It has always seemed a bit like an old rocker’s farewell tour — possibly because, to his fans, former Gov. Edwin Edwards is an old rocker — but it does have the trappings of a serious campaign.
In the works, for instance, is a last-minute media blitz in which Edwards will play up the links between Garret Graves and Gov. Bobby Jindal. Edwards figures that if Republicans can damn U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu as the handmaiden of the dreaded President Barack Obama, Graves might be similarly vulnerable as Jindal’s proté gé .
Edwards’ commercials, previewed by Louisianavoice.com, will not only stress Graves’ fealty to the floundering Jindal administration but suggest that it produced financial rewards. When Graves was Jindal’s top coastal adviser, his father’s company landed $130 million in Corps of Engineers contracts, of which $66 million was subcontracted out to companies that were suddenly consumed with a desire to make campaign contributions. They gave $250,000 to Graves and $360,000 to Jindal.
It is true that lots of voters would like to run Jindal out of Louisiana on a rail, but they do not necessarily live in the congressional district that Edwards and Graves are contesting. This may be the greatest triumph of GOP gerrymandering in the entire country, and a Democrat, even one in his prime with no criminal record, would face daunting odds.
Edwards, unless the polls are off to an unprecedented degree, can lambaste Graves every minute of every day until the runoff, and he will still barely narrow the gap. He is clearly determined not to go down without landing a few blows, however.
His aim was off at a recent Baton Rouge Press Club appearance, however, when he observed that neither state Sen. Dan Claitor, of Baton Rouge, nor Paul Dietzel, the Republicans who finished third and fourth in the primary, had endorsed Graves. Edwards suggested that meant they were on his side, and invited their supporters to call Claitor and Dietzel and “follow their advice.”
Alas, Claitor, contacted by reporters, declared that Edwards’ time in politics had come and gone and he would vote for Graves. Dietzel’s views are unknown, but he is probably not that fond of Graves, whose commercials during the primary strongly suggested he was gay. “So what?” would not be the response of all voters in the district, although Edwards termed the commercials “scurrilous.”
Dietzel was at peace with the election result. “We always said we wanted God to get the most glory. We have not done anything in the campaign that would reflect poorly on our Heavenly Father. If it was not His will for me to be in Congress, I don’t want to be in Congress,” he said.
Let us not deny that the Almighty could produce a surprise in the runoff, and “Mr. Edwards goes back to Washington” might make an inspirational movie more than 40 years after he quit Congress for the first of his four gubernatorial terms and three years after completing his prison stretch for racketeering.
But the smart money says God was just having a lark when He let Edwards win the primary as the only Democrat in a crowded field. As for why Edwards is playing along, he says he is not seeking redemption and, indeed, has never expressed any remorse on account of he insists he was not guilty.
Still, since he cannot seriously expect to win, the question is why, at the age of 87, he is giving it a shot. Attention is like oxygen to any professional politician, but few enjoy campaigning as much as Edwards, who probably will be cracking up everyone within earshot until the day he dies. He says, though, that he is driven by more than egotism and cites a lifelong desire to “better communities,” which may well be genuine. Certainly he has always evinced a concern for the poor that is notably absent, for instance, from Jindal’s many pronouncements on Obama’s plans for expanded Medicaid.
Edwards also can claim an advantage in political experience. He won his first election, to the Crowley City Council, in 1954, when that other aged rocker, Mick Jagger, was 11.
James Gill’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.