The recent upset victories of Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell and New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino were two notches in the belt of the Tea Party, which had backed both against traditional GOP opponents. It left us wondering: Which candidates in the Louisiana lieutenant governor's race consider themselves Tea Party members or allies, either formally or informally?
State Republican Party chairman Roger Villere Jr. was the only enthusiastic yes; attorney Caroline Fayard, the only unqualified no. Most of the others fell in between.
Secretary of State Jay Dardenne, a Republican and the consensus frontrunner, called himself an "informal member," saying he agreed with the Tea Party's message of fiscal responsibility, a position echoed by St. Tammany Parish president Kevin Davis.
State Sen. Butch Gautreaux said he has attended some Tea Party events, but that many Tea Party "issues have been laid down in Louisiana in black and white, with no gray." Nevertheless, he was the only candidate at press time to have signed on to the North Central Louisiana Tea Party Patriots' pledge to support the Constitution "as explained in the Federalist Papers" and to "conduct myself personally and professionally in a moral and socially appropriate manner." (U.S. Sen. David Vitter had also signed the pledge, which we assume applies only prospectively.)
Country-music star Sammy Kershaw said simply, "I'm a conservative," but added that he admired much about the Tea Party, particularly how it makes "young folks pay attention to politics."
The weekend before, several of the candidates had been actively bidding for Tea Party support. Dardenne, Davis and Villere had appeared at a Sept. 11 Tea Party gathering in Mandeville (along with Vitter), where the keynote speaker was Jerome Corsi, author of the book Obama Nation. Corsi has spoken in the past about his beliefs that 9/11 was an "inside job" and that President Barack Obama has "a false, fake birth certificate" because he was not born in the United States. (Dardenne, Davis and Villere all said they did not hear much of Corsi's Mandeville speech.)
One day later, Kershaw appeared at a Tea Party gathering in St. Louis, where an estimated 10,000 people gathered under the city's famous arch and Kershaw serenaded the crowd with some Lynyrd Skynyrd covers. — Kevin Allman