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La.’s Democratic chair takes issue with her counterpart

28th January 2013   ·   0 Comments

The decades-long policy of detante between Louisiana’s two party chairmen came to an abrupt end when Chairwoman Karen Carter Peterson sent out an email entitled Villere’s “Dishonest, Disrespectful Attack.”

In an press release the previous weekend, LAGOP Chairman Villere had challenged Sen. Mary Landrieu to cancel her Jan. 26 fundraising event with Presi­dent’s “point man on gun for Gun Control” Vice President Joe Biden with the words, “Senator Landrieu’s plan to hold an event in Louisiana featuring ‘gun-grabbin’ Joe Biden is a slap in the face to every Louisiana citizen who believes in the U.S. Constitution. I call on Senator Landrieu to cancel this event and to inform Mr. Biden that he is not welcome in Louisiana, where we still support the rule of law.”

“Senator Landrieu has already violated her oath of office to support the Constitution by casting the deciding vote for Obamacare and stealing money from Medicare recipients to do so,” he said. “Now is Mary Landrieu’s chance to stand up for the people of Louisiana and the Second Amendment, instead of slapping us again by hosting Biden at this very sensitive time in our nation’s history.”

Villere aggressively deriding Louisiana’s Democratic U.S. Senator is no more new than Carter Peterson’s many castigations of David Vitter. However, neither she nor the LAGOP Chair had ever targeted one another. In fact, no party chair had attacked his or her counterpart in the Pelican State in decades—if ever.

The La. Democratic Chair-woman no more tempered her words in response towards the LAGOP head than Villere had against Landrieu. “This ridiculous and dishonest attack comes not 24 hours after our country and our Congress came together to host the inauguration of President Obama and Vice President Biden for their second term. Louisiana has hosted Presidents and Vice Presidents of the United States of both parties and has always made them feel welcomed regardless of people’s views on different subjects of importance. It would be a sad day for such a respected and distinguished person as Vice President Joe Biden to feel unwelcome in our state, particularly after all this Administration has done to help the people of Louisiana.”

“After just leaving our nation’s capitol to witness real, meaningful coming together of both political parties to honor our form of government, it is sad that the Louisiana GOP Chair would be this inhospitable and completely wrong on so many points… and we wonder why things don’t get done in Washington.”

Things were certainly getting done in Charlotte this past weekend, however. The members of the Republican National Com­mittee at their Winter Meeting were in an active fight over a set of rules enacted at the national convention last summer that forced delegates pledged to a certain candidate (like Mitt Romney) to vote for that candidate at nomination time. It was a rule change directly aimed at Congressman Ron Paul who had worked to swing delegates elected for Romney in many caucus and primary states to his side.

The Tea Party delegates view the regulation as a straight-jacket on the independence of the grassroots activists, and an attempt for the establishment wing of the GOP to stop insurgencies. The leadership countered that it was necessary to keep interparty spats down to a minimum, and concentrate on the Democrats.

Villere played a prominent role in the deliberations. He is a favorite of the grassroots, but had warded off such an effort by the Paulistas last summer. And, he got sued for it.

Here in Louisiana, supporters of Ron Paul attempted to take over the nominating delegations won by Romney (and former candidate Rick Santorum) at the La. State Conven-tion, re-gardless of the results of last spring’s GOP primary.

The at­tempt, fueled by activists flooding an otherwise pro-forma state convention, nearly succeeded. It was forestalled by the Louisiana GOP leadership going to the unusual step of removing the Paul supporting delegates in favor of Romney backers. As LAGOP Chairman Roger Villere explained to The Louisiana Weekly at the time, the delegates elected at this summer’s state convention could have kept their seats at the convention in Tampa, if only they pledged to back Romney. (Senator Santorum has already pledged his delegates to the presumptive nominee.) However, they refused to make such a pledge.

Ultimately, this embroiled Villere and the LAGOP in a major court battle. Washington attorneys David Warrington and Lee Goodman of LeClairRyan were retained by the national Ron Paul campaign to handle delegates challenges in Louisiana, Massa­chusetts and Oregon, and to defend Paul delegates from a challenge in Maine. Chairman Villere posits the suit stems Paul’s Campaign “contesting [Louisiana] delegates.” And, he adds, “They are challenging convention delegates,” which will “go to a contest committee in Washington” and possibly other committees thereafter, but they won’t likely succeed.

Warrington and Lee targeted Villere specifically in a 21-page brief, saying, the rules the Chairman “attempted to impose were draconian and more characteristic of a North Korean politburo than a democratic American political party.”

Villere claims that the hyperbole was more about Ron Paul attempting to wreck Mitt Rom­ney’s chances, and position themselves for the 2016 nominations. “I think the endgame [was that] they wanted Ron Paul’s name put in nomination to make everything they did legitimate,” explained Villere. Yet, the LAGOP leader’s quick work of the Paulista’s bid made that effectively impossible, something that his peers also noticed.

Several believe that the Na­tional Republican Party needs to replace Reince Priebus, and Villere’s willingness to fight seems to make a difference who that replacement should be. That, and Bobby Jindal’s words calling the Washington Republicans “stupid” made a major impression in Charlotte this weekend, even as Priebus managed to earn re-election. Louisiana was on the rise.

As evidence of his stature, and little noted by the Louisiana media, Villere was named RNC Vice Chairman just a few months ago, making him seemingly an heir apparent to Priebus.

In Louisiana, there are 1.4 million registered Democrats and 789,000 registered Republicans. Even though a Republican holds every major state office, such uneven numbers might concern the state leader of a party outnumbered by more than 500,000 registered voters. According to Villere, it is a non-issue: “We are growing in our registration and [Democrats] are dropping.” In addition, Villere cites the open-primary process, which allows voters of any party to vote for any candidate of their choosing. As a result, many registered democrats vote Repub­lican and identify themselves as Republican, but never bother to change their official party affiliation.

This article was originally published in the January 28, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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