David Vitter

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Louisiana election night: Da winnas and da loozas

Posted By on Sun, Dec 7, 2014 at 2:44 PM

Senator-elect Bill Cassidy, speaking at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans. - CREATIVE COMMONS/GAGE SKIDMORE
  • Senator-elect Bill Cassidy, speaking at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans.

Successful candidates get to take their bows and do their best not to gloat on Election Night. They deserve their moments in the limelight — their names and reputations were on the line, after all.

But behind the scenes (sometimes only barely out of the limelight), major political players and special interests whose names were not on the ballot are popping corks — or licking their wounds — when the votes are finally counted. For more than three decades, I’ve analyzed election results in terms of who really won and lost: my perennial list of electoral Winnas and Loozas.

Herewith my assessment of the 2014 election cycle (including Nov. 4), starting with …


1. The Louisiana GOP — The Republican Party has been steadily building strength in Louisiana since Dave Treen won the governor’s race in 1979 and Ronald Reagan won the White House a year later. It wasn’t always easy, but this year the GOP made electoral politics look easy with Congressman Bill Cassidy’s simple strategy of hanging President Barack Obama around incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu’s neck like a millstone. Landrieu was on the defensive from Day One and was never able to score a clean hit on Cassidy, though she certainly tried. The tide of anti-Obama sentiment among Louisiana voters was like a tsunami. In retrospect, even if Landrieu had run a perfect campaign, she could not have turned that tide. Anti-Obama voter outrage was so strong that it even changed the course of the District 1 Public Service Commission race, which had nothing to do with the President. Voters didn’t care; they were out to banish anyone tagged with the scarlet letter “O.”

2. David Vitter — Louisiana’s soon-to-be senior senator is now the undisputed kingpin of the state GOP, and his microphone-grab at Cassidy headquarters on Election Night drove home that point. Vitter was the architect of Cassidy’s “virtual” campaign against Landrieu. He recruited Cassidy, cleared the field of most other would-be Republican challengers, helped Cassidy raise money and lent one of his top aides to Cassidy as campaign manager. In many ways, Cassidy’s campaign was a trial run for Vitter’s gubernatorial bid next year. It proved (just as Vitter did in his 2010 re-election campaign) that a candidate with lots of money can run for a major statewide office without actually getting out and touching voters in person. That’s good news for a guy who could still be dogged by a sex scandal.

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Friday, November 7, 2014

A watershed election

Posted By on Fri, Nov 7, 2014 at 10:57 AM


Back in the 1930s, a young Tip O’Neill declared, “All politics is local,” and for generations that was an ironclad rule in American politics. No longer. The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in the Citizens United case freed corporations, unions and billionaires to spend limitless amounts of money on political campaigns. This year, they did just that.

Nowadays, all politics is national.

Anyone who follows local, state or national politics knows that money often dictates who wins and who loses. We’ve all heard the old saw that money is the mother’s milk of politics. If that’s true, what’s so different about this election?

Two things: the sources and the amounts of money that are now available.

For decades, Congress and most state legislatures wrote laws intended to limit the role of big money in American elections. The idea was to keep power in the hands of voters as much as possible — and, in keeping with O’Neill’s maxim, to keep it as local as possible. This was not as easy to do as it would seem. One early law limited campaign spending, which the courts struck down quickly. Congress then focused on the other side of the coin and imposed limits on who could give, and how much. Those laws initially passed constitutional muster and remained on the books for decades.

There were always loopholes, particularly when it came to “soft” money aimed at filling the coffers of state and national political parties. Still, federal laws consistently outlawed contributions by corporations and unions to individual candidates.

Then came Citizens United. That decision upheld the federal ban on “direct” corporate and union contributions to political campaigns, but for the first time it allowed corporations and unions to contribute unlimited funds to “independent” efforts that support or oppose candidates — without contributing directly to their campaigns. Thus sprang to life a new political creature: Super PACs.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Hillary Clinton to stump for Mary Landrieu in New Orleans Saturday

Posted By on Tue, Oct 28, 2014 at 11:36 AM

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will appear at a rally for Sen. Mary Landrieu this Saturday in New Orleans. - CREATIVE COMMONS/MARC NOZELL
  • Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will appear at a rally for Sen. Mary Landrieu this Saturday in New Orleans.

Former Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will rally voters for Sen. Mary Landrieu at a campaign event Sat. Nov. 1 at The Sugar Mill in the Warehouse District. The doors open at 3 p.m., and the event begins at 4:30 p.m. Tickets are free, but attendees must RSVP at this link.

