Cajun musician Kevin Naquin two steps into the political arena with a bid for City-Parish Council.
In the 1992 documentary Louisiana Boys: Raised on Politics, former Eunice Mayor Curtis Joubert asserts that being able to cook a good gravy, speak Cajun French and being identified as “one of the people” are the keys to election in rural Acadiana.
On Oct. 22, 2011, Kevin Naquin looks to add another item to the list — play a mean accordion. The 32-year-old recently announced his candidacy for the Lafayette City-Parish Council District 1 seat (qualifying starts in September). Naquin, a Cajun musician since his teens, leads the Ossun Playboys and has racked up 17 Cajun French Music Awards and released seven albums.
“I’m getting involved not for a popularity contest, not for money. I don’t need the benefits the city offers. I’m doing it because I have the youth, I have the education, I have the desire and willingness to help people and work with public officials to get things done that are needed in District 1,” says Naquin.
Naquin’s dual role as entertainer and politician is nothing new to Louisiana. Numerous political figures have dabbled in the arts and culture. In a state where music is central to the culture, it’s difficult to speculate how many local politicians have an ax in their closet. Locally, the Michot Brothers — members include 15th District State Judge Rick and state Sen. Mike Michot — have appeared on many a campaign sign. Several governors have made the duality of politics and good times an art form. Our first American governor, William C.C. Claiborne, flexed his artistic muscle to design our state seal. After his election, Huey P. Long sang about his Share Our Wealth program, composed songs still played in Tiger Stadium and even led LSU’s band in parades.
Hands down, however, Gov. Jimmie Davis (who popularized “You Are My Sunshine”) epitomized the entertaining politician. A country music star by the time he first started out in politics in the late 1930s, Davis starred in cowboy movies before sleeping in the governor’s mansion. At first, Davis resisted mixing his careers until he upset the crowd at a campaign stop when he did not sing. Afterwards, singing on the stump became a staple for Davis. He later sang his farewell address to the Legislature.
According to UL political science professor Pearson Cross, politics and celebrity naturally intermingle.
“Generally speaking, celebrities of all stripes have an easier time getting elected because they have already established name recognition among the public,” says Cross. “One of the first critical things that a candidate has to do is get people to recognize him, and that is really the key to getting elected — having people know who you are, developing a brand around your name. And a musician who has done that, even though it is not in a political field, has that leg up already.”
Davis would later spend wads of time away from the state making movies. During his 1944-1948 term Davis released three movies and spent more than 300 days outside of Louisiana. This is not something Naquin looks to mirror.
The duality of Naquin does not end with politics and music. Though a popular performer and sponsored by Budweiser, Naquin is a family man — married with three kids. Naquin is a college graduate and successful in the insurance business, taking home top salesman awards for U.S. Med-Equip, where he covers a two-state territory. Gone are his days of playing nightclubs and bars; now Naquin keeps a lighter schedule, sticking to festivals and private functions. This is his first foray into politics, after deciding against a previous run for the seat.
“Music was never a living; people that know me knew I was family oriented and I believed in working at a regular job, full time,” says Naquin. “I always viewed music as a hobby just like someone who likes to fish or hunt or golf.”
| Kevin Naquin with wife Rachael, daughters Kaleigh (left) and Natalie,
and newborn son Baylen
Musicianship aside, Naquin’s platform is a two-step around the current pulse of politics. Read through his platform, and it is obvious Naquin — a registered Democrat who says he votes for the right candidate, not his party — may wear blue on his sleeve, but he has a tendency to bleed red. His campaign literature preaches a mantra of listening to the public and serving his constituents rather than himself. This is most clear when he takes on deconsolidation.
In the initial language of his position on deconsolidation, he seems against it — noting that as a parish we should be unified. However, he is quick to pledge his allegiance to the people’s opinion, even if it goes against his. This will serve him well in the district, where outgoing Councilwoman Mary Morrison points to being accessible to constituents as key.
Other parts of the platform are good old recipes handed down from the 20th century greats of Louisiana politics: infrastructure and roads. “The number of gravel roads that exist in this parish and paved roads that look like simulated moon surfaces absolutely shocks me,” he exclaims on his site.
