The Louisiana Peach Festival last weekend was fun, recalls state Treasurer John Kennedy. But the sun was unrelenting, and he was drenched almost from the moment he got out of the car.
“I must be getting old,” said the 64-year-old, who is embarking on his third bid for a seat in the U.S. Senate.
One of his rivals, U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, a fellow Republican from Lafayette, was in Ruston, too. It’s what you do if you want to be elected in Louisiana. Besides, he was able to bring home a crate of peaches.
All the candidates this holiday weekend will be in the heat again, pushing red, white and blue campaign paraphernalia at 4th of July parades from Port Sulphur to Oil City.
U.S. Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden, another of the dozen or so Senate candidates, will be in the Kenilworth neighborhood of Baton Rouge for the Sunday parade and in Erath on Monday.
It’s the third Independence Day in a row that will mark the unofficial kickoff to major campaigns for elective office in Louisiana. This time around, the candidates are noting an angrier tenor among voters — harsher questions, fewer smiles. Maybe it’s vitriol from the presidential race, or fear from a series of terrorist attacks, or an economy that has rebounded only in parts of the country.
“It is all tied together,” Fleming said, pointing out Brexit, in which indignant British voters chose to exit the European Union. The vote upended political leadership in the United Kingdom and threw international financial markets into chaos. The Brits, like many Americans, are unhappy with their government leaders and are taking their frustrations to the ballot box.
“The American people feel like Washington is completely disconnected from them, just the same way the people of Great Britain feel disconnected,” Fleming said. “That’s the same feeling we’re seeing here in Louisiana.”
“I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. All I can think of is we have a really slow recovery” from the recession, Kennedy said.
Backers of Donald Trump are inflamed by people at the bottom getting handouts, while supporters of Bernie Sanders are vexed by people at the top getting bailouts, Kennedy opined, adding, “People don’t trust their leaders anymore, whether they’re conservatives or liberals.”
The three leading Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate agreed Wednesday on most issues …
Boustany says the political environment is undermining the nation’s institutions, and voters need to see the elected doing something, rather than just talking about what makes them mad. “They’re frustrated, and now’s the time to get serious about solving problems,” he said.
“It’s a revolt against the slick politicians with hundred-dollar haircuts, tap-dancing in shiny shoes,” Democratic Senate candidate Foster Campbell, of Bossier Parish, said. He’s a career populist who blames elected officials for slavishly serving big corporations and special interests at the expense of everyday consumers.
Republican Rob Maness, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel who, like Kennedy, lives in Madisonville, also is seeing acute displeasure everywhere he looks during his second run for the U.S. Senate. The tea party favorite says it’s more a reaction to the attacks in Paris, San Bernardino and Orlando, anxiety about border security and the threat from radical Islam.
Federal authorities are more concerned with politically correct spin, rather than hard-nosed solutions, he argues. “I’m running because I don’t trust the folks we send to Washington,” said Maness, who has been seen with a pistol tucked into his jeans when making a speech.
Seven candidates in Louisiana’s open U.S. Senate race spent time appealing to their bases in…
Will Louisiana’s Senate race become as ugly as the presidential campaign?
No way, say the leading candidates. They promise to stick to debating issues and focusing on policy differences, though don’t rule out defending themselves if attacked on a personal level.
Maness mentioned that the “political elite” — by whom he means Boustany, Fleming, Kennedy and Campbell — already are going after him.
Kennedy, for his part, mostly blasts away at Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, but always makes a point to also criticize the “do-nothing Congress,” while nodding at the two congressmen sharing the stage with him.
Boustany offers without prompting that Fleming criticized the federal flood insurance program on which many in south Louisiana rely, but was widely opposed among congressional Republicans.
“You can’t be for Louisiana and against flood insurance,” Boustany said.
Fleming is just as quick to volunteer that Boustany supported renewing the U.S. Export-Import Bank, which provides financing not easily available on the private market and is another issue over which wings of the Republican Party face off.
“Ex-Im is nothing but another big government bail out,” Fleming said.
But this Senate race will not devolve into the personal invective that the governor’s race got into last year, Fleming and Boustany promise.
On the other hand, Fleming added, “There are a lot of outside groups tracking this race, and we can’t control what they say.”