Landrieu's chief opponent, Rep. Bill Cassidy, will hold his own campaign event Saturday at 2 p.m. in Abita Springs. Joining him will be another putative 2016 presidential candidate, Dr. Ben Carson, along with Sen. David Vitter and State Rep. Paul Hollis, who dropped out of the Senate race earlier this year and endorsed Cassidy. The rally will be held at Abita Quail Farm (23185 Louisiana 435). 

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Scott Angelle's angle

Posted By on Fri, Oct 3, 2014 at 12:14 PM

Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, a Republican from Breaux Bridge, changed the dynamic of the 2015 governor’s race on Oct. 2 when he decided the contest needed a major candidate from Acadiana — himself. Angelle poses a threat to all three announced candidates, but it remains to be seen if he can parlay his Cajun base into a runoff spot.

The other candidates are U.S. Sen. David Vitter, the current frontrunner who nonetheless has significant negatives (and lots of detractors even among his fellow Republicans); Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, a Baton Rouge Republican who has won several grueling statewide races but who continues to be dogged by claims from the GOP’s hard right that he’s not conservative enough; and Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards of Amite, who has a good resume but who has struggled to raise money and establish statewide name recognition.

Early polls show Vitter leading the pack, and he is working hard to present himself as inevitable. Vitter’s many critics — Democrat and Republican — believe he would lose to a less strident Republican in the runoff.

Dardenne would be such a runoff opponent. So would Angelle. But if both men run, they could split the anti-Vitter vote and allow a Democrat to make the runoff. That’s Vitter’s fondest hope.

Angelle’s strengths as a candidate are his appeal among Cajun voters (who historically vote for one of their own, especially a conservative), his ability to stir a crowd as a stump speaker, and his potential to beat Vitter in a runoff. His weaknesses are his small campaign war chest ($175,000 as of earlier this year), his ties to Gov. Bobby Jindal, and the fact that, right now at least, he’s largely unknown outside Acadiana.

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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Plaintiffs react to Louisiana same-sex marriage court decision

Posted By , and on Thu, Sep 4, 2014 at 10:46 AM

Protestors gathered in Jackson Square Sept. 3 to decry that day's ruling by U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman, who upheld Louisiana's ban on same-sex marriages. - ALEX WOODWARD
  • Protestors gathered in Jackson Square Sept. 3 to decry that day's ruling by U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman, who upheld Louisiana's ban on same-sex marriages.

Following a string of federal court victories, the same-sex marriage movement was dealt a major setback Sept. 3 when U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman upheld Louisiana’s ban on same-sex marriages. Feldman ruled that the plaintiffs failed to prove that the ban violated either Equal Protection or Due Process constitutional safeguards.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal with the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals the next morning. The case ultimately could go to the U.S. Supreme Court, depending on how (and when) the High Court rules on pending same-sex marriage cases that are farther along in the judicial pipeline.

In 2004, the Louisiana Legislature voted to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions. Louisiana voters added the ban to the state constitution later that year. Feldman’s ruling last week in the case of Robicheaux v. Caldwell means Louisiana can continue to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages solemnized in other states.

Feldman’s decision came roughly four months after he combined two same-sex marriages cases — one filed in New Orleans and one filed in Shreveport. The suits were brought by the gay-rights organization Forum For Equality Louisiana and six same-sex married couples whose marriages had been solemnized in other states:

• Jacqueline and Lauren Brettner of New Orleans (married in New York in 2012);
• Nick Van Sickels and Andrew Bond of New Orleans (married in Washington D.C. in 2012);
• Henry Lambert and Carey Bond (no relation to Andrew Bond) of New Orleans (married in New York in 2011);
• Derek Penton-Robicheaux and Jon Penton-Robicheaux of New Orleans (married in Iowa in 2012);
• Courtney and Nadine Blanchard of Raceland (married in Iowa in 2013); and
• Havard Scott and Sergio March Prieto of Shreveport (married in Vermont in 2010).

Feldman joined the two cases in June, saying he did not want to make a “piecemeal” ruling but preferred to address the state’s constitutional ban directly. At that time, Jacqueline Brettner told Gambit, “If I had to ask any of my heterosexual friends in an opposite-sex marriage, which of their fundamental rights they would be willing to put to a vote, I think that would be a very difficult question to answer, if not impossible.” She added, “I look forward to being on the right side of history.”

In a statement following last week’s ruling, Brettner said, “Today’s decision, while disappointing, was not unexpected. It shows the importance of the challenge and why it is necessary to seek equal protection for all LGBT citizens of Louisiana.”

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Monday, July 7, 2014

Y@ Speak: #EssenceFest

Posted By on Mon, Jul 7, 2014 at 12:38 PM

It purple rained all over the place, from fireworks to Prince to... nope, just those things. This week's Y@ Speak looks at some 2014 Essence Fest highlights to local pols reacting to Hobby Lobby and if New Orleans was built for bumper cars.

