Perhaps it was preordained that David Vitter's bid for re-election to the U.S. Senate would become a political soap opera, complete with allegations of adultery, home wrecking and more. Vitter can thank his Republican opponent, former state Supreme Court Justice Chet Traylor, as well as state Rep. Noble Ellington for filling out the plot line.
Vitter's contributions to the sordid tale are well known: whoremongering, lying, hiding from the press, keeping a known domestic abuser on his staff (and hiding some more from the press), and who-knows-what-else might come out about him between now and Nov. 2.
Meanwhile, just in time for the Aug. 28 GOP primary, Ellington (a Winnsboro Democrat who is not a candidate for anything) has accused Traylor of playing a major role in his 1998 divorce. Several factors make Ellington's accusations even more salacious: Traylor and Ellington were once close friends and Ellington campaigned for Traylor during his bid for the state Supreme Court; Ellington's ex-wife Peggy later married Traylor; and, perhaps most, um, uncomfortable of all, Traylor is now — roughly a year after Peggy Traylor's death — romantically involved with the estranged wife of his stepson, Ryan Ellington. That would be Noble Ellington's son, who, along with his brother, is currently suing Traylor over the disposition of the late Peggy (Ellington) Traylor's estate.
Got all that? If not, don't worry. If Traylor starts to gain traction against Vitter, you'll hear a lot more about it between now and Aug. 28.
Traylor denies he was a factor in Ellington's divorce, and his supporters have produced a copy of Ellington's divorce petition, filed on Oct. 1, 1997, to back him up. Ellington's petition alleges nothing about adultery and is about as vanilla as a divorce gets in Louisiana. It states only that Noble and Peggy Ellington separated on Sept. 26, 1997, and continued to live apart for at least 180 days, which was the legal requisite for a "no fault" divorce at the time.
Traylor backers argue that if Ellington thinks Traylor stole his wife back in 1997, why didn't he allege as much at the time? It's a good argument, and it would probably work if Traylor weren't currently involved with his stepson's estranged wife.
Gotta love small towns.
Vitter's detractors have long posited that the senator's support among women was eroding rapidly as a result of his hypocrisy and the unspecified but well documented "serious sin" to which he allegedly confessed. (Truth: He has not admitted anything publicly, and he continues to dodge questions about his involvement with hookers in D.C. and New Orleans.) The theory was that anybody who wasn't a philandering jerk and who could scrape together $1 million could give Vitter a race. Many thought — and hoped — that Traylor would be that opponent.
Given Vitter's creepy past, one would have to get pretty creative to conjure up an opponent who could give him a run for his money on the cheatin' side of town. True or not, Ellington's allegations against Traylor are a godsend to Vitter, who has millions more than Traylor in his war chest. In denying those allegations, Traylor says he at least isn't a hypocrite like Vitter, who once piously held forth as a bastion of family values — while he was frequenting prostitutes. Well, as Bill Murray might say, Traylor's got that going for him.
Whether that's enough to knock off Vitter may depend on how much squalor women voters can stand — and on whether either of these guys qualifies as the lesser of two evils.