Republican gubernatorial candidate and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle has a new ad out, and its target audience is hardly a mystery.
The ad’s Internet address includes the phrase “Ladies of Louisiana Love Angelle,” and to hear Angelle exuberantly tell it, he loves them right back.
“With five sisters, three daughters and twin granddaughters, it should come as no surprise that I don’t view women as a special interest,” he says. “ I view them as America’s interest. I view them as Louisiana’s interest, with an absolutely deserving right to sit with an equal seat in an equal chair, at every table, with equal pay …” and, well, you get the idea.
Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, another GOP Republican hopeful, hosted a fundraising luncheon for 400 women last week in New Orleans, following a similar event in Baton Rouge.
“Dardenne has a long history of advocating for issues that specifically concern women,” according to his press release. “He received lifetime achievement awards from Victims and Citizens Against Crime and the Coalition Against Domestic Violence. As a state senator, he was the first Republican to receive the Public Official of the Year award from the National Association of Social Workers.”
If you’re detecting a pattern, you’re on to something.
Polls show that, if the October primary were held today, both Angelle and Dardenne would lose out to Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter and Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards. Both are looking to change that dynamic, and clearly see female voters of all ideological stripes as potentially available.
On the Republican side of the ledger, a lot of that probably has a lot to do with Vitter — both with his hardline conservatism, and perhaps as much or more with his 2007 admission that he committed a “serious sin” after his phone number was discovered in the records of a Washington, D.C., prostitution ring.
Vitter has already faced voters since the incident, and he fared just fine. But unlike his highly partisan, D-versus-R Senate re-election five years ago, the governor’s race focuses on state issues far more than national ones. And this time, voters have more options.
According to a May Southern Media & Opinion Research Poll, the senator has a lock on the white male vote, with 56 percent. But his support drops noticeably among white women, where he gets only 39 percent. That suggests an opening.
In an interview, Dardenne said he thinks “there’s a marketplace in this race right now to attract women voters.”
Why? “I think because of Sen. Vitter’s past conduct, a lot of people are aware of that.”
“I think women are engaged and they’re more concerned than ever. Women’s issues are more at the forefront than they’ve ever been,” he added, singling out domestic violence and sexual assault as examples. “I’ve had a great relationship with a number of advocates from my days in the Legislature, and they remember that.”
For his part, Angelle insists his focus has nothing to do with Vitter’s travails but stems from his own relationships.
“I have always honored the need for family to be first,” he said in an interview.
The obvious question is what all of this means in terms of potential government policy. Angelle glancingly mentioned just one substantive goal in his ad — one that rarely appears on GOP platforms — and afterward was vague about how he’d pursue it.
“I do believe that there is a way for us to have equal pay for equal work without the Pandora’s box of litigation,” he said. After being asked several times, he said he would have supported a failed legislative attempt that relied on legal action to enforce the principle.
Dardenne didn’t say whether he would have backed the measure.
“I didn’t read the bill, to be honest with you,” he said. “I don’t know what the business opposition was to that. So I’m very much open to that, and I’ve tried to be sensitive to that as a concern.”
Edwards, meanwhile, said that he doesn’t see why Vitter’s problems wouldn’t affect women’s opinions, and that he’s perfectly happy to compete against his GOP opponents on this turf. He pointed to his support for things like a higher minimum wage and Medicaid expansion — both issues, he argued, that particularly affect single moms. And he trumpeted his own longstanding backing for equal pay legislation.
“It’s not something that I would theoretically support. I have voted for it throughout my career,” he said. Edwards also noted that Angelle used to work for Gov. Bobby Jindal, an opponent of equal pay legislation. “I guess I welcome his newfound support for fairness,” he said, “but I question his credibility.”