Now that the cat is out of the bag, the real question is, what exactly motivated former Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Chet Traylor to run in the Republican primary against incumbent Sen. David Vitter?
Traylor said he filed against Vitter at the last minute – with no campaigning to that point and no money raised – because he was encouraged by Republicans and Democrats who felt negatively about Vitter’s character. Three years ago Vitter abruptly apologized for commission of a “serious sin” believed to be linked to a prostitution ring but never confirmed, nor was Vitter ever charged with any crime in connection to the unspecified behavior.
But as the wider world has learned (even as some in northeast Louisiana had known before now), Traylor himself has ethical issues, around a tangled web of romantic relationships with married women and with the settlement of the estate of his late wife who divorced her previous husband, now-state Rep. Noble Ellington, to marry him. That occurred after his election to the state’s highest court, although he ran unopposed for a second term almost a decade after the incident so it never came out as a campaign issue. His wife died about the time he resigned from the court three years later, although now he appears to have a romantic liaison with his stepdaughter and litigation about the estate came after he left the bench.
None of what Traylor has done in these incidents appears illegal and some people may not even consider his actions unethical. Yet Traylor surely knew that this information would come out immediately and that it would sour many people on him who presumably might be looking for an alternative to Vitter because they were uneasy with his moral behavior. Why would you allow all of this sordid detail to be exposed nationally to oppose somebody on whom you had next to no disagreement on substantive issues and also state the main reason you were running because of ethical issues on which you yourself were wide open to criticism and thereby unlikely to win? Nor, given the dynamics, was it ever likely that Traylor had any real shot of winning the nomination even without the publicizing of this history.
Traylor is no political novice who might be excused for not putting all of this together. Unless he’s an extremely unaware and/or quirky individual, only one reasonable explanation presents itself – he has allowed himself to be used as a stalking horse by Democrats for some unknown reason. If so, this represents the last, most desperate gamble by Democrats whose favored candidate Rep. Charlie Melancon trails Vitter badly in polls.
If Traylor has come to some kind of agreement with Democrats to enter the contest to cast as much negativism on Vitter as possible in order to weaken him and give Melancon a boost (or do the unlikely in winning to present an even weaker opponent to Melancon), of course neither he nor leading Democrats ever will admit this (who already are providing restrained cheering about his entry into the race). The only visible clues would come from whoever ends up donating to or assisting Traylor in his campaign, if a lot of typical Democrat heavy hitters give him money or Democrat apparatchiks appear working on his campaign. But even the absence in large part of such individuals does not disprove that a bargain had been struck.
This is just one explanation, but perhaps the most logical given what we know. The only thing known for certain is, given the circumstances, his decision to run at best is bizarre and only can help improve the microscopic victory chances of Melancon.