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Poor judgment sinking Robbie Gatti candidacy

Instead of state legislator, Republican candidate for House District 8 Robbie Gatti has a more realistic chance of becoming a textbook author – writing about how to sabotage your own political campaign.

Little has gone right for the brother of state Sen. Ryan Gatti since qualifying closed for the special election for the seat vacated when Rep. Mike Johnson left for Congress. The first of it he should have seen coming.

Some years ago, Gatti came dressed up at a Halloween party as mixed-race golfer Tiger Woods, who had become tabloid fodder over largely self-induced marriage problems, with Nike-logo cap and in blackface. Worse for him, at least one photo memorializes the event that also attended by members of his church. Later, only months ago the Gattis worked against Johnson’s election in opposition to most of the church’s members, stirring up such emotions that Robbie Gatti, who held a ministerial position in it, was asked to leave.

So, he had to have known the photo would surface once he jumped into the contest. Given its past use by whites to satirize and pantomime blacks, today many blacks find blackface use by non-blacks offensive in most circumstances. Mocking a sports figure typically identified as black for his marital difficulties at a costume party many would see as racially insensitive.

Making even more delicate his situation, with no Democrats in the race and because of his association with Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, Gatti had the best chance of securing these voters, many of whom are black. Gatti had donated in-kind office space to Edwards, located at 1610 East Bert Kouns, for a Shreveport campaign headquarters.

With plenty of lead time to formulate a response, Gatti could have figured a way to minimize the damage and keep his candidacy alive when the photo inevitably emerged. A frank and honest apology might placate and keep some black voters, and perhaps the incident could win him some white voters who saw the whole thing as political correctness run amok. Instead, he only threw gasoline onto the fire.

Gatti in a media interview alleged the photo occurred around 2002, and in a now-removed Facebook post said his ordination as a minister occurred shortly thereafter. But controversy about Woods’ marriage did not flare until late 2009, and the church website reported he did not join the church staff until 2014, for which one would receive ordination. These apparent inconsistencies only made him appear dishonest and wanting to hide something further.

Things continued to go downhill. As a result of the ensuing publicity, adverse information about the property Gatti let Edwards use in 2015 became disseminated. At least one past tenant, a massage parlor, operated out of that location, advertising in a manner suspiciously like a front for prostitution that eventually drew a complaint to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Circumstantial evidence of drug abuse encouraged at the location also became known. Worse, the unidentified sources at the outlet that broke the news, the website The Hayride, who provided physical evidence to substantiate their charges about the business alleged that Gatti had been informed of these activities and did nothing, even asking the complainers to stop bothering him on the issue.

Even without others raising suspicions, Gatti should have gathered what kinds of illegal activities his tenants reportedly were engaged in. The presence of massage parlors as fronts for prostitution, use of controlled substances, and human trafficking increasingly have claimed the attention of Louisiana police officials and policy-makers, and has received extensive treatment in the media over the past few years.

Gatti has made no public comment on the release of this information. At best, it shows he exhibits poor judgment in collecting rent from apparently such a dubious business; at worst, it shows callous indifference. This will not impress voters in a district known for its social conservatism.

Those constituents probably will not hear much of Gatti's various controversies before the Mar. 25 trip to the polls. The two other major Republicans in the race, retired firefighter and businessman Duke Lowrie and retired military pilot and businessman Raymond Crews, likely hope one can eliminate the other in the general election to face a wounded Gatti in a runoff. If this information hasn’t already sunk Gatti’s candidacy by then, expect its heavy circulation prior to the Apr. 29 election.

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