An adept, confident and consummate politician, former Gov. Edwin Edwards said he’s pretty sure he never would have run for office if the political environment then was like it is today.

“It’s terrible,” Edwards said Thursday, one day after he celebrated his 92nd birthday. “There’s too much acrimony, hypocrisy and unwillingness to compromise.

“Government should serve the people,” Edwards said. “It exists to provide service to the people."

Certainly the four-term governor, who also did a stint in federal prison, is no stranger to controversy.

Known for his womanizing, penchant for gambling and quick wit, perhaps his most famous quote came during his 1983 campaign against incumbent Gov. Dave Treen: "The only way I can lose this election is if I'm caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy."

It was one of several zingers aimed at Treen, who Edwards also said was "so slow it takes him an hour and a half to watch ‘60 Minutes.’"

And, when running against Klansman David Duke, the always colorful Edwards quipped: "The only thing we have in common is that we both have been wizards beneath the sheets.”

But Edwards said those bon mots don't stoop to the level of acrimony in politics today. The inability of leaders both nationally and statewide to work together, to make compromises to better serve their constituents worries Edwards.

“They end up doing nothing,” he said.

He said he thinks the fastest way to wrest power from extremists in both the Republican and Democratic parties is to do away with gerrymandering, the Electoral College and the unfettered dollars flowing into political campaigns.

“The Supreme Court got it wrong when it ruled that donating money for a political cause was an expression of free speech,” said Edwards. “They can limit how much is given to a candidate, but these super PACs can raise and spend as much as they’d like with no oversight."

Of late, Edwards has been collaborating again with author Leo Honeycutt, who wrote the 2009 authorized biography “Edwin Edwards: Governor of Louisiana.” This time, they're putting together a coffee table book of photographs throughout Edwards' life. They hope to have it published in early 2020.

Edwards served as representative for Louisiana's 7th congressional district in southwestern Louisiana from 1965 to 1972. From the House, Edwards landed in the Governor’s Mansion as Louisiana’s 50th governor. He was elected a record-setting four terms (1972-1980, 1984–88 and 1992–96).

In 2000, he was found guilty of racketeering. He served eight years in federal prison and an additional two years on probation.


Email Pam Bordelon at pbordelon@theadvocate.com.