Just a few weeks ago, two out of three voters in the river parishes’ District 2 returned Troy Brown to the state Senate. Many of them are today doubtless unhappy with their senator after his Bayou Classic misbehavior and arrest.
In the National Football League, he’d be out of here. Brown — a married man — is accused of punching his longtime girlfriend in the face in a New Orleans hotel after the game.
He’s pleaded not guilty and through his attorney, a Senate colleague, he’s said to be remorseful.
There’s no video and injuries were not serious, except to the reputation of Brown, the Senate and the state of Louisiana.
The victim, a 40-year-old woman from Labadieville, told police she was Brown’s “side friend” and had been in a romantic relationship with him for more than 10 years, the police report says, verging on too much information.
Brown said he suffers from memory loss and other difficulties from a 1991 car crash, but his injuries do not seem to have been severe enough to prevent him from seeking office or side friends. The hypocrisy of Brown’s involvement in domestic violence legislation in 2014 could hardly escape notice.
He is not the first politician to get in trouble, nor will he be the last. But what matters is how a political system that is trying to clean up its act deals with one of its bad actors.
In the old days, remorse and perhaps a plea deal and counseling would be enough. There’d be at least a private nudge from the Senate leadership to tell Brown not to be involved in domestic violence legislation, because that would renew the charge of hypocrisy and attaint some of the Senate’s business. But overall, there’s always been a different standard for the electeds than for ordinary people.
Are we going to have a new and higher standard, or not?
The last statewide election turned in part on issues of “character.” The losing candidate suffered from criticism of his admitted “very serious sin,” but David Vitter was never charged with a crime nor admitted criminal wrongdoing. Brown’s fellow Democrats nevertheless made much of it.
The voters of District 2 never had a chance to pass judgment on this episode, the polls having safely closed before the Bayou Classic. Replacing a state senator is not as easy as bringing in a backup player in the NFL.
How to deal with this is a test not of the letter of the law but the spirit of public service enunciated by Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards. He is rightly proud of conducting himself by the honor code of the U.S. Military Academy but he’s counting on Brown for a vote within three months, when tough budget issues face the state.
Leaving this to Brown’s remorse is business as usual in the State Capitol.