Louisiana is known for its colorful political figures. The state has a long history of populists who have brought periods of prosperity, scandal and national attention – both good and bad. The notorious Huey P. Long ran an iron-fisted tenure as governor and senator that angered the oil industry, and even posed a threat to the reelection of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936.
Decades later, Edwin Edwards served 4 terms as governor before being jailed on federal charges in 2002. Despite being notoriously corrupt, they were both extremely popular with Louisiana residents. In 1991, Edwards won the gubernatorial election over former Klan leader David Duke. This was an election where voters were reminded to “Vote for the Crook. It’s Important” and he won in a landslide.
In recent years, many of Louisiana’s elections have taken on the nasty spirit of the national political atmosphere. Last year’s surprise win for conservative Democrat John Bel Edwards over David Vitter was one of the most vicious campaigns I have witnessed in my three decades of politics. Despite being a Republican, David Vitter lost because he was hated, even by members of his own party like departing governor Bobby Jindal who refused to endorse Vitter.
Louisiana may seem like a laid-back state full of swamps, alligators and quaint Cajun culture. Sadly, there is an angry, bigoted undercurrent which worships populist figures like Donald Trump who have no real plan for making things better.
Into this new political reality steps a former sheriff’s deputy who seems to have carefully been plotting a run for political office since he stepped into the public eye. That man is Clay Higgins, the former popular and bombastic Crime Stoppers figurehead who became famous for his videos in which he profiled local criminals wanted by law enforcement. These videos went viral, especially when he assembled a group of local agencies to stage a clip in which he called out a local gang.
Clay Higgins immediately drew criticism from both law enforcement and the ACLU. Accused of using his uniform to promote himself and his clothing line, Clay Higgins was pressured into resigning from the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office.
His resignation drew thousands of angry responses from supporters of the “Cajun John Wayne” as Higgins became known as. While neither Cajun or apparently authentic, the former car dealership director became a beloved figure with citizens who love the ideas of vigilante justice laced with thinly-veiled racism.
Now Clay Higgins has announced that he is running for the congressional seat being vacated by Charles Boustany, a quiet but staunch conservative who is seeking the U.S. Senate seat disgraced David Vitter is leaving. I’ve met Charles Boustany in person, and while I certainly disagree with him on political issues, I do respect the man for not being a bombastic celebrity-seeker.
The same can’t be said for Clay Higgins who is hoping to ride on the coattails of Donald Trump’s popularity with low-information voters across the country. Higgins represents the worst of Acadiana. He is little more than the angry comments section of our local new stations toned down, given a better vocabulary, and wearing a uniform. In fact, he announced his run for Congress promising to be a “loud, angry voice” in Washington.
Louisiana is already a national embarrassment. We rate among the worst states for health, obesity, education, pollution, corruption, unemployment and incarceration. This state needs someone who will put their interests on the back burner and work to undo decades of mismanagement, corruption, and a dependence on the fossil fuel industry.
Clay Higgins will not make America great again. He will not make Louisiana great again. Clay Higgins is in this race for one thing alone, his personal gain at the expense of the people he seeks to represent.