Politics 02.13.2008

Bill Clinton's Louisiana blitz, John Breaux's radio ad for Hillary Clinton and more

CLINTON’S LAFAYETTE VISIT FOR NAUGHT ... Former President Bill Clinton’s Lafayette stop last Friday at Country Cuisine was part of a statewide blitz on behalf of his wife Hillary’s presidential bid — and after Saturday’s presidential primary results came in, he probably wishes he had spent his time campaigning elsewhere. “Obama crushes Clinton,” newspaper headlines across the country blared, as Illinois Sen. Barack Obama handily defeated Clinton in Louisiana, Washington and Nebraska. Obama won by a 57 percent to 36 percent margin in Louisiana. (In Lafayette Parish, Obama collected 8,378 votes, compared to 4,888 for Clinton.) Clinton arrived 90 minutes late for his Country Cuisine appearance, and it didn’t help matters that Country Cuisine seemed a strange choice for Clinton’s stop. Its top-notch barbecue and southern cooking notwithstanding, its limited seating meant that most of the estimated 400-plus in attendance couldn’t get inside to hear Clinton’s brief stump speech for his wife.

RADIO ADS AND ROBOCALLS ... Bill Clinton wasn’t the only veteran Democrat whose influence didn’t tilt the Louisiana Democratic Primary in the direction he hoped. Former Sen. John Breaux recorded a radio spot on Hillary Clinton’s behalf that aired on stations like KBON 101.1 — and personally introduced Bill Clinton in Baton Rouge and Lafayette — but his clout with voters may be receding after his ill-fated flirtation with the 2007 governor’s race. On the Republican side, Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee received the help of a third-party robocall campaign that left phone messages at Acadiana households lambasting Republican frontrunner John McCain and his “liberal friends.” The pro-life robocall said that a vote for Huckabee was “a vote for life,” and was the handiwork of Common Sense Issues, a Virginia-based non-profit 501(c)4 that has made more than 5 million calls nationwide promoting Huckabee’s candidacy. In Louisiana, Huckabee narrowly edged McCain by a 43 percent to 42 percent margin. In Lafayette Parish, McCain came out on top — he garnered 3,306 votes, while Huckabee collected 3,053 votes.

SHERIFF’S FRIEND GETS 10 YEARS IN LEBLANC TEXAS SCANDAL ... A longtime friend of disgraced Texas Sheriff Ralph Lopez was sentenced to 10 years in state prison for his role in the alleged bribery scandal involving a company owned by Patrick and Mike LeBlanc of Lafayette. San Antonio’s Express-News reported last week that State District Judge Juanita Vasquez-Gardner declined 68-year-old John Reynolds’s request to postpone sentencing so that he could care for his ailing wife. Reynolds, who also served as the former sheriff’s campaign manager, pleaded guilty to demanding $32,000 from the LeBlancs’ company, Premier Management Enterprises, in exchange for contracts to operate jail commissaries in Bexar County, Texas. Reynolds, who claimed the money was charitable and campaign contributions, was also ordered to pay $10,000.

The LeBlancs have maintained their innocence; on Saturday Patrick LeBlanc was elected to the Louisiana Republican State Central Committee, defeating Gary Reynolds 513 to 194 votes. LeBlanc ran an unsuccessful campaign for state representative last fall, losing to fellow Republican Page Cortez.

Last September, 71-year-old Sheriff Lopez pleaded no contest to state charges of taking golf and fishing trips paid for by Premier. He resigned from office.

Reynolds’ sentencing marks the end of the state’s public corruption prosecution, but the federal investigation continues. Lopez and Reynolds have been cooperating with the feds, and an FBI spokesman told the San Antonio paper on Friday that the investigation “into Premier’s contracting is ongoing.”

MELANCON, BOUSTANY TO HOST “FARM DAY 2008” ... U.S. Reps. Charlie Melancon and Charles Boustany are teaming up for “Farm Day 2008,” to be held Feb. 20 at the West St. Mary Civic Center in Jeanerette. It’s the second time the two congressmen have joined forces for the event, which debuted last year in Rayne. Now an annual gathering, the half-day session is designed to provide information for area farmers and ranchers about current legislation and policies in Washington, D.C., affecting agriculture. This year’s Farm Day will feature presentations from industry experts on the status of the Farm Bill and trade agreements, as well as keynote speaker Mark Keenum, USDA under secretary, Farm and Foreign Agricultural Service. Interested participants should RSVP by calling (866) 289-9210 or e-mailing [email protected]
Contributors: Jeremy Alford, Scott Jordan and Leslie Turk_