Naquin notes that being a musician served as a door opener for his insurance sales but never did it solely gain him success in his field. Likewise, it alone will not win a race. For example, in last year’s lieutenant governor’s race, Sammy Kershaw failed to make it out of the primary. Kershaw, a recording artist on a much bigger scale with much deeper pockets than Naquin, also ran in 2007 and took 30 percent of the vote, playing second fiddle to winner Mitch Landrieu. Yet, the race to the council seat in northwest Lafayette Parish and the lieutenant governor’s office are far from similar.
As Cross sees it, Naquin has a few hurdles cleared. Local elections, Cross notes, are built on volunteer efforts, and the candidates are far less known than statewide or even district races. Naquin’s name recognition is likely larger than the election itself. He’s also not facing an incumbent — current office holder Morrison can’t seek re-election as she was appointed to her husband Purvis’ spot when he won the race for Scott mayor.
Says Cross, “Being known to the public in any particular way is an enormous advantage … assuming it’s not your arrest record.”
By the way, Naquin says he cooks a pretty mean alligator sauce piquant.
Nick Pittman is a freelance writer living in Lafayette.
"I am extremely disheartened by the political machines that are attempting to hijack my efforts along with others that advocate for children."
Landrieu, who is fighting to keep her seat for a fourth term, said that Ebola is serious and precautions should be taken, but she accused Republicans of using the virus outbreak in West Africa to "create fear" here at home.
Law enforcement agencies are participating in a "Louisiana Heroin Summit," designed to address the recent rise in heroin use and drug-related deaths around the state.
State education officials are preparing to release performance scores for public schools and public school districts.
Saints coach Sean Payton is starting a new week by emphasizing, repeatedly, the many good things he noticed during New Orleans' latest loss.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Oscar de la Renta dies; Pistorius sentenced; World Series begins and more national and international news for Tuesday, October 21, 2014.
We will be offering our recommendations on the constitutional amendments tomorrow.
The justices did not comment in leaving in place lower court rulings that dismissed the lawsuits against BP and other companies involved in the worst U.S. offshore oil spill.
White registration is down by 7,700 voters while black registration has shot up by 7,100 voters.
Even though it had been rumored for months, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu finally pulled the trigger recently on a major campaign shakeup that moved control over to a few Big Easy insiders.
Louisiana's health department says it will seek law changes to stop billing sexual assault victims for exams and tests.
It wasn’t the historic slashes to higher ed funding or the ensuing tuition spikes that recently had LSU’s student body and faculty riled up in collective outrage.
Will $400 be enough for the re-election campaign of LPSB's Hunter Beasley to overcome two years of holding our school system hostage and hurting the education of our children all because of a personal dislike of the superintendent?
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said Friday he expects his playing status in Detroit to be decided by coach Sean Payton on Sunday, shortly before the game.
Lawmakers have sidestepped a decision on whether they accept claims from Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration that the state closed last year's books with a nearly $179 million surplus.
Coming off the high of a fourth quarter comeback against Tampa Bay and a helpful bye week, linebacker Junior Galette sees a real turnaround coming for New Orleans' struggling defense.
Former President Bill Clinton, the Democratic Party's most popular surrogate this fall, is heading to Louisiana early next week for a campaign rally with U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.
Time and again you hear people say DA Mike Harson is unbeatable because he's doled out political favors over the past 20 years. But a new lawsuit could end that speculation.
After the season's signature win (so far), here are some helpful tips for Cajun Nation during the conference stretch.
Did the state close last year's books with a surplus or a deficit?
Practicing without limitations on Wednesday, running back Mark Ingram looked ready to return to a New Orleans offense that once again ranks among the NFL's best when the Saints play at Detroit on Sunday.
It’s been decided: Superintendents of Louisiana’s public school system will retain the controversial powers granted by Act 1 of the 2012 session.
Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy has a bone to pick with the Jindal administration, which recently — surprise! — announced that the state ended the most recent budget year with a $178.5 million dollar surplus.
The messaging battle, however, isn't tied to individual campaign accounts. Third-party groups have poured millions of dollars into advertising.