Rascally former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards was once so confident about re-election that he declared “the only way I can lose is if I’m caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy.”
That was 30 years ago, when Edwards, 86, was a much younger man. It was long before the Democrat served eight years in prison for racketeering, conspiracy and extortion.
And it was a lifetime – or two — before a recent cringe-inducing reality television show about life with his young wife, her teenage sons and his own grandmother-aged daughters from a previous marriage.
But the ex-con, released from federal prison in early 2011, is teasing Louisianans once again, hinting that he may be considering a run for Congress for an open Baton Rouge-area seat.
If elected, Edwards would be serving his second stint in Congress: He served there from 1965 to 1972, when he won the first of four terms as governor.
“We’re on pins and needles down here,” joked John Maginnis, longtime syndicated political columnist and founder of Baton Rouge-based LaPolitics.com. “I think he enjoys that he still drives people crazy – the good folks at the Baton Rouge Country Club are gritting their teeth.”
The “will he or won’t he” question remained unanswered Thursday when, during a local radio interview, Edwards averred that he’d made up his mind, but wasn’t ready to make the big reveal.
Though practiced in the art of entertainment (he once described an opponent as so slow it took him an hour and a half to watch 60 Minutes), Edwards sharpened his look-at-me technique during the recently-cancelled show, The Governor’s Wife.
The widely-panned reality show on cable network A&E, the home of Duck Dynasty and Storage Wars Texas, featured Edwards and his third wife, Trina, 35, at home and engaged in all manner of set-ups – from a tangle over electricity use (he’s more frugal), to a visit with a nurse helping them prepare for their baby’s arrival.
The governor, resisting the notion that he needed to be present in the delivery room: “New born babies are ugly in my opinion.”
For those who missed all eight episodes that aired last year before the network cancelled it, one of the “highlights” was their baby “gender reveal party.”
His participation in the show, Maginnis of LaPolitics.com muses, was “all about Trina – keeping the young wife happy.” But that, and a possible run for Congress, also feed the former governor’s sizable sense of self.
“From his standpoint, it would be a fun thing to do,” says Maginnis, the author of two books about Edwards, including The Last Hayride, which tracked his path to a third term as governor. “You walk in parades. You talk to civic groups and black churches. You have a good time.”
Edwards, if he runs, would be considered a longshot to replace Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, who is running for U.S. Senate. Cassidy won 79.4 percent of the vote in 2012 against two third party candidates; at the same time, Mitt Romney won 66 percent in the district.
Edwards, however, could make a runoff if he draws on traditional support from black voters — who make up about 21 percent of the 6th district — and what Maginnis characterizes as a “hell, yeah” vote. The candidate field is shaping up to be a large one: seven Republicans have already announced, as well as at least one Democrat.
Louisiana is one of three states that hold non-partisan, all-comers “blanket” primaries featuring all candidates, regardless of political party.
If no candidate wins a majority, the top two finishers advance to a runoff election.
“I just don’t see him getting elected in the 6th congressional district,” Maginnis says. “Aside from the notoriety, he’s 86.”