Louisiana governor candidates spar at WDSU-TV debate

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At tonight's gubernatorial debate at WDSU-TV, six candidates discussed the issues (from left): The Rev. Jeremy Odom, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, state Rep. John Bel Edwards, U.S. Sen. David Vitter, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and Cary Deaton.
  • At tonight's gubernatorial debate at WDSU-TV, six candidates discussed the issues (from left): The Rev. Jeremy Odom, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, state Rep. John Bel Edwards, U.S. Sen. David Vitter, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and Cary Deaton.


Sen. David Vitter was the major target at a televised debate tonight featuring all four of the major gubernatorial candidates: Vitter, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, state Rep. John Bel Edwards and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne. Also on the dais were two minor candidates: Democrat Cary Deaton of Metairie and the Rev. Jeremy Odom of Natchitoches (no party).

The hourlong event, held at WDSU-TV and moderated by Scott Walker, was heavily focused on social issues — the first 8 minutes were spent on Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses, another block of time spent on marijuana (medical and recreational), while the national Planned Parenthood controversy took up more time. The state’s budget crisis, including the shortfall in higher education funding, was barely touched upon, and the question of coastal restoration never came up, nor did Gov. Bobby Jindal's rejection of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

With Edwards the only Democrat among the top four — and a pro-life, pro-Second Amendment Democrat at that — the frontrunners’ positions mostly differed only by degrees on social issues. All opposed legalizing recreational pot (with Vitter also drawing the line at medicinal use), while none supported same-sex marriage (though Edwards thought Davis should have made accommodations to issue licenses through another clerk).

The back-and-forth was testy bordering on pugnacious. Angelle referred to Vitter as “Senator Pinocchio” and said Vitter was wrong on "fornication" as well as "taxation" and "education." Dardenne drew murmurs in the crowd when he sarcastically said that tax monies could be raised through legalizing prostitution. For his part, Vitter tried to tie Edwards to President Barack Obama (who is unpopular in the state).

Rumors about Vitter’s “very serious scandal” made the national press that morning when the Washington D.C.-based Talking Points Memo (TPM), a left-leaning website, reported that WDSU would air an anti-Vitter commercial during the debate — an ad featuring a baby in a diaper (a reference to unproven rumors relating to Vitter’s prostitution scandal).

But WDSU General Manager Joel Vilmanay told Gambit that it would be a commercial-free debate and that TPM had never called the station to confirm its story. Trey Ourso, head of Gumbo PAC, the political action committee that made the ad, also told Gambit that TPM had its story wrong. By then, of course, curiosity ensured the ad already had been viewed on YouTube hundreds of times without the expense of an ad buy. 


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