Former four term Lousiana governor Edwin W. Edwards is currently in prison for being indicted in 1998 for racketeering, extortion, mail fraud and wire fraud. He was without doubt a crook and deserved to go to jail.
And yet, in 1965 he was one of the few Southern congressmen to vote for the Voting Rights Act. As governor, he was the first Louisiana governor to appoint blacks and women to serious political office. But his real achievement, for which liberals will always have mixed feelings for as a man for whom the stench of corruption constantly hung around, came in 1991. Having lost office in 1987, one local reporter had remarked that the only way Edwin Edwards would ever be elected again would be if he were to run against Hitler.
Funny that, because in 1991 David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, won the Republican nomination. Edwards faced off against him in a contest that achieved such national attention that President George Bush (snr) asked Republican voters to vote for Edwards. A common slogan, “Vote for the lizard, not the wizard” appeared on bumper stickers about the state.
Best line in the campaign went to Edwards, who had a reputation as a bit of a ladies man, who remarked “The only thing we have in common (referring to Duke) is that we have both been wizards beneath the sheets.” He won 61% of the vote.
Edwards was a crook, and left Lousiana worse off. But he whipped a Nazi’s ass, and that’s got to count for something.