Shameless: Edwin Edwards and his farcical campaign for Congress

Former Gov. Edwin Edwards at Monday's Baton Rouge Press Club (Photo by Robert Mann)

Former Gov. Edwin Edwards at Monday’s Baton Rouge Press Club (Photo by Robert Mann)

By Robert Mann

As I left Monday’s Baton Rouge Press Club luncheon, during which former Gov. Edwin Edwards declared his candidacy for Congress from Louisiana’s 6th congressional district, I could muster only this thought: Governor, have you no shame?

“I haven’t had this much attention since the trial,” the 86-year-old former four-term governor joked from the podium as he began his remarks.

And so began the first congressional campaign announcement in my memory that began with a reference to the candidate’s federal corruption trial. 

Bathed in the TV lights and facing more than a dozen cameras, it was clearly a heady day for the ex-governor, ex-con. He clearly enjoyed every moment back under the klieg lights, including the grand entrance, as he and his wife, Trina, pushed through a phalanx of photographers, the former governor steering a baby stroller — the passenger, his infant son, Eli.

But Edwin Edwards also had a running mate at his side on Monday. That would be his 2001 federal racketeering conviction and his subsequent eight years behind bars.

While Edwards gamely talked about issues — he would have voted against Obamacare, is for Medicaid expansion, and believes we need high-speed rail between Baton Rouge and New Orleans — the fact of his conviction enveloped the event like heavy Louisiana-morning fog.

Before talking about the issues, he was forced to argue for why he can legally run for Congress. “I’m positive I can run and I’m confident I can win,” Edwards insisted.

And, yet, while he gamely discussed the issues, his running mate continued pushing him aside to take center stage. Most of the questions by reporters were about one aspect or another of his federal conviction, so much so that Edwards finally acknowledged that he will devote part of his time this summer and fall to explaining why he was wrongly convicted.

“It [the trial] was not about Edwin Edwards, the governor,” he said, meaning that he was convicted of crimes committed after he left the Governor’s Mansion.

Edwards, however, revealed that he’s not really banking on persuading anyone that he was wrongfully incarcerated.  “Forgiveness, understanding, second chances are important in politics, as in life,” he said.

While he might not change many minds about his guilt, Edwards almost certainly can count on making the runoff. “I’ll end up in the runoff with one of them,” he said, when asked to comment on the bevy of Republican candidates running to replace Rep. Bill Cassidy.

He’s right. He’s the odds-on favorite for the runoff, a fact that clearly delights some of the Republicans who showed up for Monday’s announcement.

Edwards, however, must also know that whoever makes the runoff with him will win the congressional seat in a landslide.

My dog has a better chance of winning a seat in this very Republican district.

But, no matter, Monday’s show wasn’t about winning a congressional seat. It was, rather, about a corrupt and washed-up former governor who cannot bear the thought of two minutes out of the limelight. If you don’t believe me, just watch ten minutes, if you can bear it, of “The Governor’s Wife,” the now-cancelled reality cable show that starred Edwards and his family.

You might say, “If Edwin Edwards wants the attention, why shouldn’t he have it?” I guess you’d be right. If he wants to make a fool of himself, that’s certainly his right.

But he cannot run for office and truthfully tell us he really cares about Louisiana. If he cared about us, he’d stay home and raise his child. If he cared, he’d go fishing. If he cared, he’d ask for forgiveness for making us a national laughingstock for so many years.

Not content with the damage he has already done, Edwards is back for more.

His candidacy will make national news. The national media will flock to Baton Rouge to cover the story. And when he makes the runoff, every national news outlet in the country will report it.

And the rest of the country will laugh at us. They’ll say, “Look at those ignorant, corruption-tolerating idiots.”

So, laugh at Edwards’ jokes if you like. Snicker at the idea of an 86-year-old ex-con running for Congress with his infant son at his side.

It’s all quite entertaining.

Except, the joke’s on us.

* * *

I originally stated that Edwards cannot vote for himself. That may not be accurate. According to a source at the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office, “If he has taken to the registrar his documentation from the Bureau of Prisons attesting that he is no longer under an order of imprisonment for the conviction of a felony, then his voting rights are restored.”

