not held this transgression against him, at least not yet.  You can look for numerous television ads as well as ads on social media and various web sites trying to convince you that Mr. Vitter is not fit to be governor because of his reported “dalliances” with prostitutes.  In polling David Vitter has been doing much better with men than women, and the potential gender gap could be problematic for him down the road.  His campaign so far has been run as one of inevitability that David Vitter will be the next governor.  Whether this assumption by the campaign will hold true will only be told once the election is over. 

John Bel Edwards has the distinction of being the lone major democrat in the race.  He has put together a coalition of traditional democratic voters and will work to add to that number.  Major polls strongly indicate that Mr. Edwards will be in the runoff with Mr. Vitter.  But this will only happen if he can hold on to his coalition.  The Louisiana Democratic Party has to be wondering how can it possibly beat republican David Vitter with a democrat, John Bel Edwards.  The answer is they cannot.  This begs the question will the democrats sink with their candidate or wake up one morning and take a hard look at one of the other republicans in the race, Scott Angelle or Jay Dardenne, and abandon John Bel Edwards for the chance to put one of these other republicans into a runoff with David Vitter?  The best chance for democrats to win in November is to reach an accommodation with Mr. Angelle or Mr. Dardenne and to back one of them in the primary. Abandoning Mr. Edwards, however, is an unlikely event; but it may be the only chance for democrats to have any relevance over the next four years. 

Scott Angelle and Jay Dardenne have the unenviable task of trying to make a runoff with either Mr. Vitter or Mr. Edwards.  If either one of them can find such a path, he would have an excellent chance at victory.  Against Mr. Vitter the anti-Vitter forces would rally in a crusade to defeat him.  Against Mr. Edwards it would be classic democrat verses republican, and given Louisiana’s recent conservative voting history the likely outcome is a republican victory. 

Louisiana is at a crossroads.  The state is broke financially.  Our universities and colleges, our hospitals and healthcare, and public education are reeling from massive budget cuts over the past several years.  The next governor along with the state legislature will have to make very tough choices to either raise taxes, impose more budget cuts, or both.

This year’s top political prize will be fought on two fronts.  The first is anyone but David Vitter. The second will be solutions to Louisiana’s fiscal mess.  Somehow, between these two competing interests, voters will have to decide who is best to lead the state, to improve its economic climate, to balance its budget, to improve the state’s infrastructure, and to solve a myriad of problems that have been left on the table and ignored by Governor Jindal for the past seven and one half years.  It is not an easy job, and all of the state’s leaders must work together to solve these problems.  A divisive governor or a governor with no backbone will spell continued disaster.  Louisiana desperately needs focused leadership, something the state has lacked for a long, long time.

Lawrence Chehardy

For thirty-four years Lawrence Chehardy served as Assessor of Jefferson Parish. He has been the leading authority on Louisiana’s property tax laws. In addition to his political commentary and public speaking engagements, Lawrence Chehardy is a founding member of the Chehardy, Sherman, Ellis, Murray, Recile, Griffith, Stakelum & Hayes Law Firm and serves as its managing partner.

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