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Oct 10, 2010 7:00 PM by Chris Welty

GOP Leader Creates Division as Candidate

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The only direct attacks launched against
a candidate in the lieutenant governor's race were by state GOP
Chairman Roger Villere against a fellow Republican.
Villere failed to make the runoff, and he's back to urging
people to vote for Republican candidates - including the one he
attacked: Secretary of State Jay Dardenne, who's running for
lieutenant governor.
The transition is awkward and uncomfortable at best and
contradictory at worst.
Villere's divisive campaign tactics seemed to violate the spirit
of a party leader and raised questions about whether it was
appropriate for him to run for office if he wanted to keep his job
as head of the Louisiana Republican Party.
As party chairman since 2004, Villere's job largely involves
promoting Republican candidates and officeholders. Can you do that
in the same election cycle in which you heavily criticized a
Republican candidate you now are pushing your party faithful to
Villere ran sixth in an eight-candidate field for lieutenant
governor in the Oct. 2 election. Dardenne ran first and faces
Democratic political newcomer Caroline Fayard in the Nov. 2 runoff.
A day after he lost the race, Villere sent an e-mail to
Republican Party of Louisiana supporters, thanking those who helped
him and other Republicans in their campaign efforts and urging
continued support and donations to a list of GOP candidates in the
November election. Dardenne was on the list.
The transition might have been easier - and Villere's support
for Dardenne might have seemed more sincere - if Villere hadn't
spent months since his March campaign announcement attacking
Dardenne on issues ranging from tax votes and government growth to
abortion and gambling.
Villere tried to appeal to a base of tea party supporters during
his bid for the lieutenant governor's job, while Dardenne is
considered a more moderate Republican. The divisions between the
two highlight the internal struggles of the Republican Party around
the nation.
But Villere made sure the differences were very public during
the lieutenant governor's race.
His campaign launched a website called "Big Government
Dardenne" to highlight what it called "the Dardenne record of
higher taxes and reckless spending." It urged voters to "fight
big government liberals like Dardenne."
Villere challenged Dardenne's claims that he helped protect
elections after Hurricane Katrina, calling them "blatantly
false." He called Dardenne a remnant of "old-style Louisiana
"If you believe we should be taxed more, if you believe in
bigger government, then the answer is to vote for Dardenne,"
Villere said at a Baton Rouge Tea Party candidate forum.
So, if all that was true before Oct. 2, wouldn't it still be
true now? If Villere objected to Dardenne then, should he be urging
voters to support Dardenne now? And how exactly was Villere helping
the state Republican Party by lambasting one its own statewide
elected officials?
"Maybe he thinks that you can at the end of the day say, 'Well,
we just need to all come together.' It just seems odd," said
Pearson Cross, a political scientist at the University of Louisiana
at Lafayette.
Villere said he doesn't see any conflict between his time as a
candidate and his party leadership. He didn't return phone calls,
but issued a statement through the state GOP spokesman.
"There is a long tradition of Republican Party state chairmen
running for public office in Louisiana and an even longer tradition
of the Republican Party supporting GOP candidates against Democrats
in run-off elections. I contend that there is no contradiction
between the two," Villere said in the statement.
That may seem hard to reconcile, but candidates and politicians
manage to reconcile a lot of conflicting points of view in an
election season.


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