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Fact Check: Mail piece claims Bill Cassidy wanted to turn two HBCUs into prisons

An anti-Bill Cassidy mailer that’s being circulated by the Patriot Majority PAC says Cassidy once “suggested turning Southern University in New Orleans and Grambling State University into prisons.” (Click here to see the mailer)

Cassidy, a Republican Congressman from Baton Rouge, is locked in a tight U.S. Senate race with incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu.

The racially-charged implication in the PAC’s mailer is clear: Cassidy wanted to shutter two of the state’s historically black universities and convert them to prisons.

But, like so often happens in political ads and mail pieces, that’s not really the full story.

Cassidy did advocate shutting down some of Louisiana’s higher education institutions — in and of itself a controversial idea that repeatedly has been proposed but failed to gain much traction here. But the letter selects and strings together only pieces of what Cassidy was advocating.

The Patriot Majority mailer cites a Letter to the Editor that Cassidy wrote to the State-Times in 1991. The State-Times was The Advocate’s sister publication that stopped printing in the 1990s. Its articles are archived behind a paywall, so this blog post is intended to bring the full letter forward for context.

In his Letter to the Editor, Cassidy argued that Louisiana had too many colleges and universities that were stretching state resources.

“Lets close some of them,” he wrote. “Spare university buildings can be used for junior colleges, minimum security prisons, research facilities for private industry, turned over to local school boards or anything else that will benefit the state.” cassidymailer

He specifically mentions closing SUNO because of other higher education options in the New Orleans area. Grambling is listed among five schools in the northwest part of the state, of which Cassidy says two could be shuttered (Note: he doesn’t specifically identify Grambling as one that should definitely be closed).

Cassidy’s campaign didn’t immediately respond to The Advocate’s request for comment on the letter’s contents or the characterization of it in the PAC’s mailer. [NOTE: SEE UPDATE BELOW WITH COMMENT]

A search of The Advocate archives shows one other Letter to the Editor from Cassidy, which was co-signed by his wife. In it, they stressed the need for a mandatory helmet law for motorcycles. Cassidy and his wife are both doctors.

Another letter signed only by Laura Cassidy in 1990 took a position against abortion and efforts of the “pro-choice movement.”

Here is the full  text of Cassidy’s Letter to the Editor that is cited in the recent mailer (saving you that fee to search the archives):

Closing redundant schools a good idea

Publication Date: May 29, 1991  Page: 9-B  Section: NEWS

State-Times: Higher education is repeatedly emphasized as key to Louisiana’s economic growth. Nonetheless, due to other pressing needs, our universities are funded 30-40 percent less than the regional average. Let’s try something else: Lets close some of them. Do we really need LSU-Eunice and LSU-Alexandria _ not to mention making one of them a four-year institution? Does northwest Louisiana require Grambling, Louisiana Tech, Northwest Louisiana University, LSU-Shreveport and Southern University-Shreveport? Make two of them junior colleges and close two more. Why stop there? Do away with Southern University-New Orleans. There are two other, predominately black, New Orleans universities, and another, much more respected state university. The money saved from these and other closures could improve the remaining schools. Without an increase in overall state expenditures,their funding could be raised towards levels needed for first-class institutions. Spare university buildings can be used for junior colleges, minimum security prisons, research facilities for private industry, turned over to local school boards or anything else that will benefit the state. By closing redundant educational facilities, Louisiana can have better universities without more taxes or state debt. The alternatives are clear. William M. Cassidy 3115 Dalrymple Drive Baton Rouge, LA 70802

UPDATE: Here’s what Cassidy says about the letter today, “If you read the letter, it’s about desiring to improve academic institutions without raising taxes or increasing the debt. Some may disagree, and it was written 25 years ago, but no one disagrees with the need for bold educational reforms.”

Elbert Guillory’s efforts in U.S. Senate race help build profile

State Sen. Elbert Guillory, an Opelousas Republican, chicken boxing enthusiast and recent Daily Show target, is now the subject of a BloombergPolitics profile, thanks to a recent video he released targeting Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu. screengrabguillory

Guillory, the state’s only black Republican legislator and a candidate for lieutenant governor next year, talked to BloombergPolitics about the need to pull black voters from Landrieu’s support base as she faces off in a tight re-election bid against Republican Congressman Bill Cassidy.

“If we convert 10 percent of the black vote, I will drink champagne that night,” Guillory told the website while sitting on the porch of the Governor’s Mansion. “My job is to deliver the message.”

The piece lavishes praise on Guillory and his effort.

“The spot was memorable, if a little choppy,” it says of his anti-Landrieu video. “The state senator was a PR natural, a mountain climber who’d rappelled down tall Baton Rouge buildings for charity. With the Landrieu video, he’d outdone himself. Guillory figured he’d cross $1 million in donations by the time the buys started, helped by rapturous coverage on conservative media.”

