Analysis: Attacks Give Way To Endorsements In US Senate Race
By MELINDA DESLATTE, Associated Press
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Those prostitution allegations? Forget about them. Claims of ties to a white supremacist? Ignore that. Trash-talking about performance in office? All water under the bridge.
In Louisiana's U.S. Senate race, one-time rivals who hammered each other in bitter exchanges ahead of the primary election are now suggesting they're forgiving and forgetting in the runoff as they endorse intra-party competitors who earlier in the election cycle said awful things about them.
It's one of the lessons learned after last year's governor's race. Then, feuds were so severe that party loyalty couldn't trump the attacks — and fractures within the Republican Party helped sink the GOP's candidate in the runoff election.
Now, the mantra in both the Democratic and Republican parties is unity, at least publicly.
Republicans are lining up behind GOP state Treasurer John Kennedy in the Dec. 10 runoff for the Senate seat, while Democrats are coalescing behind their candidate, Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell.
Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, who finished third among two dozen Senate candidates, blamed Kennedy for spreading a book's allegations that Boustany was a client of prostitutes who were later killed. Boustany said Kennedy had "no regard for the truth" and could not be trusted.
"I am confident Louisianans will not reward John Kennedy's sleazy politics. His dishonesty in this matter has disqualified him from high office," Boustany said in September.
That was then.
By Tuesday, Boustany endorsed Kennedy in the runoff election — albeit in a tepid statement.
"Republicans who care about the future of our country need a Republican in the Senate who will work with Donald Trump to roll back the failed liberal policies of President Obama. I endorse John Kennedy and urge all my supporters to cast their vote for him," Boustany said.
The primary feud between Campbell and Democratic fourth-place finisher Caroline Fayard was equally nasty.
Campbell slammed Fayard for her work on Wall Street, saying she worked for a company that "cheated investors." Campbell's campaign criticized Fayard's family. He accused Fayard of trying to buy a Senate seat.
Fayard, a lawyer who's never held elected office, panned Campbell as a career politician. She called him a "fraud." Most harshly, she sought to tie Campbell to white supremacist David Duke, who also unsuccessfully ran for the Senate.
A Fayard ad took a Campbell quote out of context to make it seem like he agreed with the former Ku Klux Klan leader on issues. Campbell accused her of race-baiting and lying.
They're moving on now.
By Tuesday, Fayard backed Campbell. Of course, she made sure to link Campbell to President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, two unpopular Democrats in Louisiana, so maybe the endorsement was a bit back-handed.
"It gives me great hope to know that Foster Campbell will protect President Obama's legacy and fight for the same Democratic Party values that Secretary Clinton, myself, and so many others have championed," Fayard said.
The fifth-place finisher, Republican U.S. Rep. John Fleming, accused Kennedy of so mismanaging state finances that he should have been fired. Kennedy panned Fleming's record in Congress. And Fleming said Kennedy was pretending to be a conservative and wasn't "quite right for prime time when it comes to serving in the United States Senate."
Apparently Kennedy's a real conservative who's Senate-ready now.
"I will be proud to support John Kennedy because he is the one candidate who will work to bring fiscal sanity, repeal Obamacare and confirm constitutionalists to the Supreme Court," Fleming said in a statement last week.
The Senate seat is open because Republican David Vitter didn't seek re-election, after losing the governor's race last year. Vitter and a super PAC supporting him so ravaged his two main GOP opponents in the 2015 primary that neither would endorse him in the runoff against Democrat John Bel Edwards. One of the Republicans, Jay Dardenne, backed Edwards.
The lack of a unified Republican front wasn't Vitter's only shortcoming, but it was a problem for his campaign. Political leaders didn't want to see a repeat in the Senate race.
The endorsements should have voters wondering if they can ever believe what candidates say about their opponents.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Melinda Deslatte covers Louisiana politics for The Associated Press. Follow her at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte
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