Republican congressional candidate Garret Graves didn’t participate in a 6th District forum on Monday, leaving the door open for Democratic opponent and former Gov. Edwin W. Edwards to mount an unchallenged attack against the former Jindal appointee.
“I don’t like to talk about people in their absence, though it’s his fault that he’s not here,” Edwards said during the nearly 40-minute event at which he again raised questions about contracts that went to Graves’ family members during his time as Gov. Bobby Jindal’s coastal adviser.
Graves was invited to participate or send a surrogate to the forum, which was sponsored by the Baton Rouge Press Club, but he did not. The candidates are scheduled to debate one time before the Dec. 6 runoff — at a forum in Denham Springs on Dec. 2.
“The Congress of the United States will be heavily loaded with Republicans,” Edwards said Monday. “They don’t need my opponent to help them pass their agenda — good or bad.”
Edwards’ campaign is expected to take to the airwaves this week. Graves had television ads in the runup to the Nov. 4 primary — likely giving him a boost that helped him beat out several other Republicans for the chance to face Edwards, who served four terms as governor before spending nearly a decade in prison.
Early voting started Saturday and runs through Nov. 29.
GOP hopefuls who lost to Graves in the primary already had raised questions about government contracts Graves’ father’s firm won while he was a member of the Jindal administration.
Graves has denied that Evans-Graves Engineering received $130 million in government contracts due to any influence of his during his five-year stint as Jindal’s chief adviser on coastal affairs and chairman of Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. He said he had no authority over the doling out of those contracts.
Edwards previously has defended Graves. That changed sharply on Monday, as he also mentioned a contract that went to Graves’ brother-in-law.
“It’s very correct in saying that he is a family man,” Edwards quipped.
Graves is favored to win the race, as the 6th District leans heavily Republican.
On Monday, Edwards questioned Graves’ educational background and claimed Graves has recently sent out mailers attacking Edwards’ background.
“I don’t have any skeletons in my closet. They’re all out there walking around,” Edwards said, alluding to his legal troubles and otherwise colorful background. “If you’re going to have an illegitimate person serve you in Congress, he might as well have an education.”