Convict, ex Gov. Edwin Edwards: I 'empathize' with Vance McAllister

Former Louisiana Democratic Gov. Edwin Edwards had some advice for Rep. Vance McAllister (R-La.) as he tries to weather the storm of his sex scandal.

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“Like Caesar’s wife, you should be above reproach and above suspicion. You’ve got to be very careful. Public life is public life,” he told The Hill in a Wednesday afternoon phone conversation.

Edwards, no stranger to scandal himself, may be particularly well-suited to offer guidance to McAllister, currently facing the fallout of a video published earlier this week that showed the married father of five kissing a married staffer, who has since resigned.

Despite his own controversies, the former governor remains one of the state’s most popular Democrats and was its longest-serving, having been elected as governor four times — the fourth after he stood trial for charges of bribery. He was released from prison in January 2011 after serving eight years of his 10-year sentence for extortion, and is looking to return to Congress this fall, though he faces an uphill battle in the deep-red state.

He suggested McAllister should’ve had more foresight before deciding to run for Congress.

“If you’re gonna end up in public life, you’ve got to assume that every aspect of your private life is fair game. If you do anything at all that’s a little bit out of line or contrary to the norm or exciting or interesting to people, even though it’s not a perverse interest, it’s going to be exposed sooner or later,” Edwards said.

Though Edwards never faced any similar sexual scandals, he said he “empathizes” with McAllister.

“I’ve only met the fellow twice. I really empathize with him and regret when anybody gets in any kind of trouble no matter whose fault it is. And I really hope in some miraculous way he can repair the damage with his family,” he added.

But Edwards suggested that McAllister might not be able to overcome his issues the way the former governor has, because McAllister’s real sin was misleading voters.

“One of the things that has served me well throughout my career is I tell it like it is. People know where I stand, and I do my job,” he said. “Too many people who run for public office do so on promoting family values and family men, and they turn out to be something else. And it leaves a question mark in the minds of voters.”

“Of all the things that I’ve been called," he said, "no one’s ever called me a hypocrite.”

The video and apparent relationship with his former staffer have been particularly damaging to McAllister becauase he'd focused in part on his Christian family values in his campaign.

Edwards said it wasn’t up to him to decide whether McAllister should resign.  On Thursday, both the chairman of the state Republican Party and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) called for McAllister to step down.

But the resignation was a rare issue on which he and some of his Republican opponents in the race for Louisiana’s 6th District agreed.

State Sen. Dan Claitor (R) said McAllister should “think long and hard about the decision” to resign. But he did suggest the situation rases questions about McAllister’s ability to serve.

“I have sympathy for his family and I have sympathy for the woman’s family. I’m left with the question that if he treats his best friend and his wife in that manner, how would he treat the voters?” he said.

Reports have indicated the husband of Melissa Peacock, the woman McAllister kissed, was friends with the congressman.

“If your wife and your best friend can’t trust you, why should your constituents trust you?” Claitor added.

Garret Graves, the former top coastal adviser to Jindal declined to comment on the calls for McAllister’s resignation. Graves’s campaign consultant, Josh Robinson, also worked on McAllister’s campaign, and did not respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

But Graves did suggest, via text message, that McAllister’s relationship with Peacock was a mindless move.

“An old friend used to say that God gave men two important parts — a brain and a 'sexual organ.' The problem is that he only gave us enough blood for one to work at a time,” he said.