Edwin Edwards running without professional help

Special to the Herald-Guide
June 06, 2014 at 10:25 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

By Jeremy Alford

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.”

Energy execs insist settlements not in the cardsWith the legacy lawsuit bill now signed into law, and the bill to kill the Orleans-area flood protection authority’s suit against 97 energy companies pending a signature, the oil and gas industry achieved its goals for the session.

The exception was legislation targeting the claims filed by Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes against energy firms, which the industry backed off from after meeting strong resistance from legislators.

Yet the companies dispelled any notion that they are ready to negotiate with the two parishes to settle their 28 suits filed against 259 energy firms.

“It’s wishful thinking and a waste of time,” said Mike Moncla of Moncla Marine in Lafayette.

Following a recent news conference organized by the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association and the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, Moncla told LaPolitics that one of the unique challenges of reaching a settlement involves the mix of independent energy companies with the majors.

He said while a large outfit — like Shell, which Moncla did not specifically provide as an example — might have the means to settle, the much smaller independents have limited resources.

“We were dragged into this using template lawsuits because we happen to do work in the areas targeted,” he said. “No one is going to the table.”

The independents involved feel they’ve done nothing wrong and are being lumped in with so-called “big oil,” added Dennis Baillargeon, whose Lafayette-based Destin Operating Company was pulled into the Jefferson suit after it  drilled unsuccessfully on open water in the parish and soon after plugged the well.

“We played by the rules. We were never cited for any wrongdoing,” he said.

Whether individual settlements could be reached, on a business-by-business basis, LOGA president Don Briggs said it’s unlikely for now.

“I just cannot imagine that. I can’t,” said Briggs. The news conference comes roughly four weeks after Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said on The Jim Engster Show, ”The oil and gas companies are actually listening to me now, and they want to get all this stuff off of their books. And I believe after this legislative session we’re going to see some big time movement on that.”They said it“There’s a priest in the back of the room in case anyone needs to confess.” —State Sen. Dan Claitor during a committee hearing

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