Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Written by Walter Pierce
State rep takes on the ‘establishment,’ again, in his re-election bid.
State Rep. Rickey Hardy upset the apple cart when he ran for the House District 44 seat four years ago. Now he has to do it again.
He pranced into this political season sporting a pair of boxing gloves emblazoned with slogans when he qualified to run for re-election last week — a made-for-media stunt to be sure, but consistent with Hardy’s devil-may-care style — yet he skipped a forum hosted jointly by Acadiana Progressive and the Lafayette Parish Democratic Executive Committee that aired live on Acadiana Open Channel last night, Tuesday, Sept. 13. (I’m assuming the forum went off as planned; this newspaper goes to press on Monday night.)
Forum participants included the two candidates hoping to make Hardy a one-term state rep: businessman Vince Pierre, who is the nephew of the man Hardy replaced in the House, and attorney Roshell Jones. Hardy passed on the debate not because he wanted to dodge Pierre and Jones; he was a no-show because one of the panelists scheduled to question the candidates was Beatrice Wilson, better known as radio personality Porsha Evans.
“Absolutely, it is a set-up. I fought and exposed corruption and she was a part of it — she was involved,” Hardy told me late last week to explain his decision to boycott the forum. “Why would I go and answer questions from a convicted criminal? It makes no sense for me to go over there.”
Evans-née-Wilson, you see, was one of the Disaster Housing Assistance Program case workers unceremoniously canned last year by the Lafayette Housing Authority board in the fall-out from that ugly 2009 independent audit exposing irregularities in LHA operations in general and in the DHAP program specifically — a sordid unraveling of what appears to have been a federally funded cash cow for a few well-placed individuals in Lafayette that Rep. Hardy was instrumental in exposing to the community. (Evans, it was revealed in media reports during the LHA-DHAP affair, has a criminal history of convictions for theft, drug possession, battery and drug distribution.)
And who did Evans work with on the DHAP gravy train that Hardy helped derail? Former City-Parish Councilman Chris Williams, Hardy’s opponent in the 2007 election for House 44 — the victory that sent Hardy to Baton Rouge to do the people’s business. Evans and Williams even shared office space during their time with DHAP, and it’s fair to say the pair is aligned within north Lafayette’s black political milieu.
In his fourth term on the Lafayette Parish School Board in 2007, which a couple of years before had adopted term limits, Hardy saw an opportunity for bigger and better — an opening in the state House of Representatives — a doorway that was “supposed” to open for Williams, who at the time was a City-Parish Council member coming off a protracted and nasty fight over renaming Willow Street in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s honor.
Hardy’s win over Williams, propelled in no small measure by the former’s willingness to reach across racial lines in the district — Williams’ MLK fracas alienated many white voters in the majority-black district, a demographic that proved critical in securing Hardy’s victory — was seen by many as an upset.
Now, four years after beating expectations and Williams in a runoff to replace Wilfred Pierre, Hardy finds himself up against what he considers the same established political forces in the district — forces that want back what he took in 2007.
One Hardy supporter who asked to remain anonymous shares the state rep’s opinion of the Tuesday debate: “This is like walking into a Russian roulette contest and them handing Rickey a revolver with all the chambers filled!”