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Broussard joins promising politicians abruptly gone

As I prepared to return to Louisiana after a few years teaching at universities across the South, I viewed from afar the train wreck developing concerning the governor’s race. With incumbent moderate Buddy Roemer fading against the Hobson’s choice of former holder liberal Edwin Edwards and conservative masquerader David Duke, with genuine conservative Rep. Clyde Holloway not catching on, some wondered if then-mayor of Kenner Aaron Broussard might not be an attractive alternative, a presumed moderate Democrat with a record of achievement at the civic level.

It was thought that with Roemer having just turned Republican that a moderate Democrat could seize a number of votes, possibly Broussard or a then-member of the Public Service Commission, Kathleen Blanco. Blanco got in but never qualified, yet probably chased Broussard whose candidacy never caught fire. We know she eventually won the office a dozen years later, but ended her political career ignominiously wrecked on the shoals of her handling of the hurricane disasters of 2005. The same should have happened to Broussard, but his political exit appears to come for a very different reason.

Despite an image of political competence and progressiveness courtesy of a growing Kenner and then Jefferson Parish which he served first on its council and then as its president for the past several years, Broussard was an old-style political hack as befitting the environs around New Orleans. He worked inside to retain and use power, and he could play the populist card when needed.

His most infamous use of it came right shortly after Hurricane Katrina when he had a meltdown on national cable television, making wild accusations about the federal government’s response based upon what soon was revealed as information he either showed very poor judgment in believing or outright lied about. That display of ill-temper, along with criticism over emergency decisions made just prior to the hurricane, should have cost him his job but, having survived a fizzled recall attempt, through unexpected circumstances he only drew light opposition that nonetheless he had trouble defeating, avoiding the fate of other leading whiners about the disaster such as Blanco and St. Bernard Parish President Henry “Junior” Rodriguez, surviving as had his counterpart complainer down the road New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.

But now just as Nagin wiles away his last days in office increasingly submerged by growing scandals, Broussard appears to be taking leave of his post for the same reason. Under pressure from every source but Broussard, city Chief Administrative Officer Tim Whitmer recently resigned amid a corruption probe into his activities, and embarrassing revelations showed a Canadian property part-owned by Broussard and dealings with Whitmer's business, also may have created ethical problems for him.

In a pattern too often seen, someone with reformist sentiments who once seemed to have a promising political career – the most high-profile recent busts being Prisoner #03128-095 and his biography’s publisher Prisoner #03312-095 – ends with a whimper perhaps for an all-too-common reason around Louisiana. It just goes to show how difficult it is for this state to pull itself out of the mire of its free-wheeling, populist past.

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