National Concerns Drain Color from Politics in Louisiana

Mary Carper securing a line from a shrimp boat to the dock to pull into the Delcambre Canal. Photographs by Luke Sharrett for The New York Times
Mary Carper securing a line from a shrimp boat to the dock to pull into the Delcambre Canal. Photographs by Luke Sharrett for The New York Times

A politician at a street fair is usually an inconvenience, an ordeal to be endured as he thrusts a flier at your chest and a smile at your face. But the silver-haired candidate pushing his 1-year-old in a stroller through the funnel-cake stands and craft booths at the harvest festival here did not have to try so hard. The glad-handers rushed up to him.

“I’d vote for you! I voted for you plenty of times!” shouted Mark Wells, 58, a retired state employee.

Edwin W. Edwards, 87, a four-term former governor and eight-year former federal inmate, is back on the trail, this time as a long-shot Democratic contender for a House seat and salvation for magazine feature writers in a dreary election year.

For all his color, though, Mr. Edwards, the populist rogue who embodied Louisiana politics from the 1960s to the 1990s, charming one half of the state and mortifying the other, might as well be a ghost.

The main political event this year, the Senate race, could not be further removed from the Edwards era. No one here at the harvest festival was particularly excited about Senator Mary L. Landrieu, a three-term Democrat, or Representative Bill Cassidy, the Republican challenger who will most likely face Ms. Landrieu in a runoff. A few said they might vote for Rob Maness, a hard-right Tea Party favorite and retired Air Force colonel who is also running, though most acknowledge his chances are slim.

“They used to say that the biggest sin in Louisiana politics was to be boring,” said R. Michael McHale, a lawyer in Lake Charles. “Now Louisiana’s become more like Washington. To a certain extent, elections aren’t even about Louisiana anymore.”

Louisianans will say, and perhaps scorn you if you disagree, that theirs is an exceptional state.

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Source: New York Times | 

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