In the original video, Guillory accuses Landrieu of having done little to help poor and African-American voters in Louisiana.

“While you scrounge together food stamps to buy Kool Aid, she sips champagne at cocktail parties,” Guillory says in the spot, which was originally released as a 2-minute, 22-second YouTube video but has since been condensed for television.

Landrieu had already responded to the ad during a stop at Baton Rouge Community College. Shortly after the video was released, she dismissed Guillory as  “part of the propaganda machine” against her.

“He’s full of a lot of hot air,” Landrieu said of Guillory. “My record is so clear of fighting for working people, people of modest income — all people.”

Landrieu similarly responds in the BloombergPolitics piece: “(T)he only person that I know that promotes himself more than Elbert Guillory would be Bobby Jindal, and the two of ‘em belong in the same boat. I wish he was running against me.”

Read the entire BloombergPolitics profile here.

‘Stand for the Family’ political rally set

Family Research Council Action president Tony Perkins is hosting a “Stand for the Family” political rally Saturday in Pride.

Featured speakers include Perkins, U.S. Senate candidate retired U.S. Air Force Col. Rob Maness, 6th Congressional District candidate Lenar Whitney and 5th Congressional District candidate Zach Dasher – all Republicans - as well as FRC Action executive director Josh Duggar.

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar of the TLC reality TV series “19 Kids and Counting” will also make an appearance.

“On Saturday, we will rally voters to support these candidates who have strong family values, clear purpose, and a tenacity to stand against the failed liberal policies of the administration,” said Perkins in a news release announcing the event. “No longer are lukewarm candidates acceptable.”

The event will be held at 17184 Liberty Rd. in Pride. It runs from noon until 2 p.m. Jambalaya will be served.

The rally is part of FRC Action’s seven state Faith, Family, Freedom Tour.






Bobby Jindal orders Ebola policies

Gov. Bobby Jindal on Monday ordered state agencies to develop policies  covering travel to Ebola stricken countries by their employees, students and faculty.

The executive order covers those who travel as a result of educational trips or work-related missions to countries identified by the federal Centers for Disease Control as having an epidemic of the deadly virus, including Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Jindal said he wants  policies developed within five days  “due to the urgency of this forseeable threat and importance of haivng procedures in place to minimize the threatened harm…”

Jindal used the executive powers governors have to deal with public health emergencies in issuing the directive.

“It is prudent to implement such precautionary, common-sense measures … to reduce this foreseeable threat to the citizens and property of the State, including the reporting of travel to these countries and the development of policies governing their return to normal duties or classroom attendance following such travel,” Jindal wrote.

The policies would include:

- Reporting the travel to the state health agency’s Infectious Disease Epidemiology section within 48 hours of receiving the information if prior to travel and within 24 hours if subsequent to travel.

- Restrictions or advisories regarding use of commercial transportation for 21 days after departing an Ebola impacted area. The 21 days is the observation period for someone who may have been exposed to the virus.

- Restrictions or advisories on going to places where the public congregates for 21 days after departing an impacted area.

- Procedures for daily communication and monitoring, if determined necessary, by public health officials for 21 days after departing an impacted area.

Numbers of African-American voters increase

The Louisiana Secretary of State hasn’t finished with the tallies but the Democratic Party has and announced Saturday that voter registration numbers for African Americans increased.

Democratic calculations show that 918,929 blacks have registered and can vote in the Nov. 4 election. That’s up from 912,764 in October. There were 917,576 African Americans were registered to vote in the November 2012 presidential election, when presumably voters show more interest in the electoral politics.

White voters increased their registration from 1,869,611 in October to 1,874,877 for the election, according to the Democrats. But their numbers dropped from 1,908,859 for the 2012 presidential election.

Actually, the numbers of voters who registered as Democrats or Republicans dropped since 2012, but rose modestly from October to November, if the Democrats calculations of the Secretary of State’s records are correct. But voters registering without major party affiliation increased from 718,157 to about 747,000.

Bill Clinton to visit Baton Rouge

Former President Bill Clinton will join U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu Monday in Baton Rouge  to rally support  a day before early voting begins in Louisiana.

The event begins at 2 p.m. Monday at the Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center, 201 Lafayette Street, Baton Rouge. The event is open to the public with an RSVP at

Early voting begins Tuesday and runs through October 28.

This is President Clinton’s second visit to Louisiana for Senator Landrieu during this election cycle.

Steve Scalise, David Vitter top DC staffers’ lists

If you ask Congressional aides (anonymously), Republican Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise is a rising star, surprise standout and a workhorse. Meanwhile, the group says Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana is among the Senate’s top “party animals.”

