Just a day after winning one of two coveted spots in Louisiana’s runoff race for governor, U.S. Sen. David Vitter distanced himself from a private investigator who was arrested last week and flatly denied reports from a local blog about his alleged relationship with a prostitute.
“They don’t want to talk about the issues,” Vitter, a Republican, said in a phone interview about his opponent in the runoff scheduled for Nov. 21.
During a news conference in Baton Rouge, state Rep. John Bel Edwards, the Democratic candidate, promised to be a transparent candidate who would be open to the media and the public.
“Washington, D.C.’s mentality has not invaded Louisiana yet,” Edwards said Sunday.
The two are entering a head-to-head match that will pit a long-term Republican politician, plagued by a prostitution scandal from 2007, against a military veteran and West Point graduate Democrat in a state that has no statewide Democratic officials.
During the campaign, Vitter was battered with advertising and asides to remind voters that he had he admitted to a “very serious sin” after his phone number was connected to the famed D.C. Madam in 2007.
He said recent reports on theamericanzombie.com, which interviewed a prostitute claiming to have had a relationship with him, were “false and irresponsible.”
Further, Vitter said the recent arrest of a private investigator hired by his campaign who was arrested was irrelevant to the campaign.
“They don’t want to talk about the issues,” Vitter said. “They don’t want to talk about the votes and his history.”
Vitter’s campaign sent a “money bomb” email, as rival Edwards gave his victory speech late Saturday night, comparing Edwards to President Barack Obama.
“Let me be clear when I say that we’re up against a pro-Obama Democrat. John Bel Edwards doesn’t just support Obama, he personally renominated Obama for President at the Democratic National Convention,” Vitter writes in the email. “Louisiana can’t afford to vote for Barack Obama as our next Governor — and that’s exactly what a vote for Bel Edwards would be.”
Edwards, who says he has never met Obama, gave a clear signal to distinguish himself against Vitter in the race and bring others into the fold.
Vitter has participated in limited debates, citing his duties as a U.S. senator, and had limited media access. On Saturday, after the election results came in, Edwards spent nearly an hour talking to reporters while Vitter left without interviews.
Vitter said Sunday that he hopes to participate in several debates during the runoff campaign.
“I look forward to those,” he said.
Edwards and Vitter beat Republicans Jay Dardenne and Scott Angelle to advance to the runoff.
Both of the other candidates have declined to endorse anyone in the runoff, so far. But they were heavily critical of Vitter in the primary race.
Edwards, a Democrat who is anti-abortion and pro-guns, has said he expects Vitter to label him as a liberal in a traditionally red state and said he expects the campaign will be negative as the runoff approaches.
“I have tremendous relationships with people all over the state who are Republicans,” he said.
Vitter said he will focus on linking Edwards to Democratic policies he supports.
“He follows and embraces Obama on all the issues,” Vitter told The Advocate. “On issue after issue, he’s taking the Obama lead.”
Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp. For more coverage of the Louisiana Legislature, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog.