Friday, July 23, 2010

Traylor Vs. Vitter: The Republicans' Summer of Slime

Louisiana Republicans have a stark choice to make in next month's party primary election for one of the state's U.S. Senate seats. They can vote to elect the candidate who has a long string of allegations of his involvement with prostitutes; or, they can vote to elect the candidate who has been a one-man wrecking crew of marriages in one prominent northeast Louisiana political family.

And that's just what the mainstream press is reporting about the two GOP front runners — Senator David Vitter and former Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Chet Traylor!

Welcome to the Louisiana Republican Party's Summer of Slime, Family Values in the Senate primary edition!

As we all know, Vitter has been accused of using prostitutes throughout his service in public office — from Baton Rouge to New Orleans to DC, from his days in the Louisiana Legislature, to his stint representing Louisiana's First District in Congress. His phone number showed up in the phone records of the late Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the "DC Madam" in a scandal that erupted in the summer of 2007. The operator of a Canal Street Brothel in New Orleans said Vitter was a customer. Then, a woman who worked as a prostitute under the alias of "Wendy Cortez" said Vitter was a client of hers as well.

Just when it appeared that Vitter might have at least cleared the political damage resulting from those revelations and allegations, along came the Brent Furer matter. In that case, Vitter (six months after his prostitution eruptions peaked) decided to keep on his staff a man who had held a woman in an apartment against her will and stabbed her. Vitter then made that man Furer his staff member responsible for women's issues. That percolated in the background for a couple of years until word broke that Furer had other issues with women that involved alcohol, drugs and violence, or various combinations thereof.

Vitter has a long history of opportunism that has created an equally long list of enemies in both parties. The list of people who might have an interest in damaging his prospects in this election is long. There is no telling where the leak about Furer came from or if there are others out there with damaging information about the senator.

The Concordia Sentinel, in its endorsement of Chet Traylor in the GOP primary, suggested this week that more scandals involving Vitter could be coming to public view in the near future: "We will not engage in a rumor mongering campaign either by repeating allegations that another 'scandal' involving Vitter's personal life will surface soon."

No, they won't engage in rumor mongering. They will just mention that someone might be doing that now and, gawd forbid, it might make its way into the public discourse. But, it will not appear first in their pages. Vitter must be thankful.

Vitter's well-oiled slime machine (his political role model appears to be ex-Texas Congressman and roach killer Tom De Lay), has had a busy two weeks. They have filled the mainstream media with stories about how Traylor allegedly wrecked the marriage of perennial Democratic officeholder Noble Ellington and the marriage of one of Ellington's sons.

Traylor trail through the Ellingtons goes something like this: he married Noble Ellington's wife Peggy after (Ellington says) the affair the two were having broke up the Ellingtons' marriage; Peggy Traylor died some years later. According to the Monroe News Star, "Traylor is also currently involved in a romantic relationship with Denise Lively, the estranged wife of his stepson, Ryan Ellington, the son of Noble Ellington."

Topping it off is a lawsuit, uh, well, better let the News Star explain it:
Ryan and Noble Ellington III, both of Winnsboro, filed a lawsuit against Traylor last month in Fifth Judicial District Court stating that in the months since the death of their mother, Peggy McDowell Traylor, in August 2009, Traylor has resisted efforts by the sons to collect information on their mother’s estate and to take possession of some of her property.
Noble Ellington III and Ryan Ellington’s lawsuit asks the court to compel Traylor to turn over bank records, their mother’s property and other relevant financial records.
Peggy McDowell Traylor died without a will.

The wife of a Supreme Court justice died without a will. The man in charge of women's issues for a United States Senator with women's issues of his own had serious women's issues of his own.

The fun will not necessarily end there.

