Scott Innes, a local country music disc jockey and professional voice actor ' he has voiced both Shaggy and Scooby Doo in several straight-to-video features ' places a red-and-black yard sign in Kershaw's hands and directs him to a corner of the banquet room. "Wait, wait," Kershaw says, fiddling with the sign. "You got to tilt it a little so it don't shine, right? We know how to do that kind of stuff in the business."
It's Hollywood, baby. Well, not really. It's the Hayride, cher, a completely different beast, but Kershaw insists he is serious and in it to win it. "We need some good leadership and someone to promote the state," he says. "My top priority will be ethics reform. You know, the first thing people want to talk about backstage after my shows is corruption in Louisiana. I want to change that. That's why I'm running."
A native and resident of Vermilion Parish, Kershaw topped country music charts during the 1990s and has been on the public radar ever since. In 2001, he married Lorrie Morgan, a sultry crooner with comparable chops in the twang biz, thus gifting the tabloids with another star-crossed couple to cover. These days, though, Kershaw is running for lieutenant governor as a Republican. He says he is fully aware that his celebrity ' and nothing else ' serves as his entry point to most voters, as compared to a central campaign theme or plank.
When folks on the campaign trail ask for a song, Kershaw obliges (he prefers Randy Newman's "Louisiana 1927"). Earlier in his Baton Rouge swing, Kershaw forgot the final word in "God Bless America" during a performance at a candidate forum, but he still rocked it harder than any other pol, which is easy to do when you're the lone rocker. "When I'm on stage for an hour and a half, it's my stage and I talk about what I want to talk about. It's all about promoting the state and I've been promoting this state for 20 years and I'll keep doing it. I'll be talking about positive stuff up there," says Kershaw, who has 17 tour dates remaining for the year, almost exclusively in southern states, according to his Web site.
Theatrics aside, Kershaw has ideas ' big ideas. He communicates them in a forceful way, as strictly business, which could come in handy when dealing with gruff lawmakers. Kershaw wants to revive the old Louisiana Hayride, a national radio and touring show from 1948 to 1960 that boasted the likes of Elvis Presley and Hank Williams. In its heyday, it launched careers and held as much sway as the Grand Ole Opry. Performances could be staged on a 24-hour television network owned by the state that "showcases Louisiana all day long," competing against other channels on satellite or other means. The concept might give lawmakers pause, however, especially with the Football Network still fresh in their minds. In 2005, the state provided millions of dollars in subsidies to the Baton Rouge-based channel, only to watch it flounder months after being launched.
Kershaw also recommends putting more advertising dollars into hunting and fishing promotions, restoring old theaters and spending as much money on other areas of the state as New Orleans traditionally enjoys. He says he knows of "hundreds of places" where retirement communities could be built alongside Louisiana lakes and envisions a Branson-like tourist trap environment that could come up alongside the burgeoning music industry he foretells. "I just found out they are building a huge water park in Rayne," Kershaw says. "There's the anchor for the city. We're talking real money here ' folding money."
And then there's the tabloid gossip, which has been scooped up by the mainstream press recently. Kershaw filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in February for an amount ranging from $100,001 to $1 million ' court documents only specify broad ranges. The debts are primarily business-related, linked to the Sammy Kershaw Fan Club, Samuel P. Kershaw Foundation of Acadiana, SJB Inc. and Hotchickens.com, a restaurant business that went bust. The proceedings revealed the debts are owed to banks, credit card companies, lawyers, the Internal Revenue Service and others.
Morgan, meanwhile, has confirmed to CNN's Larry King that she formerly dated Fred Thompson before marrying Kershaw. Thompson, a former U.S. senator and working actor from Tennessee, is vying to become the Republican candidate for president and has led many all-GOP polls, although at press time he had not yet entered the race. But for now, Kershaw has other names to worry about.
Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, a Crescent City Democrat, is running for re-election with $477,000 in the bank. He has yet to lift a finger to do any heavy fund raising, and his political organization is leaps ahead of Kershaw. State Rep. Gary Beard, a Baton Rouge Republican, has likewise expressed interest in running but has been facing media scrutiny and a lawsuit from a Lafayette company in connection with his company's dealings with state-sponsored movie tax credits. The lingering questions surely put Kershaw in a better place politically as a Republican contender than he was earlier this year.
Kershaw only has about $100,000 in his campaign war chest, but a number of "high-ticket" events are on the books and money should be coming in soon, he says. Commercials have already been cut, he adds, and the volunteer list has swollen to 800 names. Sure, he's following in the footsteps of country singer Jimmie Davis, who ultimately became governor, and Cajun fiddle master Doug Kershaw, his third cousin who also made a bid, unsuccessfully, to become Louisiana's lieutenant governor, but Sammy Kershaw argues that he only wants to serve. If elected, he'll keep touring and playing music, he says, but his focus will shift to Louisiana's needs and not his own. "This is not a publicity stunt," he pleads. "I am not a career politician. I am very serious about this."
A group supporting taxpayer-funded private school tuition vouchers is appealing a federal judge's order that Louisiana must provide regular reports to federal officials on the state's voucher program.
The Discovery Channel has canceled reality TV star Will Hayden's popular "Sons of Guns" show after his arrest on an aggravated rape charge.
The LPSB will finally hear from the attorney it hired to investigate the superintendent at a special meeting Thursday at 4 p.m.
Authorities are investigating a report that a student there warned the principal of impending violence similar to that depicted in the movie "The Purge."
Saints cornerback Champ Bailey has played for more than a handful of playoff teams during a career that has seen him selected to 12 Pro Bowls.
Police say a 56-year-old Lafayette man walking behind a dump truck died when the truck hit him as it was backing up.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Fifa under fire for fake turf plans; freed journalist back home; corporate conversions rising and more national and international news for Wednesday, August 27, 2014.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is a proud papa of new baby girl.
The books on Louisiana's last budget year have been closed, but it took a bit of borrowing from this year to make the numbers work.
The Iberia Parish Coroner responded Monday to the attention surrounding the questionable shooting of Victor White III, a black man from New Iberia who died April 2 while in the custody of local law enforcement.
Two months after lawmakers agreed to create a $40 million higher education incentive fund, no decisions have been made about how to divide the money.
With Drew Brees back healthy, the New Orleans Saints are free to work on the little things that can make the difference between a Super Bowl run and something less.
Incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and her lead GOP challenger Congressman Bill Cassidy are running close when it comes to money. Landrieu has $5.5 million to Cassidy’s $5.6 million in the bank.
With expectations mounting that Gov. Bobby Jindal will soon announce his campaign for president, attention is turning to not only who he will bring along with him but also what will transpire politically back home during the transition.
Seven of the 11 U.S. cities in a new ranking of “most dangerous diets” are in the Bayou and Lone Star states, but the ranking is more about poverty than fried oysters.
Lafayette police are investigating a fatal shooting involving an alleged burglar and homeowner.
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham got the message from the NFL. He's not dunking footballs over goal posts any more.
With qualifying over, the start of campaign season is official, and for the Lafayette Parish School Board, the race toward Nov. 4 will pit 20 candidates in battles for all 9 of the district’s available seats.
An abortion rights organization has filed the first court challenge to a Louisiana law that would require doctors who perform abortions to be able to admit patients to a nearby hospital.
U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister started his sign-up for re-election Friday the same as any other candidate, filling out paperwork and handing over cash to pay his qualifying fee. But he finished it quite differently, doused with ice.
The recent release of Victor White III’s autopsy report could spell trouble, as it tells a much different story of his death than the one told five months ago by the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office.
“Candidates for Congress and members of Congress spend between 30 and 70 percent of their time raising money to get back to Congress or to get their party back into power.”
Over the last four days of the trial against attorney Daniel Stanford, there’s been one notable absence from Judge Elizabeth Foote’s courtroom: attorney Bill Goode.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees and wide receiver Nick Toon are not on the same page yet, and time is running short for Toon to get it right.