Louisiana dishes last serving of political gumbo
© Courtesy of Foster Campbell and John Kennedy

Most of the nation slept off the last bits of their Election Day hangovers with the help of turkey and dressing over Thanksgiving, but it’s still election season here in Louisiana. 

We have three federal races left to be decided on Dec. 10 — and two of them are shaping up to be real barn burners.

With control of the United State Senate hanging in the balance, the race at the top of the ticket is garnering the most attention. It features Democrat Foster Campbell and Republican John Neely Kennedy duking it out for the chance to replace David VitterDavid Bruce VitterThe biggest political upsets of the decade Red-state governor races put both parties on edge Louisiana Republicans score big legislative wins MORE in the upper chamber.

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In the Third Congressional District, two Republicans are battling for the seat soon to be vacated by Charles BoustanyCharles William BoustanyMarch tariff increase would cost 934K jobs, advocacy group says Bottom Line On The Money: US adds 155k jobs in November | Unemployment holds at 3.7 percent | Wage growth strengthening | Trump signs stopgap spending bill delaying shutdown MORE, who failed in his bid for the Senate. It features Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle and political newcomer Clay Higgins, who couldn’t be more dissimilar despite their shared party affiliation.

Angelle represents the moderate wing of Louisiana’s Republican Party. He is a longtime public servant, with a proven record of working across party lines to get things done. Since 2000, he has served as president of St. Martin Parish, head of the state’s Department of Natural Resources, interim lieutenant governor and now member of the Public Service Commission. I know him personally, and he is exactly the type of person the people of his Acadiana congressional district need — someone who will always have the best interests of his constituents at heart.

I can’t say the same about his opponent.

Higgins edged his way into the runoff on Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpLev Parnas implicates Rick Perry, says Giuliani had him pressure Ukraine to announce Biden probe Saudi Arabia paid 0 million for cost of US troops in area Parnas claims ex-Trump attorney visited him in jail, asked him to sacrifice himself for president MORE’s coattails, riding the Republican wave as a “Trumpette” outsider. Much like Trump, he’s a celebrity of sorts — the self-styled “Cajun John Wayne,” with a folksy tough-on-crime persona manufactured during his time as a sheriff’s deputy.

It turned Higgins into a YouTube sensation, but also cost him his job earlier this year, when he resigned from the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office under pressure for repeatedly violating the department's rules to try to earn himself a small fortune and boost his celebrity — something that prompted his former boss to say in a statement: “He doesn’t belong in Congress because he is doing it for the wrong reasons. He has no experience dealing with the public; no patience, no tolerance, no understanding of what it takes to follow the law.”

Unfortunately, that’s just one of Higgins’ many shortcomings. He is also currently embroiled in a lawsuit over six figures worth of unpaid child support. I guess we shouldn’t expect much better from a former used car salesman-turned rogue celebrity cop with a penchant for self-promotion.

Higgins’ critics are plentiful, but Jim Beam of the Lake Charles American-Press is among the most articulate.

“Angelle is the logical choice,” Beam wrote in a recent column. “Higgins doesn’t measure up in any sense of the word. Southwest Louisiana is in the middle of the biggest industrial expansion ever seen in this country. It needs a Congressman with the skills and personality to fight for our best interests. Higgins’ track record shows he doesn’t come close to meeting those qualifications.”

We still have about a week and a half until voters will decide between Angelle and Higgins. According to the polls, it’s going to be a tight race. 

Angelle is in the driver’s seat, with a distinct advantage among the largely undecided Democratic swing vote in this two-Republican contest, but Louisiana has fraught history of sending grenade-throwing outsiders to Congress.

It wasn’t long ago that we elected a screaming outsider too much of a knucklehead to turn off the camera that would doom his political career. You may remember the “Kissing Congressman,” Vance McAllister, who was caught on his own office’s security camera having an inappropriate relationship with a female member of his staff. It was a black eye on Louisiana that embarrassed us all.

Hopefully, voters won’t make a similar mistake in this election.

Angelle is a talented public servant who deserves a promotion. Higgins is nothing but another embarrassment waiting to happen.

Bergeron is a 40-year veteran of Louisiana politics and currently works as a political strategist and communications consultant.


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