Long story short, the Boustany camp was left in the dark during preparations and feels like the Lafayette congressman was set up, begging the question: By whom?
[Clarification: It seems what we have here is a failure to communicate. Drs. Bob Buckman and Ryan Teten at UL evidently each believed the other was in charge of making arrangements with the Boustany and Landry campaigns during the time period in which the Boustany campaign was left out of the loop, based on conversations and emails exchanged Thursday between IND Monthly and the professors. We stand by the accuracy of this report, although we don't share the Boustany campaign's suspicion that their candidate was in any way "set up" by either Teten or Buckman.]
UL Lafayette journalism professor Dr. Robert Buckman announced late Tuesday afternoon that the debate scheduled for Monday afternoon in the Angelle Hall auditorium between the two main contenders in the Nov. 6 election for the new 3rd Congressional District - U.S. Reps. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, and Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia - has been cancelled. In the press release announcing the cancellation, Buckman cites "unforeseen conflicts involving time, location and format." But that's not exactly accurate, and sources close to Boustany are wondering, was the four-term Lafayette congressman being set up for a fall?
IND Monthly has obtained an email thread demonstrating that for nearly three weeks the Boustany camp - Chief of Staff Jeff Dobrozsi and Campaign Manager John Porter, specifically - were not copied on emails between Buckman and the Landry camp concerning details about the format for Monday's event. Much changed in that interim. According to sources, the last time the Boustany camp was updated on the debate was around Friday, Sept. 21. At that time the event was scheduled for a smaller venue in Burke-Hawthorne Hall, Lake Charles Democrat Ron Richard was supposed to be part of it, KATC was going to broadcast the event live and KATC anchor Hoyt Harris was set to moderate it.
On Tuesday of this week, Dr. Ryan Teten, the UL political science professor who was pegged to moderate the debate, emailed Dobrozsi and Porter at Boustany's office with the press release Buckman had released to the media earlier that day about the Monday debate. Head scratching ensued at Camp Boustany. Porter emailed Teten back at just after 6 p.m. Tuesday: "Dr. Teten: What happened with Richard? What happened with Hoyt Harris? Now we have a panel? I'm confused here on the changes."
Teten replied to Dobrozsi and Porter less than a half hour later:
Shortly after Teten's hat-in-hand accounting for the communications error, he goes further in an email about an hour later, at 7:20 p.m. and addresses only Dobrozsi:
Jeff, If Boustany has any reservations about the event, I can gladly suggest that I completely screwed up the date or the communications and can issue a press release suggesting that it was completely my fault in terms of a debate organization mishap and we can cancel it. I do not want this event to seem like a gotcha tactic on you guys or make it something that endangers the relationship UL and our department have with you and Rep. Boustany. I feel like I should have been on top of the e-mail list Dr. Buckman was using so that all concerns could be expressed way in advance. Please let me know if there are any steps you need me to take either way.
By this time - yesterday evening, Tuesday, Oct. 9 - the whole debate is sagging into a steaming pile of ain't gonna happen. The Boustany camp is fuming, fully suspecting FreedomWorks and the Tea Party of Lafayette, which jointly opened a "get out the vote" pro-Landry office in Lafayette on Monday - FreedomWorks is the non-profit, conservative political group that essentially invented the tea party movement in 2009 and has bankrolled much of its "grassroots" activities - played some role in the screw up, a suspicion Buckman seeks to dispel in an email this afternoon to Porter and Dobroszi:
Dear John and Jeff:
I just learned from Ryan Teten about your concerns over the format. I had thought he was forwarding everything to you, but I may have erred in that assumption. He explained to me your concerns about a one-on-one debate and that you may think that we have attempted to "set you up" by excluding the other candidates and presenting you with a fait accompli at the last minute. I can assure you we had no such intention.
...Dr. Teten, bless his heart, is offering to fall on his sword over this. Like me, he had no ulterior motive and no ax to grind with either of your candidates. We both just wanted to provide a service to the voters.
Buckman did not return a phone call Wednesday evening seeking comment.