All three Republican contenders for governor said Friday they oppose moving the Robert E. Lee statue and other controversial monuments in New Orleans.
The lone Democrat in the race, state Rep. John Bel Edwards of Amite, said the issue should be left to the mayor, City Council and other officials in New Orleans.
“I don’t know why candidates for governor would want to inject themselves into this issue,” Edwards said in a telephone interview.
A city commission on Thursday voted 11-1 to recommend the removal of the statue of Lee atop the column at a St. Charles Avenue traffic circle and three others.
Backers are using an ordinance that allows the City Council to remove public statues that celebrate racist ideologies or are likely to be the site of violent protests.
Also on the to-be-removed list would be a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis from the street that bears his name and the statue of P.G.T. Beauregard, a Confederate general, from the entrance of City Park.
In a press release, Republican Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, who lives in Breaux Bridge, denounced the push.
“It’s appalling that political correctness has gone so far out of bounds here,” Angelle said.
“I can’t believe that we are now at a point where we are trying to rewrite history to appease a few and do good for none.
“This insults the intelligence of most Louisianans,” he said.
Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, also a Republican, said in a telephone interview he opposes the move.
“The statues should not come down,” Dardenne said. “They are a part of history. I don’t think we ought to be tearing down monuments that are part of the landscape of New Orleans.”
Dardenne’s agency includes the state Office of Historic Preservation.
He is also a history buff, and for the past decade or so has given a colorful speech entitled “Why Louisiana Ain’t Mississippi” that spells out how the state evolved.
But the Baton Rouge resident said historic landmarks can be taken down, with the decision resting on who owns the property.
Dardenne said he thinks the Lee and Davis monuments are owned by the City of New Orleans. He said the Beauregard statue seems to belong to City Park.
However, Dardenne said if federal dollars are involved in moving or altering the sites it would require a permit from the National Park Service.
At that point, he said, “we would be involved.”
U. S. Sen. David Vitter, R-Metairie, also favors the monuments staying put, spokesman Luke Bolar said Friday.
Earlier this week Vitter, in a letter to New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, said the mayor should “focus on murders, not monuments,” a reference to the city’s high murder rate.
Landrieu, a Democrat, has called for removing the monuments after Dylan Roof — who calls himself a white supremacist — was charged with killing nine black parishioners in a church in Charleston, S.C.
Edwards, like Lee and Davis, is a graduate of the West Point Military Academy.
“History is history,” he said. “We certainly shouldn’t forget it. We can’t rewrite it. But I leave it up to the sound judgment down there (New Orleans) as to what they are going to do.”