By Robert Mann
The past year was the wildest and most unpredictable in my 30-plus years of observing Louisiana politics. Besides the entertainment value, 2015 was a humbling 12 months, especially for those of us who were certain that a Democrat could never be elected governor. (I’m happy I’m not a betting man.)
With the year almost done, it’s time for my second annual Good, Bad and Ugly in Louisiana Politics Awards. The competition was fierce. In almost every category, I could have chosen any of three or four nominees. I present here my choices for achievement in 10 categories. (Thanks to those who submitted nominations.)
Most Courage: Stephen Perry. In May, under the guise of “religious freedom,” Gov. Bobby Jindal issued an appalling and legally questionable executive order purporting to give state and local officials license to discriminate against same-sex couples. While most convention, tourism and chamber executives initially dived for cover, one valiant leader stood tall and set the pace for the few souls who eventually spoke up. Perry, CEO of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau (also one of Jindal’s appointees to the LSU Board), promptly issued a strongly worded condemnation of the order.
Most Cowardice: Louisiana Legislators. During the 2015 legislative session, most legislators opposed an immediate expansion of Medicaid for Louisiana’s working poor under provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Sen. Ben Nevers pushed the bill in the Senate while state Rep. John Bel Edwards proposed the same legislation in the House. Now that Edwards is governor-elect and Nevers is his chief of staff, many of those cowardly legislators have suddenly seen the light. Most cannot wait to expand Medicaid.
Shameless Ambition: Bobby Jindal. For abandoning Louisiana for most of his second term while he indulged the folly that was his embarrassing and poorly managed presidential campaign, this category will hereafter be known as the “Bobby Jindal Shameless Ambition Award.”
Most Embarrassing Statement: Attorney General Buddy Caldwell. When I heard his concession speech on election night, my first thought was that Caldwell was sloshed. It appears he was not drunk, only belligerent. Prospective political candidates should study his bitter, rambling and incoherent speech as a master class in how to end a campaign in the most insolent manner possible. Among Caldwell’s incomprehensible statements was this jewel: “Out of the largest pile of manure, grows the prettiest flower.”
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