20110914-cover-0106HARDY COMES OUT SWINGING
The Lafayette rep shows an Ali-esque flair for showmanship.

Rep. Rickey Hardy, D-Lafayette, was among the first round of candidates to qualify last Tuesday morning at the Clerk of Court’s office downtown. But unlike his buttoned-down fellow politicos, Hardy put his wardrobe where his mouth normally is: way out there.

The first-term pol showed up in pugilist-themed attire: sweat pants, an athletic shirt and, glaringly and with abundant humor, boxing gloves. Slogans on the gloves read, “Fight Corruption” and “and Raising Standards.” Unfortunately, Hardy had to remove the right glove to sign his qualifying papers, leaving him vulnerable to a left hook.

But the slogans were appropriate: While Hardy has sponsored or co-sponsored his share of hair-brained legislation in his four years in Baton Rouge — bills to bar senior citizens from seeking office and requiring state welfare recipients to take drug tests come immediately to mind — he has been a color-blind champion of stamping out corruption in Lafayette’s wonderland of quasi-governmental agencies and for increasing the academic standards required for participation in high school athletics. His contribution to blowing the lid on mismanagement and apparent fraud at the Lafayette Housing Authority led to a federal take-over of the agency and the canning and/or resignation of several executives and board members. The LHA imbroglio also exposed what by most rational minds would be considered at the least malfeasance in the conduct of the agency’s Disaster Housing Assistance Program, for which former City-Parish Councilman Chris Williams served as a case manager. And this is where the race gets interesting:

Hardy, a former four-term Lafayette Parish School Board member, defeated Williams in a 2007 runoff for the District 22 seat. The two were vying to replace term-limited state Rep. Wilfred Pierre, whose nephew, Vincent Pierre, is Hardy’s main challenger in the Oct. 22 election. (A third candidate, Democrat Roshell Jones, is also running.)

In that 2007 election, Hardy captured just enough of the black vote — Williams got most of it — to pair with overwhelming support from white voters in the district to carry the day. Expect a similar dynamic this time around, with Hardy and Pierre straddling a fissure in black leadership in north Lafayette.

And if Hardy’s planning the old rope-a-dope strategy, he better be ready for some counter punches. — WP

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