As the year 2015 ends, the feeling among Louisiana residents can be summed up as, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”
We elected a Democrat named Edwards as our new governor, and our LSU football coach can’t beat Alabama.
Can mega bell bottoms, double knits, hot pants and sideburns be far behind?
The big news in the state in 2015 was the resounding victory of John Bel Edwards over David “Darth” Vitter, despite Vitter’s claim that the West Pointer and Army Ranger was soft on terrorism and a member of the same political party as the president of the United States. Before that, he had accused fellow Republicans Jay Dardenne and Scott Angelle of being crooks and/or closet Democrats.
Surprisingly, they declined to support Vitter in the runoff, with Dardenne even endorsing the Democrat Edwards. And voters declined to believe the super PAC ads saying Edwards was the long-lost brother of Barack Obama.
Gov. Bobby Jindal didn’t get involved in the race for a governor to succeed him, spending the last year of his term-limited tenure running for president, or governor of Iowa, or pope, whatever.
Toward the end of the year, he came back to Louisiana from Iowa to announce that we no longer had to wonder about what to wear to President Jindal’s inauguration ball.
Here are a few other items gleaned from the front pages of The Advocate during this eventful year:
Remedial Espionage 101
You can’t make this stuff up:
A Dallas private eye working for the David Vitter campaign was caught in an Old Metairie coffee shop spying on a group that included Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand, state Sen. Danny Martiny and a couple of guys, one also a PI, interested in digging up information on Vitter’s “serious sin.” When the sheriff confronted the investigator, the flustered spy bolted, leading to a brief manhunt. He was found crouching behind an air conditioner and was arrested by Jefferson Parish deputies and charged with impersonating Maxwell Smart.
Those stinking politicians!
“We have a stench that is getting ready to come over Louisiana…” — Candidate for governor Scott Angelle, about what will happen if David Vitter is elected governor, due to a past incident involving a “serious sin.”
Strong message to follow
“You are a liar, a cheater and a stealer, and I don’t tolerate that.” — candidate John Bel Edwards to candidate David Vitter in a November debate.
Blowin’ in the wind
“I didn’t start the breeze of hope, but I did catch it. And so did you. That’s why we are here tonight because we caught that breeze.” — Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards, to his supporters at his victory party in New Orleans.
In other election news
In an unusually low-key race, Billy Nungesser, of Belle Chasse, former Plaquemines Parish president, defeated East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Kip Holden for lieutenant governor. This means the footwear of choice around that office will be white rubber shrimpers’ boots and not two-toned wingtips.
There was some excitement in the attorney general’s race, in which Jeff Landry maintained that the incumbent, fellow Republican Buddy Caldwell, wasn’t tea-partyish enough, and won the office.
Sadly, the Caldwell defeat means there is no Elvis impersonator among our state officials. There is no joy in Graceland. …
“I’m tanned, rested and ready for this fight.” — Gov. Jindal, launching his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination in Kenner.
What, me worry?
“I don’t worry about poll numbers.” — Gov. Jindal on May 28.
“This is not my time. I’ve come to the realization that it’s just not my time.” — Gov. Jindal on Nov. 17 to Fox News as he ended his campaign for president.
Understatement of the Year I
“The budget is going to be about $1.2 billion short. That has to be our first priority.” — Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards, addressing teachers shortly after his runoff victory.
No bigots here
“I reject bigotry in all forms.” — U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, after admitting he spoke to a group in 2002 founded by former KKK leader David Duke.
What the hell, James?
“The world is your oyster, so don’t put too much horseradish in your oyster sauce.” — Political strategist James Carville, speaking to graduates of LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication.
Understatement of the Year II
“It’s been a pretty interesting weekend so far.” — LSU right guard Will Clapp, after a drama whirling about LSU football coach Les Miles, said to be about to lose his job after three double-digit losses in a row. After Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said he wasn’t interested in the LSU job, a tight-lipped Athletic Director Joe Alleva made a terse statement after the Texas A&M game, saying Miles was still the LSU coach.
Try to remember
The year’s best memory-loss story came after the Bayou Classic football game at a New Orleans hotel, when state Sen. Troy Brown, D-Geismar, was arrested after he was accused of punching a lady who told police she was the married senator’s “side friend,” and had been for 10 years. Brown said he couldn’t remember details of the incident, due to a 1991 car crash that affected his memory.
In the Legislature in 2014, he proposed creation of a domestic violence commission.
(As I said above, you can’t make this stuff up …)
“Our budget has been full of sleights of hand — it’s almost a Ponzi scheme, moving moneys around, one-time money around, to serve recurring needs.” — Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne.
