With the stepping down of former state Rep. John Schroder to concentrate on a bid for state Treasurer to fill the post vacated by Maness’ vanquisher in the Senate contest GOP Sen. John Kennedy, his slot opened for which Maness has thrown his hat in the ring. With his pair of nontrivial Senate pursuits behind him, Maness has become a seasoned campaigner who knows how to raise money and his chances appear far better to win this time out.
This race suits him much better. When Maness parachuted into Louisiana at his retirement from the Air Force and only months later declared his candidacy for the 2014 contest, he appeared clumsy and forcing himself on the state. Having hardly resided in Louisiana long enough to meet the residency requirement by the time qualification rolled around, he informed anyone who would listen that U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy – possessor then of legislative scorecard numbers indicating he voted as least as conservatively, if not more so, as any GOP member of Congress – was too liberal and only political newcomer Maness could save Louisiana.
Not many Republicans believed him, sweeping Cassidy to victory, although Maness nudged into double digits in percentage of vote. In doing so he put off a number of conservatives, who thought Maness first should establish himself as a party stalwart willing to prove himself by helping out other candidates with long-standing conservative ties where he lived before he began preaching about who and who wasn’t conservative and expecting votes on that basis. So, he embarked upon and gained election to the St. Tammany Republican Parish Executive Committee and became more active in local and state party affairs.
But the siren song of the big office called him again in 2016 when the Senate seat of David Vitter opened up, and he resumed the mode of campaigning as a way of life in his retirement. This attempt smacked even more of vanity, for a number of reliable conservatives entered the contest not only with experience in national elective office but also with a couple of these having reputations of acting politically outside of establishment politicians, capped off by Kennedy’s resume. As a result, Maness didn’t score many more votes than the ultimate outsider, former state Rep. and Klan leader David Duke, finishing in sixth place.
Now Maness aims for the kind of office with which probably he should have launched his political career if he wished to be more than a gadfly on the political scene. Doing it all backwards could have its advantages, with him possessing now much better name recognition, fundraising contacts, and an existing pool of campaign volunteers than had he sought this office as a raw rookie.
However, some of his actions in those quests raise doubts about his temperament for office as a true voice of the people from the political right, suggesting he invested more of his ego into politics than necessary. In the first Senate run, he joined with Democrats on a concocted, inane charge that Cassidy made racist insinuations when Cassidy described the hold Democrats have over the black electorate. Then, apparently miffed at his rejection by voters and at Cassidy’ success, going into the runoff he pointedly delayed endorsement of Cassidy.
During his most recent Senate effort, upon his learning he would end up excluded from most debate opportunities because of low polling numbers, he started spouting a conspiracy theory to explain otherwise. When it became crystal clear he would lose in 2016, he alleged a weird story about another candidate trying to offer him a kind of bribe to exit the contest.
Possibly he has matured as a conservative standard-bearer in the few months since, but the bizarre turns his past campaigning took should serve as a warning sign to conservative voters to vet him and his opponents carefully. Trying to stay in the headlines for years on end articulating conservatism as part of a near-permanent campaign does not automatically make you the best candidate in this race.