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.
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Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday, March 11, 2014:
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent rhetoric against President Barack Obama has failed to boost his standing among the conservative base.
Louisiana's annual legislative session begins.
The state has hired marksmen to shoot feral hogs from helicopters at two wildlife management areas in south Louisiana.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.