A seemingly debateless and increasingly monotonous U.S. Senate race took an interesting turn last week thank’s to Lafayette’s own Jesse Ventura doppelganger. By Jeremy Alford
If Nick Spitzer is Louisiana’s answer to Garrison Keillor, then independent U.S. Senate candidate Mike Spears is certainly our retort to one-time Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura.They’re both bald to a shine, for starters, both sport alpha-male facial hair and neither seems to mind stepping into the ring — figuratively and literally. Spears, a Web entrepreneur from Lafayette who launched his campaign on the back of the Tea Party movement, grabbed headlines statewide last week for nothing more than a witty press release.
In it, he challenged incumbent Sen. David Vitter, a Metairie Republican, to a “modern-day duel of honor,” which of course translates to three rounds in a mixed martial arts cage fight. “I’m calling him out from behind the safety of his campaign fund, from the sanctuary of the Republican Party and the sanctuary of the special interests that fund his campaign,” said Spears, adding that “this fight will symbolize the epic battle between the American people and an out of control, tyrannical federal government and the reckless politicians at the helm.”
Congressman Charlie Melancon, a Democrat from Napoleonville who’s considered to be Vitter’s main challenger, wasn’t invited to throw down in the cage fight, which Spears contends is on the bill — just in case Vitter mans up — for USA-MMA’s “Return of the Champions” event at the Cajundome that’s scheduled for Oct. 16.
That was last Wednesday, the second day in a row that Spears landed some free media for his dark horse candidacy. During a candidate’s forum hosted by the Alliance for Good Government the preceding evening in New Orleans, Spears was responsible for the only mention of Vitter’s ties to a D.C. prostitution ring — and his accusation that the senator “broke the law” yielded him at least a paragraph in news stories around the state.
After all of the bad political blood created during the past year, it must have created an interesting vibe to have Vitter and Melancon on the same stage. Vitter, in the end, won the alliance’s endorsement, but the event itself remains as much of an issue as the topics that were discussed.
That’s because Melancon has called for five televised debates. Vitter reportedly already has a few on the books, including a WWL-TV exchange and a Tea Party gathering. Melancon argues that Tea Party engagements, which would certainly have a conservative bent, shouldn’t be counted.
Last week, The Advocate weighed in with an editorial asking the Senate frontrunners to participate in another debate being hosted by Louisiana Public Broadcasting and the Council for a Better Louisiana. The Baton Rouge daily also endorsed Melancon’s stance on the debates and denounced Vitter’s reliance in the past on pre-screened questions at his own town hall gatherings. Vitter, meanwhile, has knocked Melancon’s “new appreciation” for public debates, given the congressman’s penchant for tele-conferenced town hall meetings.
In any public exchange, Vitter’s media team will surely dread the mere mention of the D.C. prostitution ring that ensnared the senator in 2007. While it’s old hat in Louisiana and not exactly the kryptonite Dems were hoping for, it’s still not a subject that voters have heard much about directly from Vitter’s mouth. Aside from admitting a “serious sin” on the issue three years ago, he’s largely been absent on the issue.
That hasn’t been missed by the Louisiana Democratic Party and is the main reason it has received so much coverage for its latest project: ForgottenCrimes.com. The site is home to a video with tens of thousands of views, done up like a cable real-life, behind-the-crime show — and just as visually jarring at times.
The party recently hit up supporters for individual $10 donations to sponsor ad buys for the video. In it’s appeal, the party tells supporters that a “recent independent poll found that an astonishing number of likely voters in Louisiana are unaware that David Vitter admitted breaking the law but was never held accountable.”
Vitter, for his part, will continue attacking Melancon as a closet liberal. He sent an email to backers over the Labor Day break that carried the same tune the candidate has been singing about his opponent since the race jumped off last year. “Charlie Melancon will be relying on the help of his liberal friends and union allies to try to hide the fact that he votes with President (Barack) Obama 84 percent of the time,” Vitter writes.