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17 Responses to Shameless: Edwin Edwards and his farcical campaign for Congress

  1. Stephen Winham says:

    Jim Brown, himself a former federal prison resident, stated on Jim Engster’s show this morning that Edwin Edwards can vote because he has completed his sentence (and, by inference, doesn’t need a pardon). Could he be right and everybody else wrong?

    Edwards’ participation in “The Governor’s Wife” should have been personally embarrassing to him – As you imply, it was hard to watch. On the other hand, I’m sure he would find nothing about today or the rest of his congressional campaign as embarrassing to him or Louisiana. If the likely scenario you present ensues, he will get the limelight he seeks until the vote when Louisiana’s image could actually be burnished.


  2. Angie says:

    I was about to say the same thing, Stephen. I believe Louisiana is one of 20 states that automatically restore someone’s right to vote once they have completed their sentence (including supervised probation, etc.)

    So i believe Mr. Brown is correct. Mr. Edwards can vote for himself.


  3. Swede White says:

    Prof. Mann, didn’t you just write not too long ago something to the effect of the following? Have you now changed your mind or your angle in approaching this?

    This will actually assist Sen. Landrieu in defeating Rep. Cassidy because Edwards will drive up the turnout from the black community and others who support Edwards and Landrieu but may have not been as motivated to go out and vote. Guess what? Now they are.

    It’s political maneuvering in the larger game of politics. Yes, District 6 is not statewide, but any extra vote from that district that can be thrown toward Landrieu will help her win, and that’s what this is about.

    Have you now changed your mind or your angle in approaching this?

    Is this incorrect analysis on my part?


    • Swede White says:

      Apologies for the double sentence in there. I copied and pasted instead of cut and paste.


    • Robert Mann says:

      You surely understand the difference between observing the impact that Edwards’ candidacy might have as opposed to approving it. I observed that if Edwards runs it will drive up black turnout for Mary Landrieu in the 6th district. That’s still my belief. I don’t see how stating the obvious means that I thought Edwards should run for office. I can think something is a mistake and still comment on a consequence of that mistake. You do understand the difference, right?


    • Always something in the shadows in seems……


  4. Sue Romero says:

    I live in Orleans Parish, so his is not my district, but I would certainly vote for him if I were in his district. Edwin Edwards will vote with the citizens’ healthcare in mind…he won’t be one of the anti-Social Security crowd, and he will protect Medicare and the needs of the disabled and the elderly…..he won’t be with the Tea Party crowd that seems to be taking over Louisiana’s House and possibly Senate seats…..Embarrassing? Shameful? Hell no……Louisiana’s dramatic turn to the Right in the face of our poverty and pollution and uninsured citizens left out in the cold by the GOP….now, THAT’S what I call shameful!


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  6. Get the popcorn….I cannot wait to see how this is going to play out.


  7. PB says:

    Not that this is really the issue you are writing about, but Edwards doesn’t seem to realize that expanding Medicaid is part of Obamacare. His need for attention is just plain depressing and cringe inducing.


  8. Bryan Krantz says:

    In purely political terms, isn’t this all about the $$$? He can now raise funds and enjoy the benefits of using his campaign fund to the extent of the law. He can leverage the funds to aid his agenda. He will be a viable candidate and so the candidacy is legitimate. He can leverage his participation in the election to his advantage to trade favors to the benefit of other candidates running in the same district or shared area races. Even if many will revile his participation in the process, this looks like a shrewd move by Edwards to be re-employed. Even if he loses he can still raise funds for other potential races or causes.


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  10. This will be the most craptastic election since 1991. I (gratefully) live in Nebraska now, and I have to say y’all pay a hell of a price for the rest of our amusement.

    You write:

    “But he cannot run for office and truthfully tell us he really cares about Louisiana. If he cared about us, he’d stay home and raise his child. If he cared, he’d go fishing. If he cared, he’d ask for forgiveness for making us a national laughingstock for so many years.”

    The key part of your post is when you said he’ll make the runoff, which he probably will. Given that likely reality, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in the stars . . . ” etc., and so on.


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