“They’ve used all the smoke that was in the can and all the mirrors that they could buy, and now they’re out of tricks. Their solution is to cut higher education like a fish.” — state Treasurer John Kennedy.
The big controversy in New Orleans was about the statues of Robert E. Lee and other Confederate luminaries that grace the city. Evidently, some civic leaders came to the realization that slavery wasn’t all that cool an idea after all and thought they should be removed.
Ideas about who should replace Lee and company encompassed just about every well-known figure in town, from Louis Armstrong to Chris Owens.
Unfortunately, my modest proposal was rejected.
I had suggested that instead of removing the offending statues, paper bags be placed over their heads.
With the season the Saints had, there should be no shortage of them around the Superdome…
The old philosopher
“We can’t just have people filing lawsuits who aren’t actually interested in the outcomes of a lawsuit, except for some philosophical reason.” — Mary Olive Pierson, attorney representing the city-parish, after former legislator Woody Jenkins tried to block annexation of the Mall of Louisiana into the city of Baton Rouge to aid formation of a breakaway city of St. George.
“By fighting to deny people the right to vote, these groups have driven a permanent wedge. They have not poured water on this fire. They have poured gasoline on it.” — Lionel Rainey, St. George spokesman, after secession efforts of the south Baton Rouge community failed.
As an unannounced presidential candidate in 2014, Gov. Jindal spent 165 days — 45 percent of the year — outside Louisiana, with his one trip for official state business an economic development trip to Asia. Figures for 2015 are not yet in but seem likely to surpass his absences for the previous year.
An independent arbitrator ordered the state to pay $6.5 million in film tax credits to Malcom Patel, convicted of bribery and serving five years in prison.
With friends like that …
Former Klansman and ex-Louisiana legislator David Duke, in a radio broadcast, endorsed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, saying, “He has really said some incredibly great things recently.”
Beauties and the beast
Miss USA owner Donald Trump’s comments about Mexico sending rapists and drug dealers to the United States caused NBC and Univision to drop the 2015 contest, held in Baton Rouge. Picked up by the Reelz network, the contest’s TV viewership dropped from 5.6 million, when NBC televised the contest from Baton Rouge in 2014, to 925,000.
Former Dupont chemical plant operator-turned-whistleblower Jeffrey Simoneaux testified in a federal suit against Dupont that workers at the acid plant in Ascension Parish used duct tape to try to stem toxic leaks and keep the plant running.
“Sometimes you don’t have to be so polite. This is a time when you need to fight.” — LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander, advising students to oppose steep cuts to higher education by the state.
One little problem
LSU’s $270,000-a-year general counsel, Thomas Skinner, from Chicago, was hired despite not having a license to practice law in Louisiana.
“People are going to die. We are about to put the capital city in a death zone.” — state Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, calling on the Jindal administration to keep Baton Rouge General Medical Center’s emergency room open, to no avail.
We’re No. 50!
Louisiana was the last state in the nation to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling legalizing gay marriage.
We’re No. 11!
Baton Rouge has the 11th-worst roads among U.S. midsized cities, according to the Trip Transportation Research Group, based in Washington, D.C.
The happy worker
“This has been the greatest job I have ever had, and I don’t intend to stop doing it so long as I have the privilege to do it.” — state Superintendent of Education John White, who makes $275,000 per year.
“Drop him.” — Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley, telling women to arm themselves against abusive domestic partners.
Headline of the Year
When a truck carrying fish insides was involved in a wreck on Interstate 10 in Baton Rouge and spilled its smelly cargo on the highway, The Advocate put this headline on the story: “Trucker spills his guts.”
“Burl Cain escapes from Angola”
Almost Headline of the Year
A 21-year-old gentleman from Cut Off jumped a fence around Mike the Tiger’s cage in an effort to enter the habitat. Mike was in Tiger Stadium at the time, for the aborted LSU-McNeese game. The fact that the LSU mascot wasn’t home at the time his lair was invaded meant this headline couldn’t be used: “From Cut Off to bite off.”
“We should push (students) even further, so we have not only good athletes to cheer on the field but more people to cheer for at graduation and on to college as well.” — Tangipahoa Parish School Board member Jim “J” Kelly, responding to East Baton Rouge Superintendent of Education Warren Drake’s call to lower the grade-point average from 2 to 1.5 for students to participate in athletics and other extracurricular activities.
Chivalry isn’t dead
Ascension Parish Council member Dempsey Lambert broke into a report by purchasing director Joan Shivers to suggest that she didn’t have to read out the name of the low bidder for industrial fans — sparing her from having to say “Big Ass Solutions.”
Smiley Anders’ email is email@example.com.