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Monday, May 12, 2014

Y@ Speak: the swarm

Posted By on Mon, May 12, 2014 at 11:38 AM

This week's Y@ Speak looks back at a week of end time plagues: swarming termites, flash floods, spiders, gentrifiers, football players, Supriya Jindal shooting a gun, moms. Moms saved the day and week. Good work, moms.

And a friendly reminder that nominations are open for the 2014 Y@ Speak Awards. Submit your nominations for your favorites by midnight, May 18. Then we'll open up the voting for finalists leading up to the awards on June 2 at Publiq House. Go nuts.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

New York Times poll: Obama, Jindal have identical approval and disapproval ratings in Louisiana

Posted By on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 at 12:09 PM

A White House photo from 2010 showing President Barack Obama (left) talking with Gov. Bobby Jindal (right) aboard Air Force One following the BP oil disaster. A new poll showed Louisianans approve and disapprove of the president 's and the governor's performances in office in equal measure. - COURTESY THE WHITE HOUSE
  • A White House photo from 2010 showing President Barack Obama (left) talking with Gov. Bobby Jindal (right) aboard Air Force One following the BP oil disaster. A new poll showed Louisianans approve and disapprove of the president 's and the governor's performances in office in equal measure.

A new poll of four Southern states
 by The New York Times/Kaiser Family Foundation found identical percentages of Louisianans approve and disapprove of Gov. Bobby Jindal and President Barack Obama's performances in office. Of the respondents, 40 percent approved and 54 percent disapproved of the way Obama and Jindal are each handling his job.

The differences were slightly more pronounced when it came to the performances of U.S. Sens. Mary Landrieu and David Vitter. Landrieu, a Democrat, received a 49/45 percent approval/disapproval rating, while Vitter's percentages were 51/35. Only 6 percent of respondents didn't know or had no answer when it came to Landrieu; Vitter's don't know/no answer percentage was more than double that at 13 percent. 

Landrieu, who's running against a field of Republicans in the November 2014 general election, is out in front with 42 percent of respondents saying she'd have their vote if the election was today. She leads challengers U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy (18 percent), state Rep. Paul Hollis (5 percent) and Rob Maness (4 percent). Thirty percent of respondents weren't sure if they would vote, or for whom. 

In other results, 36 percent of respondents who are registered to vote in Louisiana thought it should be legal for same-sex couples to marry; 56 percent thought it should not.

The poll was conducted April 8-15 and surveyed 1,075 Louisianans, of whom 946 identified themselves as registered voters. Full poll results are here.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Y@ Speak: family values

Posted By on Mon, Apr 14, 2014 at 12:53 PM

From kissing congressmen to virgin ice cream to Bibles to dog funerals to protecting your drag queen husband in a barroom brawl, Louisiana stood up for the Family, however one defines it, even if it's terribly. This week's Y@ Speak celebrates the defenders of family values.

Also, a reminder: you can now catch a preview of Y@ Speak in the print edish of Gambit.

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Sex, truth and videotape

Posted By on Fri, Apr 11, 2014 at 2:27 PM

U.S. Rep Vance McAllister, R-Swartz, dubbed the "Kissin' Congressman" after a videotape of him smooching a staffer was leaked to the press earlier this month.
  • U.S. Rep Vance McAllister, R-Swartz, dubbed the "Kissin' Congressman" after a videotape of him smooching a staffer was leaked to the press earlier this month.

Is it the sex, or is it the hypocrisy? I keep asking myself that question when I think about U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister, R-Swartz, who will forever be remembered as “the kissing congressman” for being videotaped in a passionate lip lock with a 33-year-old aide who also happens to be the wife of a longtime friend.


This story hurts on many levels, but the hypocrisy is what riles me most of all — and there’s plenty of it to go around, at all levels of both political parties.

As for the sex part, well, that’s as old as the Holy Bible, which a legislative committee voted to make the official state book three days after the video of McAllister’s make-out session went viral. Coincidentally, another Louisiana House committee voted a day earlier to decriminalize anal and oral sex. Hmmn.

Freeing the sodomites while we embrace the Good Book sure makes us look, um, morally confused, but hypocrisy too is as old as the Bible. By the way, Jesus forgave the adulteress and the prostitute — but he consistently condemned hypocrites.

Which calls to mind our self-righteous governor, Bobby Jindal, and state GOP chair Roger Villere, who both wasted no time calling McAllister’s indiscretion “an embarrassment” and demanding that he resign. That prompted many, including many Republicans, to wonder where Jindal’s and Villere’s moral outrage was in 2007 when Louisiana’s U.S. Sen. David Vitter admitted to a “serious sin.” Vitter’s sin turned out to be bedding down with hookers — to the point of taking calls from a prostitution ring while voting in Congress.

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