Wednesday, August 8, 2007

LAGOP bifurcation. Again.

Will we *ever* learn? Good grief...

From The Independent Weekly:

Chinks in the Armor

Less than a year ago, The Independent Weekly published a cover story detailing the disastrous state of Louisiana’s and Lafayette Parish’s Democratic Party (“Stomping Grounds,” Oct. 18). At the time, the state Republican Party appeared to be a well-oiled machine hitting on all cylinders. Despite all the setbacks the national party had suffered with Iraq, Katrina and the Jack Abramoff scandal, the GOP leadership in Louisiana was aligned and rarely off-message. Headed by newly elected U.S. Sen. David Vitter, whom polls showed to be the most popular elected official in the state, Republicans were well-funded, well-organized, and poised to take over both the governor’s mansion and a majority of the state Legislature behind a platform of ethics reform and improving Louisiana’s business climate.

The party was enjoying a level of maturity it hadn’t experienced in years. The days of inter-party sniping between different factions of social and fiscal conservatives had gone the way of ex-Gov. Mike Foster; even longtime mavericks like Buddy Roemer and Dave Treen were toting the party line and working for the common cause, and there was a growing united front behind U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal’s gubernatorial bid. In Lafayette, local Republicans were cruising toward re-election. Parish party chairwoman Denice Skinner told The Daily Advertiser, “We’ve got four out of five [parish-wide elected offices] and no challengers. We must be doing something right as a party.”

But as election season kicks into high gear, Republican Party infighting and some strange alliances are revealing chinks in the armor. Vitter’s prostitution scandal has neutered his standing as the party’s top bulldog and created an awkward situation for his longtime ally Jindal. Even before the scandal broke, Vitter and U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. of Lafayette raised eyebrows with their early endorsement of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani for the Republican presidential nomination, a pro-choice, pro-gay rights candidate at odds with Republicans’ longstanding social conservatism. And nowhere have these unexpected developments roiled the waters more than the conservative stronghold of Lafayette Parish, where the tension among party leaders is starting to boil over.

First, state Rep. Ernie Alexander announced he would not seek a third term in the state Legislature. In a column posted on his Web site, Alexander wrote that some of the same political supporters who helped elect state Republican Sen. Mike Michot and state Rep. Joel Robideaux were now lining up behind a candidate set to oppose him. While Michot and Robideaux, an independent, insisted they had nothing to do with putting up a candidate against Alexander, the two-term state representative vented in his column: “Logic dictates it is not worth mounting a fight with current elected officials and their organization if they cannot see the great benefits which could accrue to the people we serve if only we worked together rather than in opposition to one another.”

Elsewhere in the parish, Charlie Buckels, who sits on both the parish and state Republican executive committees, is planning his own campaign against an incumbent Republican, District 31 state Rep. Don Trahan. Buckels recently took a swipe at Trahan, who is seen as a reliable conservative vote in the state Legislature, telling The Independent Weekly, “We need leadership in this district.” If they split the Republican vote, Buckels and Trahan could give an edge to the other candidate in the race, registered independent Nancy Landry.

Just last week, another parish Republican Executive Committee member, Warren Caudle, used his “RightBlog” column on The Daily Advertiser’s Web site to unload a machine-gun barrage of shots at Michot. Listing seven items, most of which describe Michot pledging alliance to multiple candidates in the same races, Caudle portrays Michot as a Cajun Machiavelli, closing out his column by writing, “Would the real Mike Michot please stand up.”

Michot was stunned to see those allegations come from Caudle, whom he had considered a friend. He says the column was rife with inaccuracies — The Advertiser has already printed one clarification regarding Caudle’s claims — and suspects it stems from some deep-seeded resentments within the parish party. Michot has angered several hard-line local Republicans in recent years, first with his support of longtime friend Joel Robideaux, a registered independent, and then by supporting city-parish president Joey Durel’s road tax proposal.

“Anybody who knows me knows that I’m not that way,” Michot says of Caudle’s column. “I’m flattered and humored at the same time that they think I’m some political powerhouse that has manipulated politics in Louisiana for the last decade. This is petty politics. ... Here we are, it’s the cannibalization of the Republican Party and the hypocrisy that rears its ugly head once again.”

Michot, currently unopposed in his bid for re-election, is striving to become one of only two third-term Republican senators in the state Legislature under what he hopes will be a Republican administration. “I’m looking forward to a leadership role with the Jindal administration,” he says, “and I would hope that the support I receive starts with the people at home. Let’s not cut each other’s throats and see who can get the credit when in the end, no one wins.”

In an interview with The Independent last week, Caudle stood by the allegations, saying he wanted to shine some light on issues that have been passed over for too long. “The state of our party is not good,” he says. He and several other local Republicans were angered over the early endorsement the state party gave to Jindal — a move that prompted another Republican, state Sen. Walter Boasso, to switch parties in his run for governor. “The party is not all behind Jindal,” Caudle says.

With the state election a little more than two months away, local Republicans have picked a bizarre time to air their dirty laundry. Add in the unexpected developments and grumbling on the state party level, and suddenly it’s getting very interesting to see how it all comes out in the wash at voting booths.

No comments: