Kathleen Blanco is lame, John Breaux is still an out-of-state lobbyist and Harry Lee is sadly missed. A noose in Jena became a political time bomb that never quite exploded, and everyone wants a cardboard cutout of Bobby Jindal. This is all political junkie talk, of course, but it's hard to avoid when recalling the recent primary season that capped off late Saturday night " like the fact that Royal Alexander will no longer use email and Walter Boasso should buy stock in Tide detergent. We're in the runoff season, a completely different jungle. New anecdotes and inside jokes will soon emerge as reporters, consultants and candidates dish the dirt like old maids in a quilting club. Until then, let's take a look back at the primary season and award a few trophies for notable efforts.
Best Butterfly-from-the-Cocoon Routine " We all know John Georges can shoot from the lip, but no one was prepared for his antics last week. Lacking sleep but wired for sound bites, Georges, an independent from New Orleans, kept it wide open. In fact, he never did stop slapping frontrunner Bobby Jindal around in those final days. At one point, he challenged Jindal to a shooting contest against his wife and then accused the Republican congressman of staging the emergency birth of his child. Jindal, with a phone, shoestring and a few other handy supplies, delivered his youngest last year without a doctor present. The story was picked up nationally.
Most Desperate Request for Money " Roger Villere Jr., chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party, sent out a desperate email last week begging for a last-minute infusion of donations for Saturday's primary. 'We simply do not have enough money to successfully defend Bobby Jindal and the rest of our candidates," he wrote. Villere even offered prizes for big-dollar donors: 'If you give $1,000 today, not only will you help us make up a potentially devastating budget shortfall, you will receive a limited-edition Ronald Reagan poster by Louisiana artist George Rodrigue. This may be your last chance to secure this limited-edition poster. The posters are going very quickly!" Whatever it takes, eh?
Best Hits (Bada-Bing!) " The Louisiana Republican Party gets an A for creativity this season. In Westwego's Senate District 8, the party backed local businessman John Roberts and lashed out at against longtime Democratic Rep. John Alario. There were several attacks against Alario, but the cleverest was an HBO-inspired Web site that mirrored the look of The Sopranos called 'The Alarios." Even the theme music was worked into the fold.
In nearby Senate District 7, Republican candidate Paul Richard was forced to remove from his Web site a special FBI agent's image and quotes. That's a big no-no in campaigns. Richard attempted to use a photo of Jim Bernazzani, special agent in charge of Louisiana, in hopes of linking Bernazzani's comments about corruption in this state to opponent David Heitmeier, a Democrat. Unfortunately for Richard, it was one hit that the feds had to personally break up.
Most Valuable Signers " Blueprint Louisiana, a group of businessmen and concerned citizens hoping to impact the fall elections and subsequent policymaking, posted the names of candidates supporting its far-reaching agenda on its Web site in recent months. Dozens have signed Blueprint's contract, including Democratic Sen. Cleo Fields, who was barred from running due to a recent court ruling on term limits. Additionally, Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom, another Democrat, did not allow his looming corruption indictments to stop him from signing up to support Blueprint, which has labeled ethics as a top priority.
Best Last-Minute Ethics Attack " There were a few midnight-hour hijinks going down last week in the race of Democrat Charles McDonald versus Republican Mike Walsworth in north Louisiana's Senate District 33. Roughly 72 hours before the polls opened, Walsworth made public a series of checks that were supposedly being distributed by McDonald's campaign. The money, Walsworth argued, was being given to people in West Carroll Parish, along with a ballot and instructions on how to vote. Walsworth also claimed the ballots included the name of Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom, a Democrat plagued by corruption charges. Walsworth said last week that an investigation was underway by the Secretary of State's office, but the practice sounds similar to what Democrats do every election season with so-called canvassers.
Worst Timing to Foul Up a Sure Re-Election " Just days before Rep. Carla Dartez, a Morgan City Democrat, went to qualify for re-election, headlines around the state made sure she would face at least one decent opponent. Last month, Dartez was given a summons for improper lane usage after hitting a pedestrian with her vehicle. Of course, press reports conjured up other incidents: In 2003, she suffered four skull fractures and a dislocated shoulder from a motorcycle accident during Mardi Gras; and in 1998, she was booked with a first-offense DWI in addition to driving without headlights, improper lane use and speeding. While Dartez could have survived the hit, matters became complicated earlier this month when her husband, Lenny J. Dartez, a member of the Democratic Party's State Central Committee, was indicted for harboring illegal aliens through his construction business.
Best Supporting Non-Candidate " Even though Republican Treasurer John Kennedy faced no opposition, he spent like an incumbent under fire. In fact, he put roughly $367,000 into a media buy and spent about $41,000 on production costs last month " all after qualifying was over and he was left with no opposition. It now seems more likely than ever that he's gearing up to run against U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat from New Orleans, in 2008.
Correction: In 'Polar Opposites" (News & Views, Oct. 2), Mike French, technology assessment director for the Department of Natural Resources, was misquoted as noting a 'significant shift of drilling resources in the state." Specifically, French was referring to federal drilling activity in the Gulf of Mexico moving onshore to some degree, as well as the shift of land rigs moving to the northern part of the state. French also describes the scenario involving the offshore exodus, which is under federal jurisdiction, as unique to Louisiana. Jeremy Alford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- John Georges takes home the Best Butterfly-from-the-Cocoon Routine award for his attacks on fellow gubernatorial candidate Bobby Jindal in the days before the election, including accusing Jindal of staging the emergency birth of his child so Jindal could deliver it McGyver style.