Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Last Hurrah: Edwin Edwards is Back

The Last Hurrah was a best selling political novel published in 1956 and an outstanding movie in 1958. The 72 year old Mayor Frank Skeffington was running for a fifth term.Time had past the old New Deal, machine politician. The plot is playing out in Louisiana. Edwin Edwards, the former Congressman, the former Governor, the ex-con is back. Edwin Edwards, the incorrigible, irascible, irrepressible gambler, philanderer, and raconteur is seeking redemption. Edwin Edwards, the fertile octogenarian, wishes to prove he still has it. Edwin Edwards, the non-Creole Creole, is ineligible to vote as a convicted felon, but he can run for Congress. He is seeking election to the open Sixth Congressional District in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The District is heavily Republican, but he just might do it as a liberal, licentious Democrat under Louisiana’s election system where all candidates run on a single ballot. He simply explains: “I am the only hope the Democrats have.” If no candidate receives at least a majority of the votes cast, then the top two will run off in a special election. If it comes down to the reformer or a Republican, mano-a-mano, Edwin Edwards could find redemption. He is seeking election against a score of Republicans, who will probably split the Republican vote, allowing him a clear path to the runoff. One-on-one anything goes. His traditional coalition of Creoles, African Americans and labor could turn out for his last hurrah. He told the Life Baptist Church congregation in Baton Rouge that “My God is not finished with me yet.” Praise be to God. Edwin Edwards was often the most popular politician in Louisiana. He only lost one election in his career. He uttered these famous words during his 1983 campaign: ”The only way I can lose this election is if I’m caught in bed with a dead girl or live boy.” Voters overlooked his reputation for ethical imperfection. He was one of the first established Democratic politicians in the South to embrace civil rights for African Americans. The politician was born in 1927. He served in Congress from 1965 – 1972. He was elected to four terms as Governor, from 1972-1980, 1984-1988, and 1992-1996. Edwin Edwards was sometimes lucky in his opponents. His 1991 Republican candidate was David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and a neo-Nazi. A popular campaign bumper sticker was “Vote for the crook. It’s important.” Federal prosecutors unsuccessfully pursued him for years, but finally convicted him in 2001 of multiple counts of racketeering and corruption. The gist of the charges was that he sought kickbacks for licensing riverboat casinos in Louisiana. Among the accused bribers was Edward G. DeBartolo, Jr., then owner of the champion San Francisco 49ers. The former governor served time in the federal pen from October 2002 to January 2011. 2013 was a significant year for the 86 year old reprobate. He was released from parole in February 2013, and wasted no time in running for Congress. He had previously married his third wife, Trina, a few years earlier. Trina, a Republican, was only 51 years younger than him, being born in August 1978. She delivered their child, Eli Wallace Edwards, on August 1, 2013. The Edwards started a reality show on October 27, 2013, “The Governor’s Wife.” He responded, when asked about electing crooked politicians: “People say, well, they’re all crooks anyway. You might as well send an experienced one.” What a Final Hurrah it would be! Edwin Edwards cannot vote in Louisiana, but he may vote in Congress.

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