With Vitter sitting on more than $5 million in his campaign kitty to Melancon’s $2 million, Spears — who has just $4,000 — needs all the help he can get. His company, Firefly Digital, is doing a good bit of the campaign’s design work and the candidate is personally writing his own copy and serving as the chief consultant and strategist as well, according to finance reports on file with the Louisiana Board of Ethics.
But what Spears lacks in money he more than makes up for in backstory — he was a former varsity cheerleader at UL, did a tour in Operation Desert Storm with the Louisiana National Guard, was party to the technology wave that swept over Acadiana during the past decade and is currently developing an inter-district high tech school. Also, he evidently enjoys fighting in cages.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, December 13, 2013:
The Louisiana Supreme Court has punted on its first chance to decide whether a new state constitutional provision declaring gun possession a fundamental right could void a long list of criminal statutes that regulate firearms.
New Orleans' offense, which ranks sixth in the NFL, isn't helping many of its skill players pile up Pro Bowl-type stats. Rather, the approach of coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees has enabled a wide range of play-makers to emerge periodically with high-production outings.
An ordinance phasing out a rebate businesses receive for collecting and remitting sales taxes is tabled, but it doesn’t solve the vexing issue of government revenue.
As part of a national undertaking known by industry insiders as the “Butterfly Project,” a rebranded version of The Daily Advertiser is set to launch with Sunday’s edition of the Gannett-owned paper.
Louisiana moved up a slot to 48th in the ranking of healthy states — once again, thank God for Mississippi! — so all this frettin’ about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s refusal to expand Medicaid per Obamacare ... fuggidaboutit! We don’t need Medicaid no more!
The Denham Springs woman who placed Christmas lights in the shape of a butter finger on her roof in a display of anger directed at neighbors has doubled the trouble for the 2013 holiday season.
The 30-second commercial, to run around the state, is the Democratic senator's first TV spot in her bid for re-election to a fourth term.
It's a number that has edged up but falls far short of the thousands who are eligible for subsidized coverage.
A group of mostly higher education leaders will make recommendations to state lawmakers about how to tweak the policies governing tuition rates charged at the state's public colleges.
That would be Congressman John Fleming talking about Sen. David Vitter.
The alleged mastermind behind the bribery scheme that went on for four years under DA Mike Harson’s nose isn’t just schizophrenic, bipolar and recovering from mini strokes; he now says he has cancer.
Louisiana's higher education leaders are trying to work out a financing deal to keep the state's public colleges from running low on state cash to operate their campuses.
With their latest triumph, the Saints left little doubt about how tough they are to beat in the Superdome. Unfortunately, two of their remaining three games are on the road.
For the first time in at least five years, retired teachers, state workers and school system employees could see an increase in their pension checks.
Lawmakers and Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration shared a collective sigh of relief with the news that Louisiana's tax amnesty program brought in the $200 million that they used to help balance this year's budget.
Drew Brees often makes the extraordinary look routine, particularly during night games in the Superdome.
The teams were extended invitations Sunday for the New Year's Day matchup played at Raymond James Stadium, home of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
If all 44 projects are approved, about $300 million would remain in the fund set up as a down payment to help the Gulf.
Last week, the Saints gave up 429 yards to Seattle, second most in a game this season.
Since Anthony Jennings and Brooks Haack were not expected to contribute until next year at the earliest, it seemed like a sneak peek at hidden Christmas gifts.
Louisiana National Guard personnel seeking benefits for same-sex spouses will have an easier time filing the requests, despite a state refusal to let its workers process the paperwork.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera sees one potential flaw with his team's stellar defensive play so far this season. "Apparently we like to bite on the double moves," Rivera said.
Computer hackers may have gained access to the personal information of thousands of Louisiana residents who use debit cards issued by JPMorgan Chase for three state agencies, authorities said Wednesday.
Jim Purcell, who has been in the job since February 2011, notified the Board of Regents about his decision at its monthly meeting.