Edwin Edwards Running Without Pro Help

by Patrick Flanagan

Wife, friends serving as campaign team for now

By Jeremy Alford

LaPolitics News Service

When former Gov. Edwin Edwards announced his 6th District bid in March, he told LaPolitics that he planned on doing something most other serious, and even half-serious, congressional candidates would never do - that is, run without a campaign manager.

"I generally run my own campaign," he said.

True to his word, Edwards is flying solo. Though polls favor him to easily make the runoff, the 86-year-old contender doesn't even have a press secretary. Call his headquarters in Baton Rouge, ask for a spokesperson and you'll get his wife, Trina, who is always quick to reply and ready to serve as an in-between.

"It's still us for now, but we're interviewing people," she said by phone when asked if a campaign manager would be hired.

How about a press secretary? "Not really."

A few hours later after that initial phone call two weeks ago, she rang back.

"Edwin told me to tell you he hasn't made a decision on any of that," Trina added.

Sources involved with fundraising and others who have been consulted by Edwards confirm as much.

"I didn't get the impression he's looking to pay for advice," said a source. "He's a pretty smart guy and there's not a lot you can teach him about politics. I don't expect him to put together a professional campaign like we would in 2014."

That hasn't always been Edwards' style. In his inaugural run for governor in 1971, one of the first decisions he was said to make was putting late political architect Shelley Beychok at the helm. But over the years, he stopped relying on consultants and operatives, instead turning to those closest to him.

"He's generally had a circle of friends involved in his campaign. Remember this is a guy who has been running for political office since 1954, so he has a lot of experience in running campaigns," said Tyler Bridges, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who wrote about Edwards in two books, "The Rise of David Duke" and "Bad Bet on the Bayou: The Rise of Gambling in Louisiana, and the Fall of Governor Edwin Edwards."

Bridges continued, "But he has not run a campaign since 1991 - 23 years ago - before the iPhone, before the internet became prevalent, before Twitter, before Facebook. Long before these things, in fact. And you have to wonder if a mom-and-pop type of campaign structure can work in 2014 for a congressional office."

Already there are signs Edwards could use a few pros around him. Last month, his campaign sent a "self-reported complaint" to the Federal Election Commission stating that the "paid for" disclosure line was "omitted in error" from a printed fundraising invitation. A screen shot of the same was also posted to Facebook by Trina, but cropped in such a way that it cut off the required contribution limits.

While it was "self-reported," the FEC was actually tipped off 24 hours earlier by the campaign of one of Edwards' opponents, businessman and physical therapist Craig McCulloch of Baker.

The Baton Rouge accounting firm of Postlethwaite & Netterville has been hired by the Edwards campaign to "ensure federal election rules are followed." That should likewise put to rest any talk of Super PACs, which candidates are prohibited from being involved with, but which Edwards spoke openly about wanting to form, in comments to LaPolitics and others when he announced.

With P&N being the only big time handler on the payroll, political observers are beginning to wonder how serious Edwards is about running for Congress.

"He's dead serious," said an operative. "He's making calls to political types and talking about money. But aside from an informal team, maybe a manager from inside the state, I wouldn't expect to see him bringing people in from around the country."

None of this seems to weigh against Edwards too heavily for those who have a lifetime of watching him ply his trade. The electorate in the 6th, however, is a different story.

"If you look at past performances in that district, the numbers show it was clearly designed for a Republican to win," said Bridges. "The odds are against Edwin Edwards, but he has shown throughout his career that he's not someone you want to bet against."