Politics 12.10.2008

by Nathan Stubbs


Nationally, the Republican Party may be in disarray after a disappointing election year in which Democrats won the White House and picked up seats in both houses of Congress. In Louisiana, however, it’s been a different story. On Saturday, the GOP celebrated two big wins when John Flemming narrowly defeated Democrat Paul Carmouche by 356 votes in an open seat election in the 4th Congressional District and newcomer Republican Anh “Joseph” Cao unseated 9-term incumbent William Jefferson in the 2nd Congressional District. Their election comes on the heels of Republican Bill Cassidy’s Nov. 4  victory over Democrat Don Cazayoux in the 6th Congressional District.

On Sunday, Republicans were celebrating the victories, with the crowning prize being Joseph Cao’s improbable upset over Jefferson. With his election, Cao instantly made international headlines, becoming the nation’s first Vietnamese-born congressman and unseating an entrenched incumbent, who despite being indicted on federal racketeering charges last year was largely considered a shoo-in for re-election. With Jefferson having become a symbol of corruption and old school politics in much of the state, the GOP seized on Cao’s victory as an opportunity to promote itself as the party of good government. Republican Party of Louisiana Communications Director Aaron Baer released the following statement regarding the Dec. 6 elections: “In a year when Republicans lost 20 Congressional seats, seven Senate seats and the White House, three non-incumbent Republicans have now clinched victory in Louisiana. Governor Jindal supported all three of these candidates for Congress and Governor Jindal’s support of John Fleming is especially notable, as his endorsement competed with President-Elect Barack Obama’s support for Fleming’s opponent in the race. Yesterday, the voters spoke and their resounding choice for reforming government, ending corruption, and reining in spending — all championed in Governor Jindal’s own campaign — won.”

Democratic state Party Chairman Chris Whittington had a different outlook on the election. “The outcome of this race, and the race in Louisiana’s 4th Congressional District, where provisional ballots still haven’t been counted, probably would have been different if they hadn’t been postponed by Hurricane Gustav,” he says in a released statement. “After Democrats’ historic wins on Nov. 4, Republicans painted the remaining elections as a last chance to put a tourniquet on the bleeding. We congratulate Joseph Cao, but expect he’ll have a tough re-election battle in this heavily Democratic district in two years.”


Contrary to common sense, Jefferson’s indictment last year on federal racketeering charges may not have been his ultimate downfall politically. He was heavily favored to win re-election Saturday after sweeping the Democratic primaries, and analysis of the election in the Times-Picayune shows that Jefferson probably suffered more from Saturday’s lackluster turnout (less than half the Nov. 4 election turnout) and a confused electorate than any cloud of corruption. This was the first time in 30 years that Louisiana held closed congressional primaries. Hurricane Gustav also delayed the first primary election, pushing the general election into December. The T-P notes that Jefferson said over the course of the general election that he ran into several voters who mistakenly thought he had been re-elected Nov. 4.


At its meeting last week, the Lafayette Parish Democratic Executive Committee passed what could be known as the Glenn Armentor resolution. The “statement of principle” reads that “ a member of the committee shall not publicly endorse nor publicly support by fundraising activities or by other public activities any officeholder, candidate, or potential candidate for public office who is not registered to vote with the Democratic Party.”

The resolution, effective Jan. 1, 2009, also states that members are “strongly encouraged to abide by the statement of principle set forth herein” but has no penalties attached to it in the event a member does not. “This is a guiding principle on how we expect each other to behave and represent the party,” says committee chairman John Bernhardt. Bernhardt says committee members, who are elected, will always have to answer to voters.

The resolution is nearly identical to one brought up two years ago, but never passed, in response to committee member and local attorney Glenn Armentor hosting a bi-partisan fund-raiser for Republican City-Parish President Joey Durel titled “No Party Party.” Armentor resurrected the event this year, much to the chagrin of many of his fellow committee members, prompting some calls for his censure or resignation from the party leadership board.

The statement of principle resolution was the only action taken regarding Armentor’s actions. The measure passed by a vote of 8 to 1. Vice Chairman Susannah Malbreaux voted against the measure. Member Mike Stagg, who had previously called for Armentor’s resignation, abstained, and four other members were absent from the meeting. Bernhardt says that while he was not in favor of the No Party Party, he was also not in favor of punishing committee members. “We’re about being inclusive and bringing people in and not kicking people out,” he says. Bernhardt adds he hopes to work with Armentor to make No Party Party an annual benefit for a local charity and not for any one political candidate.

Also included in the statement of principle is what could be called the Ken Bouillion clause. A portion of the statement reads that an exception is made for committee members who publicly support or endorse immediate family relatives who may not be Democrats. (Ken Bouillion is married to Judge Francie Bouillion, a registered independent)