If Vitter gets really desperate, he'll probably zero in on Traylor's campaign manager Lev Dawson and his family. Dawson is a former founder of Valence Technology, a company that started out as a research and development company that has found an apparently prosperous niche for itself in the field of lithium battery technology. According to his website, Dawson is still active in technology, serving on the board of directors of Network Foundation Technologies, LLC, "whose NiFTyTV product promises to revolutionize online broadcasting by dramatically reducing the costs associated with large-scale live webcasting." According to the Louisiana Secretary of State, Network Foundation Technologies, LLC, is domiciled in Beverly Hills, CA, with its main office in Ruston, LA.

Dawson heads up Richland Parish's Dawson Farms, the largest sweet potato farm in Louisiana and one of the largest in the United States. Dawson used his connections to land at least $32 million in financial support from Governor Bobby Jindal's Louisiana Economic Development Department to help land a ConAgra sweet potato processing facility in 2009. Jindal, as has been frequently noted, knows how to take care of his supporters and the Dawson's were heavy hitters in his 2007 gubernatorial campaign.

Dawson Farms, LLC, also contributed $25,000 to the Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority (the organization that Vitter and his wife Wendy founded) in 2007, but that was prior to Vitter's involvement in the DC Madam scandal became public.

Lev Dawson's son Seth at one time helped run Dawson Farms and, if Vitter goes after Dawson as a means to further tar Traylor, it will be the son that provides the opening.

Seth Dawson was arrested in Harrah's Casino in New Orleans on May 12 when he pulled a gun on an off-duty Orleans Parish Sheriff Deputy working security there. Dawson, in addition to helping run the family farm, was also a member of the Louisiana State Police Commission, the body that oversees the operation of the Louisiana State Police. Governor Jindal appointed him to the panel in 2008 based on a recommendation from Tulane University, according to New Orleans television station WDSU. He was also a reserve officer for the Richland Parish Sheriff's Department.

 According to the station, Dawson was booked on a number of charges:
A booking sheet from the parish jail shows Dawson was charged with illegal carrying of a weapon, violence toward an officer (resisting arrest), simple battery, disturbing the peace (public drunkenness) and remaining in place after being ordered to leave in addition to the felony count of aggravated assault on an officer.
Shortly after his son's arrest, Lev Dawson said his son suffered from a form of post traumatic stress disorder.

A desperate Vitter might pursue that line of attack but it would risk dragging Jindal closer to the race than he already is, as the ties between the Governor and the Dawson's would be a key part of attempts to discredit the entire Traylor/Dawson alliance.

People get arrested all the time. Some of them get arrested at casinos. A few of them get arrested for being drunk at casinos. A smaller number get arrested for being drunk at a casino and pulling a gun on security guards. A very small number (one?) get arrested for being drunk at a casino, pulling a gun on security guards while being a sitting member on a state commission responsible for overseeing the organization that regulates at least a part of the casino's operation (in this case the Louisiana State Police). The fact that the person arrested is the son of Vitter's opponent's campaign manager and was appointed to his commission post by the same Governor who has, thus far, refused to endorse the incumbent Republican senator.

Things can only get more interesting between now and the August 28th primary. One possible beneficiary of the rising tide of slime engulfing Traylor and Vitter is Franklin orthopedic surgeon and Republican challenger Nick Accardo. If there are still such things as Republicans who actually value "Family Values" Accardo is the only choice on the ballot for them. If the slime throwing gets too intense, it could deny any of the candidates a clear victory in the primary, forcing a run-off election on October 2.

Meanwhile, Charlie Melancon has positioned himself to take advantage of Vitter's weakness or whatever character-deficient Republican he ends up facing in the November general election. There will be 12 candidates on the ballot then, thanks to a surge in 'no party' candidates. The Libertarian and Reform parties will have candidates (the Libertarians are even having a primary!), the Democratic and Republican parties, plus eight 'no party' candidates.

With the likely Republicans emerging battered from a bitter primary fight that possibly turned off Republican women voters, it is not inconceivable that a candidate drawing in the low 40% range could walk off the winner in November. Meanwhile, get behind a safety screen and enjoy the Traylor/Vitter slime show!

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