Like the victim of the third-grade bully, Louisiana has a tough time hiding its political black eyes. From Huey Long to Edwin Edwards to Ray Nagin, we’ve always given the nation something to scoff at.
Most recently, there’s been Congressman William Jefferson and cash-stuffed (pre-Katrina, obviously) freezer and David Vitter and his dalliances with a certain madam in Washington, D.C. And the trip between high-ranking offices in New Orleans and the local jail keeps getting shorter – just ask state film recruiter Mark Smith and former Big Easy councilman Oliver Thomas.
Ultimately, the courts, the voters and their spouses may forgive the long list of wrongdoers but in terms of the state’s reputation politically, the damage has been done.
It took Minnesota Sen. Larry Craig’s antics in an airport bathroom -and courtroom – to take the spotlight off Louisiana’s misdeeds. Certainly, Craig’s on-again, off-again guilty plea makes great water cooler fodder. But as Louisianans, we know we’re one politician misstep away from being on the hot seat again. The old “he who laughs last” adage is our creed. We’re reminded constantly by example.
That said, the Oct. 20 election is one more opportunity to re-examine the caliber of people we want to represent us.
Locally, we have a number of key races undecided. Over the coming weeks, there are sure to be many lobs – after all, Louisiana politics is a contact sport the intensity of which the Saints have rarely faced.
As candidates take to the streets to share their views and platforms, it’s a good time for voters to test the true measure of the person. It’s a new day in Louisiana. And as voters, we are the ones who will direct this region’s future by exercising our right to select the next leaders.
It’s a formidable task to self-govern. It requires our time and attention to learn the issues and ask the important questions to flush out the candidates’ stances. But as we’ve learned time and time again, for Louisiana to truly renew itself in the wake of the 2005 storm season strong leaders are required.