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.
Business organizations opposed the proposal, saying it would lead to job losses and higher prices for goods and services.
An attempt to repeal a six-year-old law that permits public school science teachers to use material outside a classroom's adopted textbook has been rejected by the Senate Education Committee.
New York Times poll shows Obama, Jindal have identical approval and disapproval ratings in the state.
OK, so they’re bentgrass, the type used on golf course greens. But grass is grass.
The Senate Finance Committee approved the bill Wednesday, despite opponents who argued it would shut down the storefront lenders.
A measure to allow the state to implement its own, less stringent plan for limiting carbon dioxide emissions unanimously passed the Senate.
FDA to regulate e-cigarettes, Jodie Foster gets married, Vermont to require labels on genetically-modified food, and more news for today, April 24, 2014.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
A push to expand Louisiana's Medicaid program as allowed under the federal health care has been overwhelmingly rejected by the Senate health committee.
Louisiana welfare recipients would be prohibited in state law from spending the federal assistance at lingerie shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons and jewelry stores, under a bill that received the support Wednesday of a House committee.
Senators will consider whether to prohibit private businesses in Louisiana from paying unequal wages to employees of different genders for the same job.
Rep. Joel Robideaux has delayed bill hearings and said unless a compromise can be reached, he won't bring up the legislation this session.
Once again, Lafayette Parish School Board President Hunter Beasley is focused on an issue that has nothing to do with the educational well-being of our public school children.
After exhausting his appeals all the way to the state Supreme Court, the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete has no legal remedy left save one: do an end run around the high court via a bill that would grandfather his “right” to keep a 550-pound tiger enclosed in a pin at his roadside business.
Louisiana poet Darrell Bourque has won the 2014 Louisiana Writer Award, given annually to recognize outstanding contributions to Louisiana's literary and intellectual life.
Drivers would have to secure dogs riding in truck beds while on interstate highways, if the Senate agrees to a bill backed by the House.
An effort to prohibit employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity was shelved Tuesday for the legislative session.
Louisiana won't lessen its penalties for marijuana possession, keeping laws on the books that allow people to be jailed up to 20 years for repeat offenses of having the drug in hand.
“This is one of the oldest divides that exists, and that divide is about the haves and the have-nots.”
It took a few weeks for the pitfalls to emerge in the governor’s $25 billion budget, but the time of judgment has finally arrived.
With pressure continuing to build for him to resign, Congressman Vance McAllister announced plans recently to remain secluded during the Easter break, but the Swartz Republican has said he’ll be back on the Hill casting votes and attending committee meetings when the congressional recess ends April 28.
A bid to limit the use of unmanned aircraft on private property in Louisiana stalled Monday in the Louisiana Senate.
A Shreveport lawmaker said Monday he's scrapping his proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana's official state book.
Attorney hopes fellow lawyers will join him in urging the D.A. to step aside and allow a competent, ethical challenger to take over the scandal-ridden office.
An official with the Louisiana Department of Education was arrested on a range of charges Friday after allegedly breaking into a home and brandishing a knife.