The Washingtonian posted its Best and Worst of Congress 2014 earlier this month, identifying the members of Congress who DC staffers say are the nicest, most partisan, hottest and meanest, among other categories.

Scalise and Vitter, who is running for governor next year, were the only two to make the list from Louisiana’s delegation.

Vitter was voted No. 2 “party animal” in the Senate in a tie with West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin — coming in behind North Carolina Republican Richard Burr, who was voted No. 1.

Scalise, who recently rose to the level of House Majority Whip was identified as the House’s No. 1 “rising star” and came in at No. 2 in two categories: “workhorse” and “surprise standout.”

The publication explains the survey, its 15th biennial, as a chance to give some insight into the people who are elected to serve the country.

“Since 1986, Washingtonian has sought the help of congressional aides in understanding their bosses,” the article explains. “Every two years, before lawmakers and their staffs head off for August recess to start the election season in earnest, we send an extensive survey asking for the best and worst performers in a host of categories designed to get past the headlines and TV-news zingers to capture the true culture of Capitol Hill.”

You can check out who made topped all of the staffers’ lists — including Best Dressed, Best Cook and Most Likely To Be Seen In A TV Cameo — here.

Family Research Council backs two Republicans in congressional campaigns

State Rep. Lenar Whitney, whose diatribe against global warming caught international attention, and Zach Dasher, the “Duck Dynasty” relative, were endorsed Wednesday in their respective congressional races by the Family Research Council’s political action arm.

The conservative group lobbies state and federal government on socially conservative policies it calls traditional family values. The Family Research Council was founded by Christian evangelical theologian James Dobson,  and is headed by Tony Perkins, a former Baton Rouge state representative.

In backing Houma’s Whitney, one of Louisiana’s representatives to the Republican National Committee, Perkins wrote, “We are looking for a leader who will unabashedly challenge the Left’s notion that government knows best. We are looking for a leader who will challenge the moderates within the Republican Party who are content to babysit America’s decline.”

She is one of 11 candidates in the race to replace U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy in Louisiana’s 6th Congressional District. Early on Perkins was widely discussed as a possible candidate for the 6th district race.

Perkins hosted a fundraiser in Washington, D.C. on her behalf.

Dasher is the nephew of Duck Commander Phil Robertson, who has been a guest on Perkins’ national radio program, and is the head of the family featured in a reality television program.

“The vast majority of families in Louisiana are looking for leaders of integrity who will go to Washington and challenge the Left’s notion that government knows best,” Perkins wrote. “Having watched him during this campaign, I feel confident that he is the conservative candidate in this race who can not only win this race, but provide the type of leadership needed in WashingtonD.C.”

The Family Research Council opposes abortion, gay marriage and embryonic stem-cell research among its conservative social positions.


Details on the next Mary Landrieu, Bill Cassidy debate

Later this month, LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication will host the second, and final, debate between the two leading candidates in Louisiana’s U.S. Senate race in the lead-up to the Nov. 4 election.

Incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and her leading Republican opponent, Congressman Bill Cassidy, went head-to-head this week in Shreveport for the first time in a televised debate. [Read that story here. ]

Republican Rob Maness also participated.

According to LSU, the Oct. 29 debate also will include any candidate who gets at least a 5 percent showing in a Raycom Media poll in the next two weeks. Recent polls have shown Maness pulling more than that, so he’s expected to also participate.

This week’s debate, hosted by the Council for A Better Louisiana and Louisiana Public Broadcasting, aired on C-SPAN and Louisiana Public Broadcasting stations across the state.

The next debate will be sponsored by the Manship School, Raycom Media, WRKF of Baton Rouge and LSU Student Government.

Here’s where you can watch it at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 29: WYES-News Orleans and/or WVUE depending on Fox’s World Series schedule; WAFB-Baton Rouge; KPLC-Lake Charles and Lafayette; KSLA-Shreveport; KAQY/ABC-Monroe; KALB-Alexandria; and Bounce TV in New Orleans.

Radio stations airing the debate include: WRKF-Baton Rouge, KEDM-Monroe and WWNO-New Orleans.

The Advocate also will be there providing live coverage online and via Twitter.

La. sheriffs support Mary Landrieu

The Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association is backing Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu’s re-election bid.

The endorsement marks the third Senate election in which Landrieu has received the law enforcement group’s support.

“Senator Landrieu’s senior status and her record of continued support for Louisiana’s Sheriffs throughout her career were determining factors in the decision,”  Sheriffs’ Association executive director Michael Ranatza said in a news release.

The organization represents the state’s 65 sheriffs and nearly 14,000 deputy sheriffs.

Landrieu is receiving a major Republican challenge from U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy and retired U.S. Air Force Col. Rob Maness who is tea party-backed.