Jim Beam column: ‘The shoe is on the other foot’

Published 7:13 am Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Louisiana’s trial lawyers have been longtime supporters of Democrats while the companies they often sue for others have been able to count on support from Republicans. However, in the upcoming Oct. 14 gubernatorial primary “the shoe is on the other foot.”

I looked up the meaning of that saying to be sure it was accurate, and it definitely fits. It means a situation has been reversed completely, so that the person who was in the better position before is now in the worse one.

The Advocate explained the current situation well when it said big donations from trial lawyers helped power Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards to victory in the 2015 and 2019 governor’s races. This time, though, they have raised what the newspaper said was at least $700,000 to help elect Republican state Attorney General Jeff Landry.

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Shawn Wilson, the state’s former secretary of transportation and major Democratic candidate for governor, was expected to get trial lawyer support this time around. He’s now the person in the worst condition.

James Gill, an acidic writer for The Advocate/The Times-Picayune, said in a recent column, “Trial attorneys in Louisiana are not hidebound by political principle or party loyalty.”

Although they supported Edwards, Gill said now they are “gung-ho” for Landry, “who seems determined that no other candidate will beat him to the conservative fringe of the GOP.” Gill said money is more likely the determining factor.

Isn’t money the determining factor most of the time? I have often been amused to hear some politicians say they aren’t swayed by political contributions.

Gill’s final words were, “Trial attorneys have long enjoyed the status of bogeyman in these parts, money-grubbers with no motive nobler than grabbing 40% of any settlement. But if there is anything wrong with that, we might as well give up on the idea of America.”

State Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, and a candidate for governor, was apparently right on target after candidates qualified. She criticized Landry for siding with trial lawyers instead of oil and gas companies in coastal lawsuits, which she said has pushed high-paying jobs to Texas.

Republican Stephen Waguespack, a candidate and former president and CEO of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, said, “A governor must always do right by the people. You can’t save energy jobs or lower insurance costs for families if you sell out to the big trial lawyers, and it is clear the Landry campaign is doing just that.”

Other surprise support for Landry has come from U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy,  R-Baton Rouge. Political analysts told The Advocate that Cassidy is trying to repair his standing among Republicans more than closeness to Landry.

Cassidy voted to impeach former President Donald Trump and voted to convict him, and Trump is a major Landry supporter. As one Republican said, “Bill had to do what he had to do.”

After qualifying, Hewitt also called the AG “no-show Landry” for shunning campaign forums. Landry has cancelled another one, a Thursday debate at WWL-TV in New Orleans because one of its organizers is the Urban League of Louisiana.

Landry’s communications director said, “Media reports say their programs elected Democrats and their leadership and lobbying has been anti-Trump, anti-Second Amendment, and soft on crime which is devastating our cities and rural communities.”

Shawn Wilson said Louisiana voters, “including the millions of African Americans who call this state home, recognize Landry’s refusal to debate before the Urban League for what it is — a thinly-veiled dog whistle that proves the attorney general is only interested in representing the people who will give him a free pass.”

Wilson, Waguespack, Hewitt and the other major candidates plan to participate as they have done since the beginning.

Hunter Lundy, an independent from Lake Charles, said,  “Landry has been dodging debates all summer because he simply doesn’t have any vision to share. Voters are tired of this type of disingenuous gamesmanship and partisan distraction.”

Republican state Treasurer John Schroder said “running away from answering questions is not the kind of leadership we need in Baton Rouge.”

When the state Ethics Board said several free plane flights taken by Landry from supporters were questionable, Landry stole a page from Trump, his idol. He labeled the charge “election interference,” and blamed Gov. Edwards, who appoints the board members.

Much of Landry’s support comes from those who always like to support and vote for winners. He is the presumed winner, but as we said before, Landry hasn’t won this election yet.