March 18, 2014

AP’s Coverage of Edwin Edwards’ La. Congressional Candidacy Puts No Pressure on Dems For Apparently Allowing It

Former Louisiana Governor and convicted felon Edwin Edwards now wants to be the Bayou State’s Sixth District congressman — as a Democrat.

In his coverage of Edwards’ improbable but obviously not impossible candidacy, Associated Press reporter Kevin McGill simply took it for granted that Edwards can appear on the November ballot as a Democrat. That shouldn’t be automatic, as a recent example from next door neighbor Alablama demonstrates. Excerpts and discussion follow the jump:


First, from McGill’s AP report (bolds are mine throughout this post):

EDWIN EDWARDS RUNNING FOR CONGRESS IN LOUISIANA

EdwinEdwardsWide2014

Three years after his release from a federal prison, 86-year-old former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards announced Monday that he will enter the race for Louisiana’s 6th Congressional District, ending months of speculation about his political future.

Edwards made the announcement at a meeting of the Press Club of Baton Rouge. He entered a crowded meeting room with his third wife, Trina, more than 50 years his junior. He pushed a baby carriage with their infant son, Eli Wallace Edwards, born last August.

He assured reporters and supporters that he is eligible for congressional office despite his criminal conviction in 2000.

… A lifelong Democrat, he sounded as though he was shaping a platform aimed at swaying voters in a conservative district that leans Republican. He backs the Keystone XL oil pipeline. He was critical of Democratic President Barack Obama’s health care law, saying it was “fraught with pitfalls” and failed to allow people to keep insurance policies they like.

Still, he embraced parts of the law, including prohibitions against denying insurance to people because of pre-existing conditions. And he said he would work to reverse Gov. Bobby Jindal’s refusal to accept expanded Medicaid coverage under that law, saying working poor people and the unemployed need such coverage.

Edwards is running for a seat being vacated by Republican Bill Cassidy, who is running for Senate against incumbent Democrat U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu. The 6th District is considered a strong GOP base.

… Edwards served two terms as governor in the 1970s. He was re-elected in 1983 and made another comeback for a fourth term in 1991, overcoming scandals of prior years to defeat David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader …

McGill should at least have explained to readers that Edwards does qualify to run under the Constitution’s provisions, which only require that the candidate be 25 years old, a citizen of the U.S. for at least the past seven years, a resident of the state involved.

McGill also failed to note that just because Edwards wants to run as a Democrat, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the party will allow him to run.

In Alabama in July of last year, convicted felon Stephen Nodine attempted to run as a Republican in that state First District special election primary. Nodine asserted that he had every right to run for Congress, but in a rare example of competent analysis, Politifact only rated his claim “mostly true.” Why? Because Nodine’s ability to run as a Republican was not a given:

… Republican officials in Alabama have not embraced his candidacy.

… when Nodine says he can run, he’s right. But getting his name on the ballot is a different matter.

… Nodine is an ardent Republican and should he run, he plans to compete in the GOP primary in a special election to fill the seat of Rep. Jo Bonner, R- Ala., who will resign in mid August. Nodine isn’t slated for release until more than a year after that.

But the Alabama Republican Party chairman, Bill Armistead, vowed that Nodine won’t get very far.

“I can tell you that as chair, I see no circumstances where I would support a convicted felon being a candidate for the Republican Party,” Armistead said.

The state GOP has its own rules for qualifying candidates. To run as a Republican, a person must affirm, “I have not been convicted of a felony under the laws of the United States or of another state.” Nodine unambiguously falls short.

“This would be stopped at the time of an attempt to qualify,” Armistead said.

Armistead said he’s confident that the party has the right to determine who may participate in its own primary. He said when Democrats tried to run as Republicans, party leaders blocked them with no challenge. On the other hand, he said he’s never faced this exact situation before.

The issue is whether a state party could exclude a person who would otherwise pass muster by federal standards. We asked a few experts in election law for their opinions, and while their views vary, Nodine clearly has his work cut out for him.

Wikipedia’s entry on the First District race indicates that Nodine ultimately “declined” to run.

Obviously, the question of whether Louisiana’s Democratic Party can, will, or is forced to stand by while a convicted felon runs for Congress under their party’s banner is an open one. McGill should have pursued it. I daresay that if a Republican candidate of similar infamy were to make such an attempt, the state’s party Chairman and maybe even House Speaker John Boehner would have their phones ringing off the hook and their email boxes overflowing with calls and messages from reporters seeking comment on such a candidacy.

Louisiana is unique in this respect:

… a Congressional primary election is not held. The election for candidates seeking Federal office is the General Election scheduled for 11/04/14. If necessary, a Runoff Election will be held on 12/06/14. The filing deadline for ballot access is 8/22/2014.

But that doesn’t automatically mean that political parties can’t prevent candidates from campaigning under their party’s banner.

Until we see a Democratic Party leader directly and publicly address the matter, Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds has a valid point, especially given that the race only has only one other Democratic candidate thus far, and he’s a political novice:

Remember when Nancy Pelosi said we needed to “drain the swamp” in Washington? Instead, the Dems are recycling crooked pols from the Bayou State.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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