All of these lofty expectations may be premature after Fayard’s controversial comments last Thursday to the Washington Parish Democratic Party banquet in Bogalusa. In her address, Fayard lambasted Republicans as “cruel and destructive.” She also claimed she hated Republicans because they “eat their young. They don’t think. They don’t allow people to think. They are bullies.” These strong comments were made in front of a reporter from The Daily News of Bogalusa and soon became statewide news. While she crafted her incendiary remarks to appeal to a local, partisan Democratic Party crowd, the impact of her remarks will be felt across the state.
Obviously, Fayard needs to apologize for her comments, which don’t reflect well on her character. They also run counter to my impression of the pleasant, good natured person who appeared as a panelist on Politics with a Punch in December. During the show, she was very friendly and a good sport and never exuded any hatred towards me or the other Republicans in the audience.
To win any statewide office in Louisiana, a candidate needs to build a coalition of Republicans, Democrats and Independents. This challenge has become especially difficult in Louisiana for Democrats. In recent years, the Democrats have lost a number of high profile races in Louisiana. Back in 2006, the vast majority of statewide offices were held by Democrats, but times have certainly changed. Today, the only statewide elected Democrat is U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu. There are many reasons for this shift in political power in Louisiana. Republicans have benefited from the population displacement after Hurricane Katrina as more Democrats left the state following the horrific storm. Also, the controversial policies of President Barack Obama have not been well received in the state, thereby hurting the fortunes of Louisiana Democrats.
Prior to her controversial speech, Fayard was seen as a rising star in the Democratic Party and a candidate who could possibly attract crossover votes. In her race for Lt. Governor last year, Fayard performed reasonably well for a first time candidate and received 43 percent of the vote. In the election, she did receive votes from a broad array of supporters, including Republicans.
In light of her controversial remarks, Fayard’s future efforts to win GOP support may become more difficult. It will certainly be an issue raised by the Louisiana Republican Party. In the aftermath of her speech, Louisiana Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere blasted Fayard’s remarks as “driven by hate.” The state GOP leader said that Fayard is now “wholly unfit for public office.” While they are condemning her comments, the state GOP is also making light of her remarks by giving away “Caroline Fayard Hates Me” bumper stickers.
If Fayard runs this fall, voters will have a chance to determine the impact of her remarks and the accuracy of Villere’s comments. Whatever her ultimate decision about this fall, Fayard’s condemnation of the GOP will give her an additional hurdle to overcome in this conservative state. If she decides to challenge Governor Jindal, her candidacy will be viewed as even more of a long shot effort.
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