Tag Archives: Mary Landrieu

Hutchison came to region’s aid


BEAUMONT, Texas — A news story in the Beaumont Enterprise brings to mind a memory I have about a former U.S. senator who came to the aid of a region that had been struck by what’s been called “the forgotten hurricane.”

It was nearly a decade ago when the Gulf Coast, which was reeling from what had occurred in August 2005 in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina stormed ashore, suffered another killer storm.

Its name was Rita and it slammed into the coast at Sabine Pass, which borders Texas and Louisiana. It roared inland and tore into Beaumont.

City, county and state officials were having trouble getting the feds’ attention. Then came Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Texas Republican, who managed to parlay her good relations with Senate Democrats to fast-track aid to the region that had been walloped by Mother Nature’s fury.

As the Enterprise reported today: “I’ll never forget what Sen. Hutchison and her staff did for us, as a community,” said former Jefferson County Judge Carl Griffith. “(Hutchison) made a huge difference in a lot of people’s lives.”

What she did was work with Louisiana U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat, to obtain military aircraft to aid in evacuation and the delivery of supplies to the region. Other efforts to get the White House — where Republican President George W. Bush lived at the time — had fallen short.

Hutchison’s work made the difference.

Hutchison came through

Indeed, my memory of her familiarity with this part of Texas is quite vivid. I had the honor during my nearly 11 years working at the Enterprise to interview Sen. Hutchison as she would come by to, um, chat and to update us on senatorial goings-on.

And almost always, without fail, Hutchison would remind me of how she spent time visiting extended family members living in Old Town, a noted residential district in Beaumont.

She knew the region and wasn’t about to let bureaucratic bumbling stand in the way of relief for the home folks.

Nor was Hutchison going to waste the political capital she had piled up with her friends across the aisle.

Bruce Drury, a retired political science professor at Lamar University — who I knew fairly well while I worked in Southeast Texas — said that Hutchison’s ability to cross party lines is not nearly as evident with today’s Texas congressional delegation. “We have two Republican senators, neither one of whom have attempted to cultivate goodwill with the administration,” Drury told the Enterprise, adding that “to some extent the administration hasn’t been overly active in trying to establish links.”

As the former senator demonstrated, it’s nice to know people in the right places.


End of ticket-splitting? Perish the thought

Mary Landrieu’s loss of her U.S. Senate seat in Louisiana might be the least surprising part of the 2014 mid-term election.

She was the last statewide Democratic officeholder in Dixie.

What does surprise me — and unpleasantly so, I should add — is that according to one veteran political observer, the ’14 mid-terms have ushered in the end of ticket-splitting.


More and more Americans are voting for the party rather than the candidate.

Stuart Rothenberg, writing for Roll Call, says voters are just hitting the straight-ticket spot on their ballot and that voting for individual candidates’ is becoming a rare occurrence.

What a shame.

Rothenberg attributes this to the growing ideological divide between Democrats and Republicans. The parties have become branded as standing for certain things and voters aren’t wasting their time studying candidates’ stands on key issues of the day.

Democrats are being identified as the party of liberals such as Sens. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Al Franken of Minnesota and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. The Republican brand includes the likes of Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas, two favorites of the TEA party movement within the GOP.

The casualty, therefore, becomes the practice of examining what the candidates say about issues, relying instead on the party’s message.

I would prefer we did away with the straight-ticket voting option. If someone wants to vote straight Republican or straight Democratic, then make them go through the ballot race by race, candidate by candidate and make them think — if only for an instant — about the candidate they’re about to endorse.

Why can’t we require voters to at least go through the motions of thinking about their vote?


LBJ had it right about the South

Wherever he is, Lyndon Baines Johnson is likely nodding and saying, “Yep, I told ya so.”

What he told the country came true long ago, which was that signing the Voting Rights Act in the 1960s likely would cost the Democratic Party its strength in the states of the Old Confederacy.

Over the weekend, the final Democratic statewide officeholder in Dixie — U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana — went down to a resounding defeat by Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy.


The 36th president of the United States signed the Voting Rights Act knowing full well what it might do to the Democratic coalition in the South. It would splinter it. The new law, of course, removed all forms of taxation meant to keep minorities from voting. It guaranteed equal access to the election process for all Americans regardless of race.

Texas used to be a Democratic stronghold. Even in the Panhandle of Texas — where conservative Republicans first gained a foothold in Texas — one could find Democrats occupying political offices.

That’s all changed. Republicans now stand far and wide across the Southern landscape.

Landrieu didn’t just lose her Senate seat, she lost it badly, by more than a dozen percentage points.

How do Democrats get back their Southern mojo? Well, that remains one of the most monumental tasks facing modern political thinkers. They certainly cannot forsake their commitment to the Voting Rights Act that the late Democratic president — LBJ — staked out for the nation.

It well might be that Democrats cannot win back the South. It also well could mean a furthering fracturing of the nation into regional political interests.

Whatever the future holds, Republicans are the kings and queens of the political empire in Dixie.

Ol’ Lyndon would not be a happy man.